With gas prices heading well above $3.00 per gallon in most states, economical cars and trucks have made a resurgence in the American automotive consumer’s mind. One can hardly drive down a road without seeing one of the first and most popular hybrid cars, the Toyota Prius . Most major manufacturers have since produced these types of vehicles and there are more new models in the works, even from upstart luxury manufacturers.
One of the premier automotive designers in the industry felt hybrid cars were lacking in both excitement and luxury, and decided to take it upon himself to create a new segment. Henrik Fisker previously designed such memorable cars as the BMW Z8 and the Aston Martin DB9 . His company originally made several re-bodied versions of the Mercedes SL and the BMW 6-series , but in very limited production and a high price tag. Fisker Automotive became a true manufacturer in 2007 with the simple idea of creating an inspired, beautiful, and exciting luxury hybrid vehicles. Shortly after, the Fisker Karma was introduced at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. It’s easy to see why it turned more than a few heads with its voluptuous flowing lines and promised 50-mile full electric range.
As if drop-dead good looks were not enough to distinguish this car from other eco-friendly vehicles, the performance numbers help the Karma truly pull away from the crowd. Its 0-60 mph performance is said to be in the neighborhood of 5.8 seconds with a top speed of 125 mph. The Karma may not be able to keep up with your neighbor’s Porsche Panamera , but while you’re getting 67 miles per gallon, he will be sitting at a gas station.
UPDATE 03/23/2011: Three years after the Karman first debuted at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, the first unit has finally rolled out of the Valmet Automotive’s plant in Uusikaupunki, Finland. US and European customers will receive their first units by next month.
UPDATE 07/13/11: Finally, the Fisker Karma is set to be delivered to its first customers. It took a long time, but the wait is now over. The luxury plug-in hybrid sedan is scheduled to be delivered later this month with the first person expected to get his hands on it being no other than Hollywood A-lister and eco-guy Leonardo di Caprio. According to Fisker, there are already 3,000 pre-orders for the car with the wait list expected to hit until early 2012.
Hit the jump for more details on the 2011 Fisker Karma.
Henrik Fisker has had an illustrious career since graduating from design school. His stints with BMW and Aston Martin have evolved his design and shown his hands-on approach to coach building to be very successful. The inspiration to create automotive works of art came from an all-time great and Mr. Fisker has said, "The guy who influenced me most was Giorgetto Giugiaro. I remember the first time I saw the Maserati Boomerang concept on a magazine cover behind a window at a newsstand. I put my nose against the glass, and just said ’wow’!" Maserati has long been known for creating visceral masterpieces of design and the similarities between the body of the Maserati Quattroporte and Fisker’s Karma can be seen in the flowing, clean lines, and strong sense of presence. Fisker’s desire to cement his own interpretation of timeless cars into the hearts and minds of fans everywhere will begin with the Karma; truly his own from the ground up.
Many of Fisker’s cars have been described as “feline” and that is seen in the grill of the Karma echoing whiskers on a cat and a coiled stance ready to pounce. Some of this design could have evolved from BMW’s design philosophy with the double kidney grill and eyelid headlights.
Beyond the simple beauty of the exterior, several innovative technologies have been used to further the Karma’s visual and working impact. The world’s first glass-flake paint is being used to make the paint color chosen truly react to its surroundings. According to Fisker press releases, the paint is unparalleled in terms of shine and reflectivity. The paint was also used because of its water-based content in an effort to not use current industry standard paints that may harm the environment.
Moving to the top of the car, one immediately notices the full panoramic roof. Upon further inspection, the roof actually acts as the largest full roof solar panel in the industry. While the sun beats down on you as you whisk the Karma through picturesque hills and winding coastal roads, your roof is actually increasing the range of the vehicle. Apparently it can add up to 200 miles of photovoltaic driving power.
Once your Karma has autonomously started due to its proximity start system located in the key fob, you are enveloped in rich leather and rescued wood accents. That’s correct, even the wood grain dash is eco-friendly having been recovered from the intense wildfires that burned through Orange County, CA in 2007.
Fisker has gone to great lengths in making the car both graceful and functional, which shows at nearly every angle.
The sumptuous leather gracing your behind was treated at an energy-sufficient plant further helping to protect the environment during manufacturing. Many of the models will also feature a type of suede that was created from mostly recycled materials. Fisker has gone to great lengths in making the car both graceful and functional, which shows at nearly every angle.
The Karma is not lacking in infotainment technology either. A 10.2” touch screen interface is predominately placed front and center to control everything from audio to climate and navigation functions. The computer will even adapt to your knowledge of the system by displaying less complicated views for novice users based on their initial inputs. The combination of high-technology instruments and old-world craftsmanship make the interior of the Karma a heavenly place to spend your time.
The Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid that uses a lithium-ion battery pack to power two 200+ hp electric motors for about 50 miles. Once the juice runs out of the batteries, a GM-sourced 2.0-liter gas engine producing 260 hp generates the electricity needed to power the sedan. Fisker says the Karma makes the 0 to 60 mph sprint in less than 6 seconds and can hit a top speed of more than 125 mph.
Production and Pricing
Fisker Automotive began accepting pre-orders for the car long before any production or test mule models were even developed. By the beginning of 2011, Fisker had received 3,000 deposits and expect to make the first deliveries in February.
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has been integral in giving Fisker over $500 million in capital to get the car and the company off the ground. Assembly is planned to take place in the Valmet factory in Finland. This facility has also been the production line for several Porsche and Saab models in the past. Do not plan on taking delivery of your new Fisker before late in the first quarter this year, unless you have over $95,900 to spend on the base version of this eco-friendly luxury sedan. That price doesn’t even take into consideration all the optional upgrades on the car, which if you avail, should send the bill all the way up to six-digit territory. Sure, tax credits should be able to lighten the load a little bit, but it still wouldn’t be enough to make you feel any better about the brand’s latest price hike.
It is somewhat difficult to describe the competition in the market for the Fisker Karma. This vehicle places itself in so many segments at once that hardly anything is a direct competitor.
One of the top luxury sedans, produced by the oldest car brand in the world, has recently been introduced with a hybrid powerplant, the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid . It is closely priced to the Karma and has been brought to market in order to please those who want a more eco-friendly car without losing any of the creature comforts that one expects when spending over $90,000.
Two cars that may be more closely linked than either company would admit would be the Fisker Karma and the Aston Martin Rapide . The Aston makes no attempt to be eco-friendly or even relatively expensive, but rather was designed to be stunning from every angle. The car designed by a company whose philosophy was undoubtedly influenced by Henrik Fisker and has been creating some of the most sensual sports cars on the market in recent history.
Jay Leno Reviews the Fisker Karma
- Fuel Economy
- Solar Panel Roof
- Unproven and Untested
- Limited Range