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Electric S-Class rival beats Porsche 911 … sort of

By Cameron Kirby, 10 Sep 2018 News

While it’s still mighty fast, Lucid Air’s claims aren’t quite what they seem

Electric super sedan beats Porsche 911 … sort of

A FULLY electric luxury limo has just blasted Porsche out of the water at the famous Laguna Seca raceway … kinda.

Electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid has taken its yet-to-be-released sedan, the Air, to the Californian circuit and set a blistering lap time that’s on par with a 911 – but that claim to fame comes with a few caveats.

Many of you might be thinking ‘Lucid who?’ For the unversed, Lucid Motors is an American car company, formerly known as Atieva, which specialises in electric vehicles, though despite being founded more than a decade ago, hasn’t yet put a vehicle into mass production.

Tesla’s upstart rival: What is Lucid?

The Air will be the company’s first vehicle to go on sale. It’s a dual-motor EV described as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival. At Laguna Seca, driven by an unnamed chassis engineer, an Air prototype recorded an impressive 1:39.30 lap time.

For context, according to fastestlaps.com that’s exactly the same time as achieved by Randy Pobst in a superseded 991-gen Porsche 911 Carrera S. It’s also quicker than a Cadillac ATS-V Coupe, BMW M4, Mercedes-AMG C63 S, an F13 BMW M6, and a V8 Jaguar F-Type at the hands of the Pobst, who is a multiple American GT champion, and now works as a gun-for-hire at MotorTrend.

However, there are a number of things to note about Lucid’s achievement before you go rushing out to buy one, and thus comes another timely reminder that lap record headlines don’t always tell the honest story.

Firstly, the Air the company used to set the time wasn’t representative of what customers will be able to purchase. Video footage of the lap shows this particular Air had a stripped-out interior and full roll-cage, and the company confirmed the car was fitted with (barely) road-legal, track-focused Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres.

Read next: How Australia compares globally for electric vehicle sales

Lucid also sent the Air around wearing more representative Pirelli P Zero PZ4 rubber, which is more befitting the car’s luxury limo status, and recorded a time more than two second slower at 1:41.67. That marker is surely a truer representation of what a production-spec Air might achieve.

Nevertheless, that’s still a very quick time at Laguna Seca, and places it ahead of a Lexus RC F, Alfa Romeo 4C, and BMW i8.

The production car record at Laguna Seca is currently held by the 2016 Dodge Viper, at 1:28.65, while blog Teslarati reports a privately owned, single motor, non-performance variant of Tesla’s new Model 3 set a 1:48.6 while fitted with upgraded brake pads and Hoosier slick tyres.

The Air’s impressive speed shouldn’t come as a huge shock to those paying attention to the brand’s developments, as the company claims the car has 736kW of power.

Lucid took a similarly stripped-out Air to a test track last year and pushed it to a maximum speed of 378km/h. If the production version of the Air can achieve similar figures, that would make it not only potentially the quickest EV in the world, but also one of the fastest passenger cars, period.

Lucid says the Air has exterior dimensions similar to a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but due to the lack of a combustion engine, and subsequent design freedom, it has interior room to rival the more luxurious S-Class.

Production is slated to begin in 2019, and Lucid intends to sell the Air for circa US$60,000 (A$75,350) in the United States.

Although it’s coming late to the electric vehicle battle compared to the likes of Tesla, Lucid is also armed with an extensive patent portfolio, mostly focused on its high-kWh fast-charge batteries.

Developed in collaboration with Samsung, Lucid’s battery tech is designed to provide maximum oomph with minimal charge. The company will be helping provide the batteries for the fully-electric Formula E racing series from next season in conjunction with McLaren Applied Technologies and Sony.