The upper end of the luxury car market has a new, credible EV competitor: The Faraday Future FF 91 crossover. It’s another sign of just how rapidly the EV market is developing. At this point, there seems to be a car for everyone, including those who prefer to be driven instead of doing their own driving.
Yes, it’s a new car, but the FF 91 isn’t necessarily targeting Tesla (ticker: TSLA) Model S or Lucid Air customers. Those are high-performing vehicles with 1,000-plus horsepower that retail for about $100,000. The FF 91 also has 1,000-plus horsepower, capable of propelling the occupants from zero to 60 miles an hour in about 2.6 seconds. But it should retail for about $180,000. It feels more comparable to a Bentley or Maybach than the other two vehicles.
Being in the vehicle shows why. For starters, the back is where the action is at. The rear is equipped with astronaut-like lay-flat seats for someone wanting to completely stretch out. When not resting, a full display screen is available to take Zoom calls or watch a movie. A rolling office is an apt description of the rear of the vehicle.
As is the case with many Maybach’s or Bentley’s, Barron’s was being driven around. We didn’t drive. We didn’t sit in the back either after checking it out in the showroom. We chose the front passenger seat, in part, so we could watch a little CNBC while being ferried around Midtown Manhattan and Central Park. While traffic wasn’t light enough to feel the full zero-to-60 acceleration, at least it was possible to imagine for a second being dropped off by a chauffeur at our (imaginary) Upper Westside apartment with views of the park.
The car turned heads during the experience. Ground-effect lights can rim the entire car if the operator turns them on. And there are the doors. The FF 91 has so-called suicide doors, hinged at the back, which are automatic of course.
The interior has leather trim, while the steering wheel was, essentially an oval—similar to the Model S Plaid edition’s yoke. FF 91 fit and finish were OK, but these aren’t production cars yet. The FF 91 Barron’s rode in was a prototype. The company has manufacturing capacity in California and cars are due to be rolling off the line in early 2022.
There aren’t any labeled buttons for volume or cruise control on the FF 91 steering wheel. Faraday is going for a unique user experience that mimics a smartphone. There are no more buttons on an iPhone. Most functions can be controlled with natural language voice commands. After touching the top of the center tablet, we asked to be let out “please” and the doors obliged automatically.
The center console tablet is one of a seemingly endless number of displays. There is the traditional driver display, a heads-up display for the driver, the huge center console tablet screen, an entertainment screen for the front passenger, as well a multipurpose screen in the back.
This ride wasn’t so much about comparing a Faraday to an existing EV based on range or price. (The car should be able to go north of 400 miles on a charge, competitive with other luxury EVs.) Instead, we were left pondering what the competitive response would be from Stellantis (STLA), the owner of Maserati, Daimler (DAI.Germany), which owns Mercedes-Maybach, and Volkswagen (VOW.Germany), the maker of the Bentley.
While the FF 91 high-end version dubbed “Futurist” is out of reach of most car buyers, the company plans to offer lower-priced models down the road. Those models will still have to live up to the legacy of the first though.
Faraday is officially a publicly-traded company as of Wednesday evening. The company closed its merger with a SPAC and the stock symbol changed to “FFIE” Thursday. Shares jumped more than 20% at one point on Thursday, though finished up just 1.5%, before climbing 6% on Friday, besting both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average over those two days.
Not a bad start.
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