By Jim Mateja, Special to Tribune Newspapers
December 8, 2011
The 2012 Fisker Karma sedan is a car to make both environmentalists and ecologists proud.
Power is provided to the sedan by electric motors fed by a 600-pound lithium ion battery pack. And rather than sacrifice cows or bulls, seat covers are recycled plastic, seat foam is soybean fiber, carpets are recycled plastic, the roof liner is recycled suede, and the wood trim is from rescued California wildfire hardwood.
The car comes from Fisker Automotive, which was founded in 2007 and is named after Henrik Fisker, a former Aston Martin design boss.
The Karma is an extended-range electric that takes you about 50 miles on batteries alone and then uses a small 2-liter, four-cylinder turbo gas engine to produce more electricity to keep going another 250 miles before needing a 4-6 hour pause to recharge batteries using a 220/240 volt circuit or 8 to 12 hours with a 110-volt circuit — plus a fresh tank of gas.
. Karma has a stunning long hood, short rounded deck luxury sports sedan design similar to a Porsche Panamera.
The cabin is a tad snug from the 600 pounds of batteries hidden within its bowels. There's a pair of cupholders but not much elbow room to use them. The rear window offers a slim view of what's approaching. The rear seat, divided by the battery compartment, will hold either two slender trophy wives or two short, slender offspring. The trunk holds a set of golf clubs horizontally — no more,
To drive, just push the start button and then D in the console PRNDL pyramid.
Karma operates in two modes — Stealth, or battery-only for 50 miles with about 230 horsepower at your disposal, or Sport, which gives you 402 horsepower and employs the gas engine to power a generator to recharge the batteries to extend driving range a bit, but mostly to divert more energy to two electric motors for more power to pass, climb or stand on the pedal and play boy racer.
In Stealth mode, the dash gauge noted 19 miles range left in battery mode before recharge, but after switching to Sport, the range rose to 22 miles in about 15 minutes of driving.
At 5,200 pounds, 600 of it in batteries, Karma doesn't scream at take off, but once the weight is in motion, with 900-plus foot pounds of torque at 60 mph, you enjoy a quick and pleasant burst of energy.
Batteries are silent, so in Stealth mode to protect pedestrians wandering into crosswalks without looking, Karma has a set of speakers that synthesize a noise called TRON at speeds below 35 mph.
To switch to Sport mode, just tap the paddle on the steering column. The rush of air directed into the turbo powering the generator ends the silence and brings cabin noise several octaves louder than TRON. Karma now reacts more quickly, but more loudly.
Ride is firm, not stiff. The 22-inch radials up front have smooth, groove-free outer edges like racing slicks to ensure good road grip for sporty handling on dry roads. Rear radials have normal-grooved tread patterns for optimum braking.
No EPA mileage rating yet but Fisker expects 67 mpg highway, and notes you drive 50 miles from home in battery mode, stop and recharge over lunch, then drive back again for 100 miles of travel without a drop of gas.
Expect to attract a crowd of gawkers and onlookers. Fisker expects buyers to be car enthusiasts, those who relish first-on-the-block-with-new-toy status, and well-heeled conservationists.
There's three trim versions, ECO Standard at $95,900, ECO Sport at $103,900, and ECO Chic at $108,900. All include a cord to plug the car into a 110-volt outlet while a faster wall mounted 220/240 volt garage charger runs $2,300. All versions have an 8-year, 80,000-mile battery warranty.