2019 Karma Pininfarina GT Coupe
Does everything that Pininfarina touches turn to gold?by Michael Fira, on
Karma Automotive, the company that emerged after the bankruptcy of Henrik Fisker’s first automotive venture, came to the 2019 Shanghai with its own "Big Three": A flamboyant open-top concept, the revised Revero GT and this lavish and elegant two-door sports car penned by Pininfarina which could be produced in limited quantities by Pininfarina if enough buyers get together. As it’s based on the Revero’s underpinnings, it should be at least as quick and agile if not more so.
Karma has been around for a few years already, but it was seen as a stagnant company. After all, its only product has been the Revero, essentially an exercise in rebadging the Fisker Karma. In a way, it makes sense as Chinese company Wanxiang who bought Fisker’s assets (as well as a production plant and other things) paid over $149 million for them and, anyway, the Karma’s bad rep was never due to its design since it’s arguably one of the prettiest four-door GTs of the 21st century (just look at the curvaceous rear fenders).
Last year, Karma introduced the Aliso, a limited-edition version of the Revero and the company announced that only 15 will be made with a base price of $145,000, some $15,000 on top of the Revero’s base MSRP of $130,000. This luscious coupe we see here should be at least as expensive if it will be put into production. If not, just look at it in concept form and think that it’s a source of inspiration for Karma products to roll out in the near future.
2019 Karma Pininfarina GT Coupe
Horsepower @ RPM:535
Torque @ RPM:577
0-60 time:4.5 sec.
Top Speed:130 mph
- Aggressive front end
- Narrow headlights
- Multiple fangs on the two main grilles
- Polished metal on the lower edge of grilles
- Blacked out lip
- Chiseled rocker panels
- Flush door handles
- Aston Martin-esque profile
- Taillights similar to Revero’s
- Typically clean Pininfarina design
Designers nowadays are faced with the tough task of making luxury cars look aggressive while also keeping a certain degree of refinement and elegance to the design.
You can’t go all guns blazing when you draw something like the S Coupe, but you also can’t have it end up looking tame. Also, you must try and push the boundaries in a world where the boundaries are stricter and harder to bypass than ever. Want thing pillars? You can’t have them. Want an insanely angled windshield? You can’t have it. Want an ultra-low roofline? You can’t have that either. Want to go hand in hand with purity and eliminate crash dampening materials and everything else the NHTSA likes? You could try, but you’ll probably end up with a car that will never be registered.
This kind of struggles was inexistent even 35 years ago, but now, due to all the regulations that are put in places to keep us safe on the road, cars end up looking more and more the same. That’s not to say an inexperienced bystander can easily distinguish between ’30s vehicles or some run-of-the-mill malaise era land yachts, but you could still be more daring back then than you can today. That’s why, if you want your car to stand out and to make a statement while at it, you hire a top automotive design firm such as Pininfarina. The list of gorgeous cars penned by Pininfarina’s designers is almost endless, so Karma went for a known quantity when it contracted the Italian company that’s about to launch its first hypercar, the Battista, to design its two-door coupe - and also because "Karma is united in spirit with Pininfarina through our shared commitment to stunning design,” according to Karma CEO Dr. Lance Zhou, quoted by Driving Electric.
You see, Karma, the company that's been making the Revero and the Revero only for the past two years, wants to make itself stand out in the ever-increasing crowd of hybrid and EV manufacturers.
The Revero in and of itself isn’t particularly innovative since it started life as the Fisker Karma and, up until now, has been sold with minimal aesthetic changes. But Karma arrived at the 2019 Beijing Auto Show with three cars, its very own ’Big Three.’ The first one was a revised Revero which showcases the company’s present state, the second was the Pininfarina GT, and the third was the SC1 Concept. The latter two are actually both concepts but the Pininfarina GT looks production-ready and, indeed, Pininfarina announced that it can make a limited bunch at its own facility if enough customers are found.
