The 2012 Fisker Karma is nothing short of stunning, possibly the lowest, sleekest, sexiest four-door sedan to be seen on the road. It stops other drivers, pedestrians, and even traffic cops dead in their tracks. On one test drive, we even got an approving nod from a New York City construction worker--a member of the toughest critic corps around. Designer and company founder Henrik Fisker has styled Aston Martins and BMWs, among other cars, so he knows how to do sexy sport luxury. This is one of the few sedans in the world that really does leave people staring in its wake.
The front end, with two elongated grille openings side by side, is the design's most polarizing feature. Some like it, some dislike it. The swept-back headlights in front and the angled rear lamps just add to the feline nature of the Fisker Karma. But the focal point of the car are the giant 22-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires, with Brembo brakes clearly visible behind the wheel spokes. The lines of the body are draped tautly over the huge wheels to produce bulging front fenders and rear haunches into which the roofline flows. And the standard solar roof, covered in photovoltaic cells, tips off all onlookers that this car has green credentials on top of its sexy shape. The door glasses are frameless, and the handle openings contain rubber-covered electric switches inside, more like a concept car than a production vehicle.
The one off-note of the design is the clearly visible grey foam crash-absorbing material directly behind the vertical bars of the low grilles. It's completely visible in certain lights, spoiling the "twin nostril" effect at the front by visibly blocking all but a small portion of what look like air intakes.
Inside, the Karma is less remarkable, with a conventional instrument cluster, a 10.2-inch touch-screen monitor in the console, and a high, wide center tunnel that contains the lithium-ion battery pack. Unusual design touches inside include the glass panel on top of the tunnel that shows the battery inside and a small, pyramidal control on the tunnel whose facets are touch-sensitive switches to select Drive, Reverse, and Park.
The Karma has virtually no controls on the dashboard, with the climate control, audio system, device connectivity, and navigation all controlled through the console touch-screen. Its only individual controls are the Start button, the hazard-warning light button, and switches for central locking and the electric glove-box release. An electric parking brake and a trunk release button are located to the lower left as well. Similarly, on the tunnel are the pyramidal drive selector, four electric-window switches, and little else.
While there's an EcoStandard interior option--with black-dyed simulated leather--the bulk of 2012 Karmas will come with what's called the EcoSport interior, which has full leather over most surfaces. There are some bold color combinations and patterns on offer, but it will be relatively familiar to luxury car buyers. The other option is the EcoChic interior, which uses no animal products. It sources its small amount of wood trim from either reclaimed sunken logs or trees killed in forest fires, and includes images of fossilized magnolia leaves on the underside of the glass panels.
It also uses fabrics rather than leather on all non-plastic surfaces, producing the effect of an upholstered living room you might find in Architectural Digest. The combination of an artificial suede, a velvety material, and a grey-blue-black material that comes perilously close to brocade is unique in the auto market. It won't find many buyers--Fisker estimates only 5 percent of Karma buyers will order the EcoChic interior--but it's definitely distinctive.