Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here’s All You Need To Know

Here’s how two of the world’s most powerful production cars compare to each other

The Lucid vs Tesla war is actually a lot deeper than one can imagine. Lucid is currently spearheaded by Peter Rawlinson, the man who is responsible for the Tesla Model S!. So, in its essence, the Lucid Air can be considered as the Model S’ spiritual successor. The Tesla Model S has made a name for itself as a premium electric sedan and didn’t face stiff competition from any other electric car until the Lucid Air came out. That says a lot, doesn’t it? The Air has countered the Model S on almost all fronts; range, performance, features and specs, etc. Looks are subjective, so we’ll let you decide which one looks better. And, as for the pricing, the Air starts cheaper than the Model S, but goes well over the Tesla’s pricing. Now, given how the Air is spec’d pitting it against the standard Model S doesn’t seem fair. But, how does it compare to the Tesla Model S Plaid? Well, that’s what we will find out in this guide!

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Trims

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Exterior
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The Lucid Air is offered in four trims:

  • Pure
  • Touring
  • Grand Touring
  • Dream Edition

The Dream Edition is offered in two trims, Performance and Range. It goes without saying what these two branched-out models are all about. It’s actually a smart move, considering some people would want a mighty fast sedan, whereas some would want to extract maximum range from their top-spec Air. But, that said, the ‘Range’ trim doesn’t lack in performance, and neither does the ‘Performance’ trim lack in range.

The Model S Plaid is the performance version of the Tesla Model S, so there aren’t any trims under the Model S Plaid per se.

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Exterior

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Exterior
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The Lucid Air boasts of a very clean design on the outside, but it still draws polarizing opinions. The Model S Plaid, on the other hand, is a little more neutral, even though a lot of folks find it boring. Both the sedans are devoid of any sharp curves and creases. That said, the Lucid Air feels a little more futuristic, especially with those slim headlights and taillight setup. The Air is equipped with a Micro Lens Array headlight system that comprises thousands of “light channels.” The automaker has developed this in-house and claims it is the “brightest, most precise and advanced lighting system ever”.

Exterior Shades

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Exterior
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The top-spec Lucid Air is available in four exterior shades – Eureka Gold, Stellar White, Infinite Black, and Zenith Red. The Eureka Gold is exclusive to this trim. The rest of the trims can be had with any of the other colors, along with two more options – Quantum Grey and Cosmos Silver. The Cosmos Silver shade will be available from the third quarter of 2022.

The Tesla Model S Plaid is offered in five colors:

  • Pearl White Multicoat
  • Solid Black ($1,500)
  • Midnight Silver Metallic ($1,500)
  • Deep Blue Metallic ($1,500)
  • Red Multicoat ($2,500)

Wheels

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Exterior
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Coming to the wheels, you get three options on the Lucid Air Touring and Grand Touring - 19-, 20-, and 21-inch wheels (called the Aero Range, Aero Lite, and Aero Blade, respectively). The base Pure trim doesn’t get the 21-inch wheel option. The Dream Edition can be had with the 19-inch Aero Range, but there’s an exclusive set of wheels called the Aero Dream that measures 21 inches.

As for the Tesla Model S Plaid, it comes with 19-inch Tempest wheels as standard. The only other option is 21-inch Arachnid wheels. However, there is a significant difference in range. With the 19-inch wheels, you can get a range of up to 396 miles. Opt for the bigger Arachnid wheels and this drops to 348 miles. Some trade-off, eh?

Aerodynamic Efficiency

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Exterior
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The Model S Plaid is also the world’s most aero-efficient car. It boasts of a drag coefficient of 0.208. It beats by the Lucid Air by the slightest of margins to take the crown. The Lucid Air’s drag coefficient is rated at 0.21; which is 0.002 higher than the Model S Plaid’s.

