Karma S Concept and 2010 Fisker Karma

January 12, 2009

Last year Fisker Automotive landed a stand right in the thick of things on the main floor of the Detroit show, and created quite a buzz not only with its so-called “sexy green car,” the Karma, but with the company's wealth of information about the product and an announced intent to bring it to production in fourth-quarter 2009. What's more, it seemed like genuinely well-funded operation, with venture capital that included Palo Alto Investors and Kleiner Perking Caufield & Byers, a firm that included Al Gore as a partner.

That said, because of the soap-opera-like timeline and sometimes conflicting information that electric-car maker Tesla Motors has subjected us to over the past several years, we were still skeptical.

But here we are, a year later, and it looks like Fisker has its game together. The production version of the Karma, shown here today, sticks with the formula outlined last year but is also joined by a hardtop convertible Karma S, also to be produced after Karma sedan production ramps up, in 2011.

In a press conference at Fisker’s stand at the North American International Auto Show, Fisker Automotive CEO Henrik Fisker, the Danish-born former BMW designer, had little to say about the new Karma S convertible, letting the design speak for itself. It’s a four-seat convertible (or more like a 2+2), riding on a shortened-wheelbase version of the same platform, and has a power retractable hardtop that stows quickly into a section of the trunk. The color, a pearly lustrous dark red hue called Inferno, helped give the Karma S a sultry appearance.

The sedan gains just a few changes on the outside on the way to production. For instance, the creases on the hood have been brought out a little bit more, and front and rear fascias are different than those on the show car, to expedite cooling and airflow. But nearly all the truly standout design cues of the concept car—including the door handles and solar-panel roof—made it through to the production version.

While the exterior carries through virtually unchanged, the interior is completely new for the production-bound 2010 Fisker Karma. Gone is last year’s more glitzy, almost sci-fi-themed look (including the memorably blocky steering wheel design) and in its place is a very distinguished, elegant interior that looks in the vein of Jaguar’s dreamy cabins.

What makes the production Karma seda’s interior so important is that it stands by its ethics. Accountability and sensuality were the two governing philosohies in designing the Karma—and specifically its interior—and the company went to great lengths to procure materials the went along with the environmental sensibilities of prospective buyers. Three models are available: Eco Standard, Eco Sport, and Eco Chic, with the latter being the most expensive and offering a completely animal-free interior. We’ll bring you more on the Karma’s detail in an upcoming post.

Unlike Tesla Motors, which has tried to establish its own assembly facilities and control much of the production and sourcing of its components, Fisker is outsourcing to well-established companies—even when it comes to final assembly. The 2010 Fisker Karma is set to be produced by Valmet Automotive, in Finland, and the all-aluminum spaceframe is being made in cooperation with Norsk Hydro. Production begins later this year, with the first U.S. deliveries expected this November.

Granted, a few things have changed about the Karma on the way to production, the range of up to 620 miles of continuous driving that was promised last year in the concept stage has now become about 300 miles from gasoline and electric, starting with a full charge and a full tank. But the production Karma will still use a state-of-the-art, 200 kW lithium-ion battery pack and be able to go up to 60 miles on a single charge, the company says, eliminating the need for many to ever use a drop of gas on the daily commute.

The Karma has announced that it will use GM's 260-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection Ecotec four-cylinder engine—the same one that's used in the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky Red Line and one of our favorite engines in GM's stable. But its responsiveness doesn't really matter. That's because the Fisker is propelled only by an electric motor system, with the gasoline engine set to kick on when the battery's juice is spent. At that time the Ecotec will fire itself up and run at whatever speed is more efficient to provide power directly to the electrics. In another element that's changed since last year, the gas engine won't directly recharge the battery, we're told; the only way the battery actively recoups energy, other than being plugged in, is through regenerative braking.

As before, the Karma promises to handle like a proper sport sedan, with a low, wide stance, the heavy battery pack mounted low and at the center of the vehicle, the Ecotec engine in front, and the electric motor system in back. The twin electric motor system makes 403 horsepower and (959 lb-ft of torque!) altogether and can propel the Karma to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and to a continuous top speed of 125 mph.

Fisker is standing by its expected yearly volume of 15,000 vehicles, although the first year it may ramp up with about half that. The Karma is set to sell for $87,900, but after a $7,500 federal tax credit it will qualify for, the price will only be $80,400—also delivering on last year's promise of the cost being about $80,000. That’s for the Eco Standard. The Eco Sport will list at $94,000 and the Eco Chic at $106,000.

The company has 22 dealers signed up so far and hopes to have 40 nationally by the end of the year when deliveries begin. Fisker says that the Karma is already sold out through mid-2010.

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

Fisker Karma S concept

2010 Fisker Karma

2010 Fisker Karma

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