Posted Jun 28th 2012 11:57AM
Every so often, a car comes along that is so special in so very many ways, it immediately stakes a claim to becoming an instant classic. The 2012 Fisker Karma is just such a car. Although there are persistent rumors that the start-up manufacturer is in financial trouble, the same type of rumors dogged Tesla from the very beginning. Both companies are still around and both are producing some very interesting cars.
For the record, the Fisker Karma is a luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), one that promises approximately 400 horsepower and an all-electric range of some 80 kilometres (50 miles). The Karma is similar in concept to the Chevrolet Volt in that both are considered to be "range-extended EVs" - its otherwise electric powertrain is supported by a range-extending gasoline engine.
In the case of the Karma, however, its 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is not connected to the drive wheels and serves only to recharge the dual electric motors of the car's EV drive system, whereas the range-extender on the Volt can power the drive wheels directly in some circumstances.
Read more after the jump.
Related Gallery2012 Fisker Karma
With the gas engine on the Fisker engaged, the range receives a boost of about 402 kilometres (250 miles). The solar panel glass roof, the largest ever for a production vehicle, adds to the visual aesthetic as well environmental impact by providing an additional 321 kilometres (200 miles) of range per year.
As with other plug-in vehicles, there are three options for recharging the battery pack. The carmaker recommends installing a 240-volt home charging station to replenish a fully drained battery in 3 to 4 hours. A trickle charger, which travels with the car, can charge the battery in 7 to 8 hours. Finally, depending on where you live, you may be able to locate a public quick-charger that takes around 30 minutes.
The Fisker performs as one would expect a premium luxury sedan to perform - it's supremely quiet, incredibly comfortable and fairly quick. The shift paddles on the steering column are not used to select gears - this is a fixed-gear transmission, after all - but rather to select the drive mode and the level of regenerative braking force.
The left paddle allows you to toggle between stealth mode and sport mode. Sport mode brings both the gas engine and the electric motors into play and gives the Karma strong, smooth acceleration. The right paddle, meanwhile, selects the braking force for the regenerative braking system, with three separate settings ranging from the mild to the downright parachute-like.
In stealth mode on the highway, the only sound you hear is the wind - and even that's been muted. This theme continues at speeds under 30.5 kph (19 mph): In stealth mode, the Karma emits a Tron-like hum designed to warn pedestrians that this otherwise silent car is in the vicinity.
In terms of driving dynamics at any speed, the Fisker is absolutely stellar. It features a very long wheelbase and massive wheels pushed right to the corners. Riding on 22-inch rims and tires with very thin sidewalls, the test ride was extremely composed over even the roughest of surfaces.
On the topic of design, the Karma is one of the most stunning cars on the planet. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but this vehicle exhibits a long, low and curvaceous shape that is unmistakably sensuous. The deep cut lines highlight individual elements of the exterior design without detracting from the overall flow - it's eye-catching, to be sure.
As stunning as the exterior design is, the cabin is equally impressive from a visual standpoint. Not only that, the materials used inside match the high eco-friendly standards established by the hybrid-electric powertrain under the skin. All the wood for the interior trim - three different types available - comes reclaimed from fires, lakes and fallen trees. The leather for the seats and other trim pieces of an option package is sourced from the world's first energy self-sufficient manufacturing plant. The other option, called EcoSuede, is made from 100% recycled post-industry virgin polyester.
In the version tested, an EcoChic model with a blue and grey interior, one set of panels has the look of old blue jeans or a couch from your parent's basement. In other ultra-high-end vehicles, the thought of having anything less than perfectly matched veneers or hides would be totally unacceptable. But in the Karma, this is a point of pride.
The centre console screen features crisp graphics and a haptic feel. Similar to an iPhone, you can quickly and simply change screens to access the navigation system, phone, audio system or vehicle overview. A glass panel with real leaf insets is used to show the battery pack that runs along the center of the car, set low to preserve the center of gravity and the driving dynamics.
All this futurism does come with some negatives, however. A push-button crystal is used to engage the transmission while a red laser shoots across the glass panel when park, drive, neutral or reverse is selected. It's a little overboard, a little too Star Trek in that they don't seem to fit with the rest of the interior - something like the Starship Enterprise accents fabricated from reclaimed barn timber and thrift-store blue jeans.
Also, the side mirror and window switches are too common for a car this special. The plush steering wheel, meanwhile, is a tad thick and lacks indents upon which to rest one's thumbs.
Fortunately, these trifles aren't enough to detract from the overall impact of the interior design.
The 2012 Fisker Karma is an expensive vehicle - prices start at USD$102,000 - but this is true of any luxury sedan worth its salt. When you consider all the incredible qualities of this unique car, this is, in fact, a very small price to pay. Plus, depending on where you live, you may qualify for a rebate or tax break when buying this PHEV, which would bring an added layer of satisfaction to the decision.
There are certainly some questions over whether Fisker Automotive will survive this early period in their history. But if the Karma is an accurate example of what the manufacturer can produce on its very first time at bat, it certainly deserves to survive - and to thrive.
News Source: Evergeek