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Interior

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Interior High Resolution
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The Tesla Model S Plaid’s interior is pretty straightforward. Before we get to the layout, let’s talk about the themes. There are three themes to choose from. As standard, you get an all-black interior with carbon fiber décor. If you’d like something a little brighter, there’s the black-and-white theme option that will cost you an additional $2,000. The final option is a Cream-colored layout, which is also a $2,000 option. Both of these optional themes also come with the carbon fiber décor. It also features a glass roof, like the Lucid Air’s canopy glass roof. Both the automakers say that the glare, heat, and UV light are blocked, so that shouldn’t be a concern.

The Lucid Air’s cabin feels very airy and spacious. There are many interior themes on offer, but in the top trim, you get an exclusive Santa Monica interior with Nappa full-grain leather upholstery, natural wood trims, and Alcantara inserts. You also get a glass canopy roof on the top trims that feels much more special than the Plaid’s glass roof. There’s a cross-beam in between, which of course, is a must, but otherwise, it’s all glass. It even makes it look like the visors and sensor housing are hanging in the air. The automaker has also paid special attention to making sure the cabin space is optimized in the best way possible.

2021 Lucid Air Fast Facts and Picture Gallery Interior
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Tesla has also worked on creating more space for the rear passengers. The front seatbacks have been scooped to create more legroom for the rear row. The car also comes with heated and ventilated seats. Oh, and did we talk about the F1-inspired Yoke steering? Well, it made it to production and comes without any stalks whatsoever. The headlights, turn indicators, horn, wipers, and cruise control/autopilot functions are integrated on the spokes as feather-touch buttons. There are two scroll buttons, too.

Some other features include:

  • An invisible AC with hidden vents
  • Tri-zone climate control
  • Wireless charger
  • USB-C-type ports that support up to 36W (can even charge your laptop)
  • 22-speaker, 960W audio system
2021 Lucid Air Fast Facts and Picture Gallery Interior High Resolution
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The Interior Looks to Set a New Standard For Luxury EVs

As for the layout on the Lucid Air, there’s the extended digital instrument cluster at the top on the dash, the HVAC controls and vents in the middle, and a tilted infotainment screen below. There is a storage space here as well. There is a two-spoke, flat-bottom steering wheel with a roller, toggle switches, and buttons on it. The Air comes with standard rear seating, but you can also opt for executive seating that allows you to recline the seats up to 55 degrees, but it’s a late availability.

Cargo Space

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know
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The Air also features a 9.9-cubic foot frunk, which is by far the biggest one seen on a production vehicle. With the rear luggage area taken into the account, the Lucid Air offers a total cargo space of 26.1 cubic feet. The Plaid’s figures are not given exclusively, so it would be fair to assume it is exactly the same as the standard Model S’ figures. The Model S offers a total cargo space of 28 cubic feet, thus beating the Air by a small margin. Flip down the rear seats and you’ll have 58 cubic feet of space available at your disposal. The frunk offers five cubic feet of space, which is almost half of what the Air offers.

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Technology

2021 Tesla Model S - Finally A Noteworthy Refresh Interior
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The car comes with three screens now
The landscape-oriented 17-inch touchscreen display boasts of a higher 2200x1300 resolution this time. There’s also a 12.3-inch digital driver display

The Tesla Model S Plaid comes with three screens inside the cabin. First up there’s the ‘digital instrument cluster’ that measures 12.3 inches. Then there’s a landscape-oriented 17-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a new UI design that’s placed on the center console. It boasts of a higher 2200x1300 resolution as opposed to the 1900x1200 resolution that was present on the previous models. The third screen is placed between the front seats for the rear passengers. It offers PS5-level performance and supports up to 10 teraflops of processing power. Tesla noted that it is even compatible with a wireless controller.

2021 Lucid Air Fast Facts and Picture Gallery Interior
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The Low-Mounted, Tablet-Like Display Provides a Secondary Command Center
For things Like Mirror, Seat, and Panoramic Roof Control

The Lucid Air doesn’t lag behind here, either. In fact, one can argue that it beats Tesla in this aspect. The Air comes with a floating 34-inch curved ‘Glass cockpit’ 5K screen that extends to the center console as well. It comprises three screens. The left corner comes with basic functions like the lock/unlock, lights, defogger, etc. The middle screen shows the drive-related data like speed, battery charge, etc. The screen on the right works in tandem with another touchscreen that sits between the front seats and is tilted upwards. Lucid has even provided some buttons here. These are for the climate control and the volume for the stereo. For someone like me who would prefer buttons for basic functionalities, this is a boon.

