Flirting with this cute bank teller would normally be a delicate business. With direct access into my checking account and consequently a view into just how little money I actually have, I’d have little hope of impressing. But today I’ve got an ace up my sleeve. Normally when you drop the fact that you just drove a high-end exotic like a Ferrari and you come off as a braggart. Saying I just drove a $100K electric car? I’m suddenly a tech-savvy Green Peace supporting intellectual that loves to cuddle afterwards.
But that’s for afterwards, and right now I’m not done putting the 2012 Fisker Karma through its paces. With 403 hp and 959lbs of torque on tap, its paces are swift indeed. All that torque makes rocketing out of slow corners a sublime and guilty pleasure sure to be indulged far too often for the wishes of your local constabulary. Hit the jump to read the rest of the review…
First, let’s take a step back and examine how this car got to us. Fisker (the person) started out by designing for BMW and Aston Martin. Fisker (the company) was then launched to rebody Mercedes in new coach-built skins and interiors. Finally, a clean-sheet company designed and produced car, the Karma was launched for Leonardo DiCaprio. Seriously.
The Prius is responsible for this car. Having to watch Leo arrive at the Oscars in a Prius put a bug in Henrik Fisker’s Danish bonnet (perhaps he’s a big Titanic fan). So offended was Fisker (the person) that Hollywood stars had only the Prius to choose from if they wanted an “eco” car that he drafted up the Karma and reinvented his company. When Fisker (the person) started passing his hat around for investment money, who should step up to help other than our favorite dream manipulator DiCaprio. I guess Leo hated the Prius just as much as Fisker (the person) did.
The Karma is the most ecologically thought-out car I’ve ever encountered. Fisker’s (the company) entire brand identity revolves around sustainability. Looking beyond the electric propulsion, all the wood accents in the interior have been produced from reclaimed or naturally fallen wood. This is only the start – the earth-friendly water-based paint uses recycled glass particles for its flake effect, the seating foam is fashioned from soy-based bio fiber, and the carpet backing is created from recycled post-consumer materials. The green list goes on and on. The interior’s leather comes from the world’s first “closed-loop” leather plant where a full 80% percent of the hides are used, including imperfections and scars. This actually gives the interior more character and leaves your passengers in no doubt that it is indeed real leather. Faux-leather and faux-suede are also available for you vegan drivers out there.
This car looks like nothing else on the road, and I’m smitten. The last time I saw hips like these they were on Sofia Vergara. It’s clear that Fisker (the person) planted the seeds for the way the Aston Martin Rapide’s rear doors meld seamlessly into the rear quarter panel during his time with the company. Done on the Karma, the results are magnificent. The Karma’s standard 22”(!) wheels nicely balance with the enormous width of this car. It’s a clean and muscular design, theoretically inspired by sand dunes and cheetahs – obviously.
The Karma basically equals the Chevy Volt multiplied by a trust fund. The drive train is a range-extended hybrid model, just like the Volt, and the generator is even run off of a Chevy engine. The 4-cylinder turbocharged Ecotec motor is mated to a generator that charges the batteries then moves the wheels via 2 electric motors connected to the rear wheels only. Unlike the Volt, the engine never moves the wheels themselves. Those two aft- mounted electric motors can scoot the Karma to 60mph in 6.3 seconds while in Sport (rather than Stealth) mode.
It’s a solid chassis, this one. Confident over ruts and imperfections, the wheels stay planted and the axles behave themselves. Then again, at 5,300 lbs, perhaps the Karma is just flattening out the pavement underneath it. On the road, the most prominent feeling this car gives to its driver isn’t one of sportiness or refinement but rather the overarching feeling that everyone on the road is looking at you. Everyone is watching and it is a wonderful feeling; and a very rare one in a $117,000 4-door sedan. The Quattroporte and the Panamera come nowhere close to the Karma’s uniqueness and road presence.
Comfortable seats, killer looks, and enough eco street cred to make Al Gore weep, the Fisker Karma is many things. One thing it is not is compromised. While thousands of people have traded in style/refinement/ comfort/space/dignity to own a Prius the Karma asks nothing of you. Driving it, you understand that this car shows a new way to construct automobiles. It’s deeply impressive how Fisker (the person) has been able to not only launch his own car, but also to reinvent how they can be made in the first place. It must be humbling for other automakers to witness. It’s an exciting achievement for Fisker (both the person and the company) and certainly impressive enough for its owners to pick up on bank tellers.
- Adam Kaslikowski
Special Thanks to Fisker Salt Lake City