Karma is a bit more reserved saying that the Pininfarina GT is a look into Karma’s near future and that future Karma vehicles will incorporate key design features - I hope the chiseled rocker panels are among them, but the company’s probably referring to the grilles - seen on the Pininfarina GT. Meanwhile, the SC1 is a glimpse at Karma’s more distant future and what it may be cooking for an entrance into the world of hybrid/EV supercars and hypercars.
The key element of the Pininfarina GT's design, in my view, is its elongated, horizontally-mounted grilles that are placed deep within the front fascia, below the design line that separates the lower bumper to the top bit where the headlights are.
Those two grilles seem to evoke Fisker’s twin grilles seen on almost all of the cars of Henrik Fisker’s old company going as far back as the Tramonto and Latigo of the mid-’00s. "Surface language is simplified, with relaxed shoulders and a softer features line," is how Karma describes the Pininfarina GT’s appearance in its press release. Autoblog noticed how Pininfarina ’borrowed’ some elements from other manufacturers like the vertical grille bars from Ferrari or the bottom hood line from Lamborghini but you can’t come up with something new through and through in 2019.
The grilles feature eight vertical, chromed bars each that sit on top of a blacked-out mesh. The grilles are framed by a protruding lip that sprouts from the bumper itself. This lip starts right below the line of the nose with two vertical bars that are gaped by an extra inlet. These two bars then swoop downwards and then extend along the length of these grilles before rejoining the line of the front overhangs on either side of the fascia. Below this lip is the car’s actual splitter which is almost hidden from view as it’s black and is almost covered by the vents’ lip.
The headlights are placed just below the hood which acts as the top edge of the headlights.
While narrow, the headlights are wider at their extremities before getting narrower below the hood. The wider part houses the main beam while a J-shaped strip of LEDs makes up the daytime running lights. On the clean-looking hood that’s almost devoided of creases sits the Karma logo. In fact, almost the whole car lacks aggressive lines, the clean Pininfarina design being visible all around but nowhere more so than on the sides.
This coupe boasts some really long doors with flush door handles. The doors, as well as the rear quarter panel, is traversed by an elegant character line that marks the two areas of the profile: the one that curves up towards the windows and the one that is caved in. The caving starts right there, below the exterior rear-view mirrors and it reaches its climax around the rocker panel area that is really pushed in, making the black side skirts that much more obvious. The shape of the fender is also highlighted by the chiseled doors/rocker panels as they seem to be wider than they really are and, towards the front wheel arches, an angled line draws the end of the side skirts that blend into the body.
The Pininfarina GT is fitted with a black, curved, twin-bubble roof adorned with some classy polished trim pieces just above the side windows that emphasize the curvature of the roofline.
Surprisingly, although the car is in concept form, it comes with standard rear-view mirrors which, along with the unchanged Revero underpinnings, make the car almost production-ready.
From the rear, the Pininfarina GT again lent something from the Revero, namely the taillights. If you look closely, the shape of the daytime running lights in the front is the same with that of the taillights, albeit flipped on its head. The trunk lid comes down onto the rear fascia where the Karma logo is. The name of the company, meanwhile, is spelled out above, on the flat bit after the rear window.
The diffuser of the two-door sports car is black and features a massive one-piece mesh grille that narrows down on the middle to make room for the horizontally-mounted exhaust. It’s also worth mentioning the five-spoke polished wheels of the Pininfarina GT with the intricate carved-in spokes.
- Lush white leather matching the exterior
- Retro styling
- Almost the same with the Revero’s cabin
- Polished trim elements
- Beige door panels and lower dash
- Digital gauge cluster
- The touchscreen on the center console
- Special polished plaque on the passenger’s side
- Two cup holders in the center console
- Other contemporary hybrids look a lot more modern inside
Karma’s Pininfarina GT is the first car that’s the result of the collaboration between Karma and another company. But Karma didn’t entrust someone with the design of the interior and, as a result, they had to work with what was available, and that was the interior of the Revero.