Advanced Driver-Assistance System

2021 Lucid Air Fast Facts and Picture Gallery Interior
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With a Sleek Design and Soft-Touch Materials Everywhere

Both the cars come with Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems. The Lucid Air’s system is called DreamDrive, and it includes 32 sensors comprised of the latest camera, radar, and ultrasonic sensors, as well as a long-range, high-resolution LIDAR placed at the front of the car. It not only offers a full suite of Level 2 features, but is also Level 3 ready. On the top two trims – the Grand Touring and Dream Edition – you get a DreamDrive Pro system that includes future-ready hardware for semi-autonomous driving that will be updated over the air when it is fully developed.

The Model S Plaid comes with Autopilot, a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems that features stuff like adaptive cruise control, lane centering, lane change, self-parking, etc., and basically helps reduce your workload as a driver. It even comes with Summon, where the car will come find you in a parking lot and will park/unpark itself. You can purchase a full self-driving capability package as well for $12,000, but the technology is still under development and will be updated to your car over the air once it’s launched.

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Powertrain

2021 Lucid Air Fast Facts and Picture Gallery Drivetrain
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The Lucid Air is based on the skateboard-style platform called LEAP (Lucid Electric Advanced Platform). The drivetrain was developed in-house and features ultra-efficient electric motors with an integrated transmission, differential, and inverter. This makes the unit quite compact in size and doesn’t weigh as much as other setups. Lucid noted that each unit tips the scales at “163lb (74kg) and is small enough to fit inside a standard airplane carry-on bag”. Just like the Plaid, the motor can spin to 20,000 rpm here as well. It can also churn out up to 650 horsepower.

You get different setups and power outputs on every trim. The base Pure trim comes with a single motor mounted on the rear axle. It makes 480 horsepower. Lucid noted that it can be had with a dual-motor setup as well. The rest of the trims come with two motors, one on each axle. The setup puts out 620 horsepower on the Touring trim, and up to 800 horsepower in the Grand Touring. The Dream Edition, as stated earlier, comes in two variants. In the ‘Range’ model, it generates 933 horses, whereas, in the ‘Performance’ model, it makes up to 1,111 horses!

Tesla Model S Plaid Breaks Cover With 1,000 Horses and a $130,000 Price-Tag
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The Model S Plaid comes with a tri-motor setup – two motors at the rear and one up front. These motors come with carbon-sleeved rotors that help maintain peak power output all the way to its top speed, which is 200 mph. But, the top speed achieved in the real world so far is 163 mph. But, this was enough to break the Porsche Taycan’s Nurburgring record. Perhaps, the higher top speed will be unlocked in future updates. The all-wheel-drive platform also supports torque vectoring. Combined, the setup produces 1,020 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque. The latter figure isn’t officially confirmed by Tesla, though.

There are some other interesting features here, like the Auto Shift. With this function, the car will engage the Drive mode or the Reverse mode on its own when you start. It will observe and learn the patterns and automatically switch to the desired mode based on the geo-coordinates. A similar logic is applied to the navigation as well. All you have to do is swipe up to navigation and the system will have the address in place already based on the day of the week, time, etc. If you head home at 1700 on a weekday, the system will have it ready for you.

Performance

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Exterior
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EVs don’t have conventional transmissions. The single-speed system in the Model S Plaid is capable of revving up to 20,000 rpm. With so much power and instantaneous torque, Tesla says the Model S Plaid can sprint to 60 mph from rest in just 1.99 seconds, thus making it the world’s quickest production car! The top speed is rated at 200 mph, but as stated earlier, it hasn’t been achieved yet. Another noteworthy feature is that the power output doesn’t taper down as the car approaches its top speed, thus allowing all the 1,000+ horses to work till the very end. The automaker had noted that the quarter-mile runs in 9.23 seconds with a trap speed of 155 mph, but this has been broken many times in the past. In fact, it even managed to breach the nine-second mark once, thus making it a sub-nine-second car!

