Henrik Fisker, founder of Fisker Automotive, is no stranger to the automotive industry. Contrary to popular belief, the Karma isn’t exactly his first car. Let me explain. Fisker has designed several recognizable cars over the years. Most notable are the BMW Z8 and the Aston Martin DB9. In 2005 he created Fisker Coachbuild, a company inspired by the coachbuilders which took the chassis from a manufacturer like Bentley and even Ferrari and designed the body of the car to the liking of the client. These companies were popular in the early 20s to the 1950s when they fizzled out. Henrik Fisker took the idea and created the Tramonto and the Latigo CS which were built on a BMW M6 and a Mercedes-Benz SL65 respectively. Then in 2007 Fisker Automotive was founded. So, the Karma may not be Fisker’s first car, however, it is their first car built from the ground up.
So the Karma. The Karma is the first of its kind – a plug-in electric extended range vehicle, and luxury sedan. As I approach the car, I can’t help but notice its presence. The footprint is that of an Audi A8 as it has an elongated wheelbase to contain the powertrain. The other thing I noticed is the massive, but proportional, 22 in wheels. Road presence indeed!
Step inside and I am welcomed by a spaceship-like interior with its unique patterns of brown and caramel leather (a different car than is shown above) in the seats and on the dash. The dash houses a large touchscreen infotainment center with a single strip of wood trim above it. So simple. The wood itself, depending on the wood chosen, comes from a variety of places and is all harvested from trees already fallen, been buried at the bottom of Lake Michigan for centuries, or even burned in recent wildfires. Everything about this car is “green” and eco-friendly. I push the big “On” button and nothing seems to happen. The only sign of life is the formerly dead gauges are now all lit up and ready to go. The pair of 120Kw(161hp) motors begin whirring away without a sound. Hit the “D” button on the console and off you go. To address the lack of sound made by said motors, Fisker has added a sound to the car via speakers on the rear underside of the car for pedestrian safety, which is active only while the vehicle is travelling under 30mph. The sound it makes is very fitting for the car; see, instead of imitating a V8 or any other type of internal combustion chamber engine of old and instead gave it a sound rather like a hovercraft from Star Wars.
Driving the car is an absolute delight. Cruising at freeway speed, very little road noise gets in, and you can travel about 40 miles on pure electricity. After that, just like the Chevy Volt, the engine, a 260hp turbocharged 4-cylinder lifted straight out of a Chevy Cobalt SS, starts. Instead of driving the wheels, it turns a generator which in turn charges the batteries, and drives the wheels for a combined range of approximately 230 miles. Now that may not seem like a lot considering most cars range is typically about 400-500 miles a tank, however 230 miles is more than enough for typical everyday use.
Now what about the performance numbers? At 5300lbs the car isn’t exactly fast but it is still quick and should do 0-60mph in about 5.9 seconds in Sport mode. The acceleration isn’t what you expect either. Being electric, the Karma only has one gear and the power comes linearly instead of building up to a peak and so as you accelerate, just when you think the car will shift, the power keeps coming and you keep going on to a top speed of 125mph.
While speed isn’t the name of the game, handling wouldn’t seem to be either given the size of the car, but even so, the grip is there. The Karma feels quite composed and the electric steering feels great. While the performance specs may seem about as exciting as a Toyota Camry, keep in mind this car is a luxury car not a sports car by any means. But that doesn’t make it any less special. Going back to the road presence and the car’s amazing looks, it only took about a mile of driving on city streets when I look in the rear view mirror and see a motorcyclist flying up behind me to make a pass only to slow down beside me to have a good look. If you want a car that is sure to stop traffic and still get the equivalent of 112mpg then this is the car for you.
Photos by Chance Hales
For a full gallery of images click here