The Fisker Karma has always come across to me as a supermodel- stunningly gorgeous, aloof, tolerates your lecherous stares, but won’t let you near her and certainly won’t take you for a ride. I’ve seen her at various EV events where other models were available for a quick romp, but not her. So imagine my gleeful surprise when her sales manager told me I could take her for a spin at my leisure.
I made an appointment with Eric Schaefle at Fisker Silicon Valley the next day. I was a little disappointed when he set me up with the burgundy model. That was the color of my mom’s Plymouth Volaré. And the whole point of owning a car this gorgeous is akin to any other cosmetic enhancement- if it doesn’t make you look better, you wasted your money. The “Earth” color I sat in at Charged the day before suited me better. The burgundy car realized this and acted up by refusing to initialize the display which controls features such as climate, audio, etc. Temperamental as any supermodel. So we left her at the showroom and slid into an all-black base model.
My favorite color for a vehicle is silver, but that’s mainly because black is a really bad idea in Southern California. But here in the North, it’s fine. The steering feels a bit heavy yet overpowered. She corners fine but not as exciting as I’d hoped. Yet the suspension was stiffer than I’d expect or want in a luxury sedan. Eric kept telling me it was more like an Audi… Given Audi’s strong interest in beautifully designed yet less-than-perfectly engineered brands, I’d say Fisker would make an excellent addition to the portfolio. This would also help them meet the portfolio emissions requirements that made Ducati an attractive acquisition, as reported in depth on Asphalt & Rubber.
As for the real bonus of driving electric, the 959 ft-lbs of torque, I expected it to be a lot quicker off the line than the VIA I rode in the day before, which only has 300 ft-lbs. The hp are 402 for the VIA’s single motor and 403 for the Fisker (the brochure doesn’t specify where that’s measured or if it’s both motors) Shockingly, I was disappointed. I really need to drive the VIA myself to better understand how they make 1/3rd the torque feel like so much more, when both vehicles are close in weight. The VIA weighs in at 5,500 lbs. and the Fisker at 5,300. So where is all that torque? It’s certainly not available at the pedal. But then, they’re not billing this as a sports car, but as a luxury sedan. The luxury sedan customer is about as likely to peel away from every green light as I am to birth 2.5 children and join the PTA.
In “Stealth” (standard) mode, I had one good launch, and respectable acceleration onto the freeway, but when I tried to really floor it, it still accelerated at the rate it wanted to accelerate at. I got back into my 2004 4Runner and immediately appreciated the direct link between my foot and the power delivery. I’ve always been opposed to rider aid electronics on motorcycles, and this felt a lot like that. It wasn’t as bothersome at the BMW Active E’s excessive regenerative braking which slows the car down way too much every time you release the gas pedal, but it still wasn’t as fun as the VIA truck.
The Fisker Karma comes in three models- base, EcoSport, and EcoChic All three have the same power train and battery configuration, but different levels of creature comfort. The base model I drove has a faux leather interior which was fine except the steering wheel didn’t feel like it was attached to a $96,000 car. However, Eric pointed out that the beauty of this material is that if the kids make a mess, you can just “hose it down”. The sound system is not the high-end Boston Acoustics the pricier models feature, but Rebel Yell (on the radio, no less) sounded amazing to me. But then, I haven’t been in many luxury cars in my life, except the ’64 Cadillac Fleetwood my grandmother passed on to me.
I asked Eric about the recalls they’ve had to deal with and he said the main problem was the welding on some battery packs, affecting performance more than reliability, and that A123 has replaced batteries that were poorly welded at their expense. He told me it’s easy to replace the batteries in 30min if necessary. I didn’t enjoy having this giant object running down the center of the vehicle, but if it makes it easier to upgrade the batteries as battery technology improves, then it’s not so bad.
Gas-assisted EV’s are a great stepping stone for drivers who are afraid to go full-electric. They assuage range anxiety while also showing drivers how well an EV really does fit for 90% of their driving. Even one with a mere 50 mile range in electric. Once those drivers realize they really don’t need a gas tank, they can upgrade to a full electric. Meanwhile, my poor grandmother will continue spinning in her grave. I was supposed to grow up to be a Fisker kind of girl, but I’d much rather have a truck with gobs of torque and room for two motorcycles in the bed…
Susanna Schick Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.