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Exterior
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Lucid Air is mighty quick and fast, too, but not Tesla fast. The top Dream Edition Performance takes just 2.5 seconds to hit the 60 mph mark from a standstill and sprints all the way up to 168 mph to hit its top speed. It is a sub-10-second car, though, as it takes 9.9 seconds to complete the quarter-mile distance. The Dream Edition Range is 0.2 seconds slower, taking 2.7 seconds to 60 mph. The Grand Touring takes three seconds flat to silently gallop to 60 mph and also has a top speed of 168 mph. The Touring takes 3.2 seconds from 0 to 60 mph and has a top speed of 155 mph.

Since deliveries of both cars have begun, we knew a race between the two most powerful production cars in the world will happen sooner than later. Well, we weren’t wrong, as the two went up against each other for some straight-line races:

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Battery, Range, and Charging

2021 Lucid Air Fast Facts and Picture Gallery Drivetrain
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The Pure and the Touring trims offer the least range in the Air lineup, which is actually better than what Tesla has to offer. They offer up to 406 miles of range. Mind you, this is a projected range and not an EPA-estimated range. The Grand Touring and the Dream Edition, on the other hand, have been tested by the EPA. The Grand Touring delivers 516 miles on a full charge, which is just short of what the top-spec model offers. The Dream Edition Range’s range is the best not just in the Air portfolio, but also in the world currently (EPA ratings only) – 520 miles on a full charge. As for the Dream Edition Performance, you can go up to 471 miles before you’re forced to plug in your car again.

Tesla Model S Plaid Breaks Cover With 1,000 Horses and a $130,000 Price-Tag
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The Model S Plaid comes with a new battery pack and module that allows faster charging and an impressive range. The estimated range on the Model S Plaid is 396 miles. This is 10 miles less than the least range that Lucid Air has to offer. Interestingly, Tesla is still making use of the 18650 cells instead of the much newer and more efficient 4680 cells in the Plaid. It won’t come as a surprise if the automaker switches to the 4680 cells in the future, with probably a better range. While the Lucid Air comes with a 113 kWh battery pack, the one is the Plaid is said to be around 99 kWh.

The Plaid supports fast-charging up to 250 kW and can add 187 miles of range in 15 minutes. Lucid, on the other hand, comes with an ultra-high 900V+ electrical architecture that supports up to 350 kWh charging and can add 300 miles of range in just 20 minutes! It also supports vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-grid bi-directional charging.

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Pricing

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know Exterior High Resolution
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Here’s how the cars are priced (correct at the time of penning this piece):

  • Pure - $77,400
  • Touring - $95,000
  • Grand Touring - $139,000
  • Dream Edition - $169,000

The reservations for the Dream Edition are closed, so you can’t buy it anymore even if you had the money.

The Tesla Model S Plaid, on the other hand, is priced at $135,990.

Lucid Air vs Tesla Model S Plaid - Here's All You Need To Know High Resolution Exterior Spyshots
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It must be noted that the Model S Plaid isn’t eligible for the federal tax credit benefits. However, the Lucid Air is. So, while the Air Grand Touring is priced higher than the Plaid, it will cost you effectively lesser if you are eligible for the full $7,500 credit. All Tesla can do for now is hope for the GREEN Act to be passed soon its vehicles can be eligible for tax credits again.

On a related note, expect most EVs to get dearer. Tesla has already hiked its prices and Lucid also said it will increase the prices. The hike won’t be applicable to the reservation holders, though. Rivian increased the prices significantly, and even noted that the reservation holders will have to pay up the premium. This led to a lot of people canceling their reservations and Rivian’s stock also took a hit. But, the company then backtracked after public outrage. The prices are increasing due to the increasing cost of nickel.

That said, we’ll have to wait and watch how things go moving further.

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Senior Editor, Truck Expert, EV Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. Fast forward to today, and he is currently serving as a senior editor, pickup truck expert, and EV expert.  Read full bio
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