This is why the cabin of the Pininfarina GT is virtually a carbon copy of the Revero's, but this isn't bad since Karma talks about the Pininfarina GT as sort of a redesigned two-door version of the Revero anyway.
The only major difference you can spot at first glance is the steering wheel whose vertical spoke no longer has that diamond shape to it like in the Revero where it echoes the shape of the triangular centerpiece and the two other horizontal spokes.
Instead, the Pininfarina GT features a more traditional-looking wheel, still with three spokes but the whole thing is more rounded, and the vertical spoke now sports a cavity. The wheel is covered in white leather, but the spokes are covered in some black plastic. The two spokes on the side also host two 3D touch pads with haptic feedback. Behind the wheel, on the column, you’ll find a pair of whitewashed stocks that look out of place in a 2019 hybrid/EV prototype, but you’re supposed anyway to look ahead at the digital screen that replaces the analog dials. The screen is obviously divided into multiple areas with speed being displayed on the left while the GPS shows you where you’re supposed to go in the middle - but it’s all customizable.
The center console is familiar enough: two air circular air vents are placed at the meeting point of the leather that covers the top of the dash and that that is wrapped around the dashboard’s center panel. The top bit protrudes forward compared to the center panel and the vents do too, with the tops covered by leather. Below the vents, there’s a polished metal element with three buttons incorporated, and even lower there’s the digital screen of the infotainment system.
As the interior is the same, the infotainment system is likewise. As such, the Pininfarina GT runs the Kanzi UI design software from Rightware that runs both digital screens inside the car - or "Human-Machine Interfaces" as some call them. In between the seats, there’s some storage space, two cup holders, some more buttons on the left of the cup holders and then there’s the central armrest covered in white leather. Nothing screams ’revolutionary’ inside the Pininfarina GT and the sloped roofline makes it hard for us to think four adults can actually seat in this car, although the back seats could probably be used by children.
- Sports the underpinnings of the Revero
- The hybrid powertrain is the same too
- Powered by BMW engine & electric motors
- 535 horsepower output
- 550 pound-feet of torque
- 0-to-60 mph in 4.5 seconds
- Potential +50 mpg economy
- 1.8 seconds quicker than first Revero
- Much faster too
- Still not as powerful as some rivals
The Karma Pininfarina GT is a styling exercise, not a mechanical one. What I mean by that is simple: the chassis and the drivetrain are nothing new since Karma simply decided to use everything from the Revero in the development of this showpiece that they brought to the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show. In the past, there were cars that started out as engineering exercises or testbeds and ended up as being both impressive in terms of the drivetrain they feature and in terms of the styling - the Jaguar XJ120 is the first example that pops up in my head - but this isn’t one of them.
But this isn't a reason to be dismayed since the Pininfarina GT debuted at the same time as the revised Revero, so it's safe to assume that it doesn't hide the original drivetrain found in the 2017 Revero.
To put it into perspective, that Revero was powered by a pair of electric motors connected to a 2.0-liter Ecotec engine from General Motors that’s used as both a range extender and a power source for the electric generator. The combined power output peaked at 403 horsepower which was good enough to motivate the Revero to hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. At the time, Karma said the car would average 20 mpg if you only employ the gas engine and up to 52 mpg if the electric motors in the back are also doing work. Top speed was 125 mph.
Now, the revised Revero (officially called the Revero GT) is powered by a BMW-sourced TwinPower, turbocharged, 1.5-liter, three-cylinder unit that is still sending power to an onboard electric generator. This generator, in turn, is there to keep the high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack alive that powers the transversely mounted twin electric motors placed at the rear axle. Coincidentally, the same three-cylinder engine is used to power the i8, BMW’s halo hybrid sports car. Top Gear talked to Karma’s Head of Tech, Bob Kruse, about the company’s decision to move away from GM engines and welcome Bimmer power and this is what Kruse had to say about it: "We’re not going to make our own internal combustion engine," he said. “It’s an advanced, small displacement engine that packages nicely in our vehicle. It helps us lower our weight, and get enough power.”
