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Review (2/2)

Fisker Karma: Unrivaled Luxury, Style and Performance Combine with Fuel Efficiency

Source: Fisker | Published: Sun Sep 18, 2011

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Exterior Design: Striking and Elegant

The four-door, four-passenger 2012 Fisker Karma is an elegant sedan with a coupe-like silhouette. It has a distinctly athletic presence highlighted by a long hood and short rear deck, a low roofline, wide stance, pronounced fender lines and 22-inch wheels. An exceptionally long dash-to-axle proportion gives a sense of power and presence.

The 2012 Karma is built on a long 124-inch (3,160 mm) wheelbase (about the same as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class), yet short overhangs keep overall length to 196.7 inches (4,996 mm), or about the length of a Mercedes-Benz CLS. The exterior dimensions are nearly identical to those of the original Fisker Karma concept car.

Standing just 53.4-inches (1,330 mm) tall, the Karma is only slightly higher than a Porsche 911. Combined with wide track dimensions, the result is a low-slung, timeless profile, the kind that has defined classic sports cars for decades. It is a stance meant to convey power and performance, even when the car is standing still. Inside, the Karma provides room and comfort for the driver and three passengers.

Also retained from the original concept car is the world's largest automotive solar roof panel. The compound curved, monolithic panel conveys the car's advanced technology and environmental purpose while also capturing energy from sunlight to effectively extend the car's electric range, absolutely cost- and emissions-free.

In addition, the production Karma keeps the concept car's carefully integrated parting lines around the front and rear fascias, along with the industry's tightest tire-to-wheel arch relationship. The most significant visible exterior change from the concept car is the addition of B-pillars, which increase the Karma's structural rigidity and help it meet global crash-protection requirements.

Unique to the segment is the absence of external window frames between rear side-glass panes, which improves aesthetics and reduces wind noise.

Another unique feature of the 2012 Fisker Karma is its optional Diamond Dust paint. This world first contains a 35- to 55-percent recycled glass flake mixture, and the water-based paint process does not release any volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This luxurious paint option also leads the industry in reflectivity, shine and gloss.

Interior: Classic Meets Cutting Edge

Fisker Automotive operates by its Sustainable and Accountable Design philosophy. Understanding that environmental responsibility extends far beyond zero tailpipe emissions, Fisker designers and engineers examine each and every part and system to find a cleaner, smarter or less impactful solution. This extends to design and materials inside the Karma.

As in the original concept car, the production Karma has a four-seat cockpit with a large center console running from the dashboard to the rear seatback. Fisker designers took inspiration from both nature and classic sports cars to craft the Karma's interior. In the application of user technology, a key design goal was to give the Karma an elegantly simple dashboard with a minimum of buttons and knobs.

California's storied car culture played a role; designers studied some of the most exclusive cars at the Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance to bring a classic feel to the Karma's cabin. For example, the chrome bezels surrounding the digital instrumentation were inspired by the jewel-like gauges in these cars, as well as the finest Swiss timepieces.

"While the overall composition of the interior adheres to classic design guidelines, the instrumentation, controls, and the Karma's user interface all give a fully modern experience," said CEO Henrik Fisker.

The gauge panel consists of three separate LCD screens, one each for the speedometer (left), the center information display and the power gauge (right). There is no tachometer, since engine speed in the traditional sense is irrelevant to the Karma driver. There is no glass covering the gauges - you can touch them.

As an indicator of the level of detail Fisker designers applied, the background pattern in the gauges was inspired by the "Golden Mean," a precise, natural ratio that has mystified artists and designers for centuries, and which the human eye finds naturally pleasing.

The Karma's power meter shows power consumption when accelerating, or generation when decelerating or braking. Notably, when driving in Stealth mode, the gauge colors are softer than when driving in Sport mode.

