Monday, April 30, 2012

First Impression: Fisker Karma

Henrik Fisker is responsible for the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin Vantage, both beautiful cars. On September 5, 2007, he founded his own car company, Fisker Motors. Fisker Motors revealed its first car at the 2008 North American International Auto Show. In July 2011, the company's first car went into production. On July  26, 2011, the first two cars were delivered. The company's first car is the Fisker Karma, a four-door subcompact plug-in hybrid.

I saw two Fisker Karmas at the April 2012 edition of Houston Cars and Coffee. The Karma is beautiful. It is easily the best looking hybrid I have seen. Major car companies should take note that a hybrid does not need to look like the Prius. The front end is similar to the front end of the BMW Z8 and the body lines are similar to those of the Aston Martin Vantage. The Karma has beautiful, sleek lines. What worries me about the design is that the Karma is considered a subcompact because it has a small interior cabin. 

The Karma is powered by 2 120 kW electric motors and a turbocharged 2.0L I4 engine, which powers a 175 kW generator, that produce a combined 403 hp and 959 lb/ft of torque. The Karma comes with a 1-speed direct drive transmission. The Karma goes from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and reaches a top speed of 125 mph. The Karma is much faster than the Chevrolet Volt, Honda Insight, and Toyota Prius. For a subcompact and a hybrid, the Karma is quick and fast. The 20 kW/h lithium ion battery allows for 32 miles on a fully charge battery before the gas engine kicks in. Add in a full gas tank and the Karma can go 230 miles before draining the battery and emptying the gas tank. The Volt can go over 300 miles on a fully charge battery and a full tank of gas. Prices for the Karma start at $102,000, which is quite expensive for what the Karma is. 

The Karma has been featured on Jay Leno's Garage. The Karma has also been featured on Motorweek, Auto Esporte, Two and a Half Men, Supercars Exposed, and the Car Show. James May drove a Karma during Top Gear Series 18, Episode 4. The Karma is playable in Car Town and Split/Second (Ryback Coyote).

Final Thoughts: The Karma is a beautiful car, but it is very expensive for what it is. It is a plug-in hybrid that has great performance compared to other hybrids. But at $102,000, there are better cars out there. The Nissan GT-R is quicker and faster than the Karma and costs less than the Karma at around $90,000. Spend a little bit more money and you can get an Aston Martin V8 Vantage ($120,000) or a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 ($111,600). I love the styling of the Karma. The acceleration is great for a hybrid and a subcompact. But it costs over $100,000, which is too expensive. It is a better car than the Chevrolet Volt. But there is one major issue with the Karma, a recall. 239 Fisker Karmas were recalled due to a coolant leak that could result a battery fire. Some cars had hose clamps that were not improperly installed, which could allow a coolant leak. Both the Chevrolet Volt and Fisker Karmas were recalled due to potential battery fires. Porsche has been working on the Porsche 918, a plug-in hybrid supercar. I cannot wait for the 918 to be released. I just hope that 918 is not plagued by potential battery fires. Still, with the recall and the high price tag, I still named the Karma my 2011 Best Hybrid of 2011. The Karma was James May's 2011 Car of the Year. Top Gear Magazine named the Karma its 2011 Luxury Car of the Year.Automobile Magazine awarded the Karma its 2012 Design of the Year.

Photo was taken by a digital camera.
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