How much power is "enough power"?
Well, that depends on who you're posing this question to but, in Karma's mind, 535 horsepower and a 0-to-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds is enough.
Kruse also says the generator is only active after you surpass 25 mph so, up until that point, the Pininfarina GT runs in all-EV mode. Once it does, "it’s a super torque-y launch," as Kruse puts it. What is more, the torque vectoring gearbox is updated, and the battery pack is bigger too - up from 18kWh to 28kWh.
“With our upgraded battery and better efficiency, we’ve taken the best EV range of the old Revero from 50 miles to 80 miles range," Kruse said in his interview with Top Gear. "In the US, 80% of the population drives 40 miles or less. So we’re double that,” he added. On top of all that, the weight should be around that of the Revero it shared the stage with in Shanghai, if not less. The 2020 Revero is already lighter than the older version tipping the scales at just 5,050 pounds compared to 5,407 pounds for the old one. I reckon the Pininfarina GT is a sub-5,000-pound vehicle.
|Engine||1.5-liter, three-cylinder, turbocharged gas engine used as range extender|
|Electric||Twin-electric motors on the back axle with one electric generator and 28 kWh battery pack|
|0-60 mph||4.5 seconds|
|Top speed||over 130 mph|
|Fuel economy||20 mpg (gas engine only), up to 52 mpg (hybrid)|
|Mileage||up to 300 miles|
Currently, the prototype isn’t for sale. It’s a one-off, as Kruse said, but it’s also “a vehicle that’s been designed so it could go into production. It’s an experiment. We want feedback." As I mentioned previously, Pininfarina could build a few of them, and they will be 100% road-worthy by then, and all it needs is enough interested parties for the investment to make sense. We don’t know what the crowd’s creation to the Pininfarina GT was in Shanghai, but we’ll probably find out in due time if the company decides to start taking in orders (or if it’s already taken in pre-order) for the car.
We also don’t know how much a Revero GT will cost. The 2017 Revero was advertised for $130,000 which less than $10,000 cheaper than the Tesla Model S P100D, in itself a healthy +$40,000 over the MSRP of a Tesla Model S 100D. We’re told that the Revro GT will cost more than $130,000 so it’s fair to assume that, if Pininfarina will build the GT, it’ll cost anywhere between $180,000 and $250,000 apiece. That’s a lot when you consider that BMW’s i8 sells for about $136,000 but, then again, you’ll never see as many Pininfarina GTs as you do i8s. It’s a matter of exclusivity as is the case with all of Karma’s products since Karma doesn’t expect to sell more than 500 Revero GTs this year after selling about 500 units of the old Revero in two years.
If you were a fan of the 2013 Volvo Concept Coupe when it was first unveiled, I’m sure you won’t even care about the Karma Pininfarina GT or the Touring Sciadipersia down below because, well, the Polestar 1 is, by and large, the production version of that very concept car from six years ago. What this is telling you and us is that, while Polestar now tries to make a name for itself as a standalone EV manufacturer, it hasn’t really broken all the ties with Volvo. That’s noticeable on the inside too as the interior layout is very similar to that of the Volvo S90 with the mention that carbon fiber is the material of choice for the trim pieces.
Like the Karma, the Polestar 1 is a hybrid with a gas engine working as both a range extender and performance enhancer, that engine being (most probably) Volvo’s 2.0-liter, twin-charged four-cylinder. The combined output is said to be 600 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. That’s 188 extra torques over the Karma on top of the 65 added ponies. That’s quite a lot when you consider that the Polestar 1 is underpinned by a supposedly lightweight chassis, an enhanced version of Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture with 50% new parts and a lot of carbon fiber.
