Detroit 2009: Production Fisker Karma is revealed, jaws begin dropping

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Now who says hybrids have to be boring?

The hybrid in question, the production version of the Fisker Karma, was revealed in Detroit a few days ago, and man, we like it. A lot.

Let’s forget about the engine, mileage, and similar rubbish and just focus on the car. Observe that wide stance, those sculpted fenders. Drink in the flowing lines, the 22 inch wheels, the oooh-ness of it all. Is that not the sexiest thing you have ever seen? Is that not gorgeous? Like, dare we say it, Aston Martin gorgeous? Or maybe even, and we can’t believe we’re saying this, better looking than an Aston Martin (after all, Henrik Fisker, CEO of Fisker Automotive, designed the DB9)? This article is becoming rather difficult to write because my jaw keeps hitting the keys. It’s just an impossibly pretty car.

Says Big Boss Man Henrik Fisker himself “Extreme proportions, beautiful sculpture and earth-friendly materials are key elements that set the Karma apart”. He also states that their “hope is that the Fisker Karma will create a new segment of eco-friendly transportation and will become the most desirable plug-in hybrid sports sedan available”.

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So rip your gaze away from the photos, if you would, and focus on several key points that are emphasized over and over in the press release; namely environmental friendliness.

First of all, the Karma has a powertrain that is contrary to anything developed so far. Dubbed “Q Drive”, it was originally designed for the Army’s Delta Force by Quantum Technologies (how it got into Fisker’s hands is beyond us). The usual hybrid systems, like the ones used by Toyota, utilize a standard internal combustion engine for primary power, which is then augmented by electric motors.

In the Karma’s case, electricity is the main power source. The Q Drive system is composed of two 201 horsepower electric motors, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, and a 260 horse turbocharged Ecotec gasoline engine supplied by GM that provides additional power and range. Now since electric motors generate tons of torque at a flat torque curve, the pound-feet generated are usually rather high. In the case of the Karma, they are beastly: 959 pound-feet.

Hold on a sec and add up those numbers: 201 from each motor + 260 from Ecotec equals a whopping 660! And that’s in a plug-in hybrid. (I stand corrected. Since the Ecotec engine is not hooked up to the drivetrain, the horsepower numbers are solely the sum of the pair of electric motors. Still, 402 horses ain’t nothing to scoff at.)

The system has two features: Stealth Mode and Sport Mode. Stealth Mode is entirely electric, and in this mode the Karma can travel up to 50 miles on a single charge (did we mention that this supersexysleek car is also a plug-in? ooooh, this just keeps gettin’ better). In Sport Mode the Ecotec kicks in, and boosts range to 300 miles. Beyond that, the car runs solely on gas. The estimated annual average mileage for a fully charged Karma is more than 100 mpg.

100 miles per gallon! Karma owners can start laughing at the Prius now; even the new Prius only gets 50! This is freakin’ awesome! But wait, it gets even better.

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While Fisker wants the eco-friendly aspect of the car to be its leading pennant, the company doesn’t want to overshadow the car’s performance either. After all, it is advertised as “the world’s first true premium plug-in hybrid sports sedan”. Top speed is over 125 mph, just like the Tesla Roadster, and this beauty can hit 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. That’s faster than a Porsche Boxster (but then again, so is the Hyundai Genesis, the Honda Accord, the Chevy Malibu….).

Luxury is a big part of the whole package as well, and the Karma does not disappoint. The cabin is an overall classy place to be, with controls ergonomically placed and gauges clearly positioned. This is kinda cool: each passenger gets their own individual seat, even the ones in the back.

Again, the environmental focus affects everything, from the wood trim that is only taken from non-living trees, to the top o’ the line EcoChic trim level, which replaces all leather with bamboo viscose. We think this is an interesting touch: the EcoChic trim also comes with genuine fossilized leaves framed in EcoGlass.

As a final reach out to Mother Nature, the roof is glass and is covered in solar panels- an industry first. No, solar energy won’t power the car, it will simply perform tasks that require mundane amounts of electricity, like starting the car and running the A/C when the car is parked in the sun. The latter is one of those “duh” features that for some reason no one has thought of yet.

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We love the Karma for two things: it’s design and ingenuity. Quite possibly the most environmentally friendly car out there, it is astonishingly creative, in both design and real-life application. Of course, all things come at a price, which in the Karma’s case is…..

Not much at all. Sure, the $87,900 base listing ($80,400 after tax credits) isn’t cheap, but when you think about it, it’s not expensive either. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but somewhere in the $150,000 range wouldn’t have surprised us. 80K sounds entirely reasonable, especially when compared to other cars in its price bracket: stuff like the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class, and Lexus LS460. They don’t even come close in terms of sheer sex appeal. The Karma is one of the best looking cars we have seen in a long time, and certainly one of the best to come out of the Detroit Auto Show.

Specs

Price: $87, 900

Engine: Pair of electric motors, and 2.0 liter inline-4

Top Speed: a little beyond 125 mph

Horsepower: 402

Torque: 959 lb-ft

0-60 mph: 5.8 seconds

Mileage: 50 mile range in Stealth, 300 in Sport, annual average 100 mpg.

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Source: Autoblog, NAIAS, and Carscoop


Filed Under: Car NewsDetroit Auto ShowFiskerHybrid


  • David Woodward

    The Ecotec is not directly connected to the drivetrain, it only powers a generator, so it is not a combined 660 hp, only 402. Just check out their website at http://www.fiskerautomotive.com for the real stats. I love how all you reporters never get the facts straight.

  • Will

    Yeah, that didn't sound right to me when I heard it. The numbers are fixed now, thanks for correcting me, David.