Despite some teething problems, the Lucid Air has thus far wowed as the first product of a startup carmaker. Actually, the qualifier isn’t really necessary: the Air just wows, period, whether you’re talking about driving the thing or learning about its truly impressive engineering.
Problem is, having a one-car lineup consisting of a sedan is not exactly a recipe for success in 2023. An SUV is a must, and the Lucid Gravity is that SUV, bringing all that impressive electric motor and battery engineering to a more family– and market-friendly body style.
It should be said, though, that “SUV” is sort of a relative term here. Much like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Mustang Mach-E, the Lucid Gravity is a segment-bending sort of vehicle. In person, it’s notably lower than the typical three-row SUV, with the top of the liftgate falling well below this 6-foot-3 editor’s chin. Its short hood and long body are more than a bit evocative of a, he whispers, minivan. In fact, the way the third-row disappears into a deep cavity behind it is exactly what you’d find in a minivan. Or a Ford Flex. Actually, that’s a decent comparison for the Gravity’s body style: it’s sort of a cross between a Flex and a Mercedes R-Class with an available adjustable air suspension that can raise it higher off the ground than either. Like I send, segment-bending.
Now, none of the preceding paragraph should be considered a bad thing. If you want a macho, off-roading EV, Rivian exists. The Lucid Gravity is a more sensible family vehicle, with more family friendly space and versatility than you’d get in the present collection of luxury EVs (the EQS SUV is LOL by comparison). It also packs all that interior space into a much smaller exterior footprint than a comparably spacious gas-powered SUV (it’s 6 inches shorter than a Mercedes GLS). The second-row slides by a huge degree and gets treated to fold-down tables complete with tablet holders. We didn’t get a chance to sit in the third row of this very pre-production Gravity, but the space between the far-sliding second row and the third row was ample, as was the space between seat bottom and footwell. This is a well-packaged vehicle, a testament to the advantages of EV architecture in general and Lucid’s extremely compact componentry.
Beyond having more cargo space behind the raised third row than most three-row SUVs (this thing is going to smoke my Luggage Test), the Gravity’s second row folds totally flat allowing for 112 cubic-feet of total space. An 8.5-foot-long surfboard can fit diagonally, while a 7-foot one can fit lengthwise. Hey, Lucid is a very California company with the state’s bear emblem proudly placed within each of the 20-plus-inch wheels – surfboard fitment is important, bra. And should you need a handy place to hang out post waves, the 8.1-cubic-foot frunk offers an available fold-up cushion to transform the space into a comfy, if lofty bench. Given the frunk’s shape, I’m less certain about its usefulness for cargo – it’s definitely less useful than the Air’s frunk.
As for the rest of the interior, it’s enough of a “wow” moment to make you wonder why I’ve been going on so much about surfboards and frunks. It’s a clear evolution of what you’ll find in the Air, but it’s also considerably upgraded, making us wonder whether potential buyers of the Air might feel a bit shortchanged. The show piece is a 34-inch curved, uninterrupted OLED display that looks sensational from every angle. There are no cutlines between screens, but the areas to the left and right of the instrument area are touch sensitive. As in the Air, the right-side infotainment area works in concert with a larger screen below. Rather than the Air’s portrait orientation, though, the Gravity’s is a 12.6-inch tablet-like landscape orientation. There are physical controls below that screen, including those for volume, temperature, fan speed and two customizable buttons for whatever you’d like.
Another key upgrade over the Air is the steering wheel: It’s a squircle with a flat top and bottom, which is to ensure you can see the entire instrument panel beyond. It seems like it satisfies that goal. The squircle also has new touchpads on it, replacing the Air’s lovely-if-functionally-limited corrugated rollers. They were not functional in this pre-production vehicle, but one is meant to control the instrument panel and the other the infotainment screens, with swiping and sliding functionality similar to what you’d find on an Apple TV remote. Mercedes tried something similar, but its pads were so small that they could be difficult to use. This has more promise.
In terms of old-fashioned interior functionality, the center console is evocative of the clever versatility found in the Ram 1500 and previous-generation Honda Civic. Below a lovely glass sliding cover is a deep bin with a sliding tray housing two wireless phone chargers (a rarity), cupholders and removeable sub-bins. Again, the Gravity interior is a family friendly, but it also looks terrific, both in terms of design and the materials used. It looks and feels like the future, but in a way that doesn’t lose track of how people actually use cars today.
Now, if you’re wondering why it’s taking so long to get to all the electric vehicle particulars, it’s because the Gravity is basically the same underneath as the Air. Most specs are also still TBA. It shares the same modular architecture and the same motors apart from differences in gearing to account for the enhanced torque required by the off-road drive modes and towing potential. Which is 6,000 pounds, by the way.
There will be two battery capacities available, with a maximum range exceeding 440 miles, according to Lucid. The individual battery packs are the same as those in the Air, but are arranged differently due to the packaging requirements of a three-row “SUV” versus a sedan. As one example, the Air stacks some packs atop each other under the back seat, whereas they are stacked under the Gravity’s front seat to take advantage of the need to provide a taller seating position anyway. Recharging should be just as exceptional as the Air, with its 900-volt architecture allowing for a theoretical replenishment of 200 miles in about 15 minutes … on a charger that works to its potential. Cue the laugh track, but someday! Someday!
Air suspension is optional, and when so-equipped, automatically adjusts in height based on drive mode. It can also be manually adjusted should you find yourself off-road. Like the Air, the Gravity has semi-active damping control, but unlike the Air, it offers the option of rear-wheel steering. That, plus what we’ve experienced in the Air, should indicate that the Gravity will be one of the tightest-handling three-row vehicles on the market.
There are other differences and additions of note, including new colors beyond those available on the Air. New “Lucid Sanctuary” and “Lucid Spaces” features use all that screen space and the sound system to turn the cabin, when parked, into different immersive environments. Some are meditative, but there’s also a rock concert one and the potential for others. Without a full demo, it was hard to fully comprehend, let alone appreciate. But hey, it’ll exist.
So will the Lucid Gravity come late 2024 when production begins. Lucid has a better track record than other EV makers, including that tiny startup known as “General Motors,” of getting its creations to market, so that timeline seems feasible. Lucid says the starting price point will be “under $80,000,” which if so, will be strong value for a three-row vehicle with genuine family-friendly space, a tech-filled luxury cabin and truly impressive EV credentials.