The torsional rigidity is up by 45%, and suspension is via a continuously variable set-up from Ohlins. It all sounds good although we don’t know the curb weight yet. What’s interesting is the way you will be able to get a Polestar 1: you’ll either be able to get it through a two-year or three-year subscription that will have you pay monthly payments (much like a lease) or you’ll be able to buy it outright for $155,000. The car wowed quite a bit of people, and Polestar said it’s considering to ramp up production to meet demand. Originally, the Swedish automaker said it will only make 1,500 units over the course of three years. We wrote last year that as many as 6,000 people were interested in the car at the time when we didn’t even know how much it will cost. That’s to say you’ll probably be able to see a lot more Polestar 1s than you will Karmas and, in a way that makes the Karma a more appealing option if you don’t mind paying some $30,000 to $50,000 more and get less oomph and, to me, a tackier interior.
Read our full review on the 2018 Polestar 1.
Are you on the market for an elegant coupe from a next-to-anonymous brand that will make just a small portion of automotive anoraks ecstatic? Here’s the car for you, the Touring Sciadipersia Coupe. Touring - obviously for the said portion of automotive geeks - comes from the name of the renowned Italian coachbuilder by the name of Carrozzeria Touring, the company that patented the Superleggera building method used on early Aston Martins and the Lamborghini 350 GT, among others.
What the Sciadipersia is, is an old-fashioned four-seater Grand Tourer with some pretty dicey styling - especially in the front - and a panoramic roof. It’s about as big as Maserati’s (seemingly) immortal GranTurismo and shares a lot of bit and pieces on the inside and underneath the skin with the Maserati. One could be mean and say it’s merely a re-bodied GranTurismo and that the re-body didn’t do the car any good but, in the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The engine powering the Sciadipersia, of which a convertible version was shown at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show, is the 4.7-liter V-8 developed by Ferrari that puts out 460 Horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 384 pound-feet of torque at 4,750. That’s about half the torque of the Pininfarina GT, ignoring the 75 horsepower power deficit that’s understandable since that powerplant is 11 years old in its Y version that’s employed by Maserati. It has to be said, though, that a different version of the F136 engine puts out 597 horsepower but to get that you must buy a Ferrari 458 Speciale.
The Sciadipersia, also, is lighter than the GranTurismo it’s based on and much lighter than the Pininfarina GT at just 3,748 pounds. Top speed is 187 mph which is well beyond the might of the Karma while 0-60 mph should be completed in about 4.3 or 4.4 seconds since the official 0-62 mph time is 4.6 seconds. The price could get hefty since you need a donor GranTurismo to end up with a Sciadipersia. The bad news is that a new one costs over $130,000, but the good news is that, on the second-hand market, you can score one for less than half that. It all depends on what you want.
Read our full review on the 2018 Touring Sciadipersia
I like that there are still manufacturers out there willing to unveil a car in near-production-form to gauge the audience’s reaction to it. It’s something that used to be pretty standard back in the day, but not many people do it, or at least they don’t do it openly. Nowadays, you see a manufacturer show off a concept and, no matter what, it’ll only go as far as to say that there are no intentions of putting the said concept into production, regardless of what the actual plans really are.
The Karma Pininfarina GT looks good, especially from its side but I’m no fan of the cabin, and I’d argue that, for a car that could go on sale next year or the year after that, it’s a bit underpowered. Sure, so is the Sciadipersia but you’d expect Karma to have a little more financial power to come up with a more powerful car than Touring, a little boutique maker that needs you to pop to its shop with a donor car to the start work. Also, since it’ll cost over $150,000, it’ll slot in an area where there are many tempting options among which is the Polestar that, in my eyes wins a head-to-head battle thanks to the (most likely) superior build quality alone. The extra power and torque and range (93 miles on electric power only) is a bonus.
Read our full review on the 2017 Karma Revero.
Read our full driven review on the 2011 Fisker Karma.
Read our full review on the 2019 Fisker EMotion.