As we make our way to an electric-powered driving future, there are many different methods for getting us there - from hybrids, to plug-ins, to even a few full-electrics. And, while most of us are familiar with the concept of karma, most people are not familiar with the Fisker Karma. The Fisker Karma is the world’s first EV luxury sports sedan with extended range. And, as they say, what goes around comes around; so let’s find out what comes from our first go-round.
So what exactly does it mean to be the world’s first EV luxury sport sedan with extended range? Well, for the 2012 Fisker Karma it means driving up to 50 miles on electric power alone, before shifting to gas power, which comes from a turbocharged inline-4, increasing your range to up to 300-miles; but as always, your results may vary. More on that later.
The drive system is similar to Chevrolet’s Volt, but one-ups it by sending power to the rear wheels, and allowing drivers to manually select all-electric or hybrid-electric drive. And the Karma “ups” just about every other car when in comes to style, as the look is far more “sport-luxury” than “eco” with smooth lines wrapping around standard 22-inch wheels and an aluminum space frame.
Sheet “metal” is actually a mix of aluminum and composite body panels, and the sleek roof is comprised of a solar panel that not only looks cool, but sends power directly to the batteries to aid in charging. Those batteries are located in the central “spine” of the car, and are mounted as low as possible.
Exhaust tips sit just behind the front wheels, expelling spent gas from the GM Ecotec 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine. It sends its 260-horsepower through a Rear Differential Module and two rear-mounted electric traction motors, so there’s no direct engine connection to the wheels. There’s also no traditional transmission, but drivers can choose whether to run in EV “Stealth” mode or full-power “Sport” mode with steering wheel mounted paddles.
All combined, the system puts out 403-horsepower and almost 1,000 pound feet of torque, and that’s where the “sport” part of the equation comes in. There’s instant throttle response when the battery is full, and the Karma zips to 60 in 6.3-seconds. But even when the battery is drained and you’re running on just engine, it’s still very impressive; top speed is 125 miles-per-hour. Batteries are lithium-ion and have been a problem, causing a Karma to stop dead while being tested by Consumer Reports. All 2500 Karmas on the road will get new battery packs under warranty. That battery pack pushes curb weight to a hefty 5,300 pounds, and that calls for serious brakes. Fortunately, the standard Brembo’s are up to the task and include regenerative braking.
The power-train might be all about the environment, but the interior environment is all about high-tech, yet it remains clean and simple. Unique items include the funky push button drive selector and a 10-inch Fisker Command Center touch-screen that manages just about every interior function. Gauges are designed with both an eye towards high-end time pieces and classic sports car dials. Real wood trim is used throughout - all certified reclaimed as sunken, fallen, or rescued. Rear seat passengers get big bucket seats with a substantial center console between them. And there’s a real, but small trunk with 6.9 cubic-feet of space.
The driving experience of the Karma is unique, but not foreign. There is a distinct hum from the power-train when in Stealth mode. The gas-engine kicks in fairly smoothly, but still noticeably. The suspension is a Short-Long Arm design with load-leveling monotube coil-overs and stabilizer bars, giving a surprisingly supple ride, even with the giant wheels. A 3.3 kWh battery charger is onboard and can charge the Karma on household 120 or 240-volt circuit, taking as little as 6-hours.
As for the Government Fuel Economy Ratings, they didn’t come out quite as good as Fisker had wished. The MPG equivalent is 52 miles-per-gallon combined in electric mode and 20 miles-per-gallon from the gasoline engine. The EPA also estimates only 32-miles of electric only range. The Chevrolet Volt is rated higher.
As for more shocking numbers, Karma pricing begins at a lofty $96,850 for the EcoStandard, the mid-level EcoSport comes in at $104,580, while the top level EcoChic tips the scales at $109,850. But then, early adopters always pay a price penalty.
The 2012 Fisker Karma is certainly one beautiful ride, and we’d probably buy it based on looks alone; but we think it is also a very significant vehicle. It has taken a premium-step up in the auto industry’s slow climb towards an electrified future, and done it without looking or acting like an “eco-mobile.” So, come for the styling, stay for the progress, and enjoy the ride.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4
0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds
EPA: 32 mpg electric/ 20 mpg gasoline