This is part three of four in our series testing the Lucid Air Touring, the new ‘midrange’ luxury EV from Lucid Motors. Follow the coverage here.
If there was one point on my trip that had the Lucid Motors team concerned, it was Donner Pass. The steepest and snowiest area on California’s Interstate 80 – indeed, one of the snowiest points in the lower 48, with an average 411 inches of snow per year — Donner demands a toll of respect from all who traverse it.
It isn’t just the chilly memory of the Donner Party, that infamous group of westward settlers who got stuck here in 1846, lost half their crew, and had to resort to cannibalism. These winters you’re more likely to get stuck in an hours-long line waiting for the California Highway Patrol to check whether you need snow chains on your tires.
The Lucid Air is all-wheel drive and thus exempt from that requirement, though I wasn’t looking forward to convincing CHP that this unusual low-riding luxury sedan was more hardy than it may appear.
Credit: Smith Collection/Gado
The Lucid team, meanwhile, suggested I might want to swap out the regular tires for something grippier — which I could theoretically do via the company’s mobile service van program, Lucid Care.
As it turned out, Donner Pass was bright and clear, if well below freezing, when I traversed it. CHP was nowhere to be found. There was still plenty of snow and ice on the road, and deep drifts around it, but the regular tires never felt anything less than incredibly stable.
The Lucid Air kept the road in a bear hug around all manner of curves. Only once did it skid, for a few seconds. (Remember kids, never break during a skid.)
As I drove up and down and around winding roads to Truckee and Lake Tahoe, the biggest danger had nothing to do with the car’s handling or keeping its charge in the freezing cold. I’d gotten used to the regenerative braking by now, and had great fun seeing if I could keep the car’s charge level just above 50 percent via the downhill slopes.
No, the biggest danger to this driver was the Lucid Air’s vast windshield, which wraps up and around and makes you feel like you’re in a Jetsons bubble car.
Normally there’s not a lot to look at up there, but here I was passing through a forest of tall pines dusted with what looked like cake frosting against a cerulean blue sky. Who would not be distracted from the road by that glorious sight?
I was reminded that the Touring’s standard option gives it a regular aluminum roof (the glass canopy is $4,500 extra). Not only would that be less distracting, it would also — given how cold the glass bubble was to the touch — probably take a lot less energy to heat.
Speaking of warmth, the Lucid’s sectionally-heated seats and heated steering wheel (both accessible via the center tablet) were a cozy delight.
They put as many smiles on my face as the hot sweet rum drink I had by the shores of Tahoe, and helped banish the bad memory of my older electric car systems failing in this winter wonderland.
The eye-catching Lucid Air exterior — and nervous, glitchy Lucid Air interior
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The Tahoe trip had one other advantage when I returned to Nevada City: a layer of snow dirt gave the car some camouflage. It was slightly unnerving how many pedestrians stop and stare when the Lucid rolls by, especially when the “Intelligent Micro Lens Array” LED strip on the front — no mere headlights for the Lucid Air! – is on.
The “Quantum Gray” color model I was testing looks pretty incognito when parked, at least; I got more comments on its Florida license plate, which is something Californians can’t help but notice, than the design itself.
My fear of the car being a target for thieves may have been unfounded, but that didn’t stop the car itself from sounding like it had a bad case of anxiety. For starters, the Lucid Air will beep at you the second you get in the driver’s seat because you haven’t put your seatbelt on yet: I took to responding “OK, mom, I’m doing it!”
The house where I was staying had a fairly steep driveway, which the Lucid’s low-slung cameras read as a road obstruction when driving down it. I also encountered a glitch frequently described by other drivers: the Lucid Air occasionally sees lane dividers as an obstruction too.
Credit: Chris Taylor / Mashable
Speaking of software glitches, this was the day I encountered the Lucid Air at its worst. Normally when reversing, the rear view shows up on the dashboard screen, and the center tablet fills with “surround view” – a clever computer construction that shows what the car looks like from above, and lets you zoom around it in 3D.
Now, both screens were blank with a spinning wheel — the Lucid equivalent of the blue screen of death.
It’s hardly the worst glitch in the world; I could still look over my shoulder, after all. I didn’t encounter it again after an over-the-air software update downloaded that evening.
Still, the occasional feeling that you’re driving a $109,000 beta product isn’t exactly encouraging.
The aerodynamic Lucid bubble and mediocre mapping
Credit: Chris Taylor / Mashable
Back in the Bay Area, the worst of the winter storms had passed, but the wind was still off-the-charts insane. I did not realize this, however, until I was waiting at an intersection and saw trees bending and leaves scurrying horizontally across my field of vision.
I’m used to cars that will rock at least a tiny bit in strong winds, so it was a little unnerving that the Lucid Air didn’t budge in the slightest. Its supremely aerodynamic design doesn’t just let air flow from the front to the back to give you a smoother ride, it works side to side too.
The feeling of being in a bubble, untouched by the outside world, was complete.
Unfortunately, the real world will not always conform to the Lucid Air’s inferior navigation system. The company uses Here Maps rather than Google Maps data, a fact that infuriates drivers on Lucid forums.
It’s not just that the traffic data loads so slowly that you’re usually committed to a route before you know all the options. It’s that Here maps often seem woefully out of date and confused about road access.
I counted three times when the Lucid tried to send me the wrong way down a one-way street, and once — heading to a trailhead just outside of Berkeley — where it tried to divert me through a series of private roads, one of which was chained off.
The car’s sense of privilege ran headlong into reality. Lucid Motors hasn’t said when CarPlay or Android Auto are coming to the lineup. But given the crying need for Google Maps and more nuanced directions, it can’t be soon enough.
Part 4, which covers overall impressions, will publish Saturday, Feb. 18. Follow the coverage here.
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