Fisker will lead the luxury category by offering an interior trimmed in the customer's choice of sumptuous leather or completely animal-free materials. All series feature EcoLucent inserts made with non-toxic, transparent material from 40% post-industrial recycled content.

'Bridge of Weir Low Carbon Leather ' for the mid-line EcoSport model is prepared in the world's first energy-self-sufficient, closed-loop leather manufacturing plant. Both gas and electricity are generated on-site from by-products of the leather making process, which itself is low-pigmentation and chrome-free. Hides are purchased exclusively from suppliers that adopt the Five Freedoms set of principles for humane animal treatment, and yield is the highest in the industry.

The exclusive, top-line EcoChic series is animal-free, replacing leather with a high-grade textile EcoSuede fabric made from 100% recycled post-industry virgin material. The EcoLucent trim panel frames fossil-like Magnolia leaves within the center console, a tasteful suggestion of environmental consciousness. This is the most advanced, luxurious and sustainable automotive environment ever.

Luxury car drivers expect genuine wood interior trim, and the Karma delivers. But instead of the industry standard of cutting down live trees from rain forests and artificially treating wood panels, Fisker sought sources of reclaimed wood in the United States. The Karma's three different trim lines offer three distinct kinds of reclaimed wood. No live growth is ever used.

True EVer

The Fisker Karma is the first and only true production Electric Vehicle with extended range (EVer). Simply put, that means the Karma is driven solely and at all times by electric traction motors. An on-board range-extending gasoline engine drives a generator to power the motors as needed; there is no mechanical link between the internal-combustion engine and the drive wheels.

This exclusive EVer powertrain was inspired by a high-performance stealth vehicle created for U.S. Military special operations. At its heart is a 20 kWh rechargeable lithium-ion battery developed by Fisker Automotive's strategic partner A123 Systems of Watertown, Massachusetts. State-of-the-art Nanophosphate technology maximizes energy, power, reliability and safety.

Running on the battery alone - which can be charged from an available 220V Fisker wall charger in about six hours - the Karma can cover 50 miles (80 km). After that, the range extender - a front/mid-mounted gasoline engine/generator set - provides another 250 miles of range by supplying current to the dual rear-mounted electric motors, for a total range of 300 miles (483 km).

The Fisker Karma contributes to sustainability even when parked, with the world's largest and most powerful automotive solar panel integrated into its roof, as standard. It is the only solar installation on a production vehicle that collects energy to be stored. Enough energy can be collected by the roof over the course of a year to power the Karma for nearly 200 cost- and emission-free miles.

Two Driving Modes

The Fisker Karma is also the first and only car that allows the driver to manually select all-electric or hybrid-electric drive modes on demand. The default Stealth mode maximizes efficiency, giving the car its greatest range on battery power before activating the gas engine-driven generator to sustain battery charge. In Stealth mode, the Karma can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds and achieve a top speed of 95 mph (153 km/h).

More telling of the Karma's acceleration capability and feel, however, is the massive 981 lb.-ft. (1,330 Nm) of peak torque available instantaneously (from zero rpm). By comparison, most conventionally-powered luxury sedans develop less than half of that torque and at a much higher rpm. Because the Karma is always driven by its electric motors and a single-ratio transmission/differential combination, the driver can always feel and enjoy powerful, seamless, linear acceleration.

A single pull on the Karma's left-hand steering wheel paddle engages Sport mode. Now the gasoline engine drives the generator to provide additional current that supplements that from the battery. This is enough electricity for 403 total system horsepower, allowing the Karma to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds and achieve a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h).

Sport mode conserves, and in certain circumstances replenishes, battery charge. The driver can switch back to Stealth mode at any time; this can be useful when arriving in low-emission zones, which are being designated in many cities around the world.

The Karma also features a fully-blended regenerative braking system. Regenerative braking captures kinetic energy that would otherwise be wasted as brake-rotor heat, and feeds it back into the battery. Using the right-hand steering wheel paddle, the driver can operate Hill Mode to vary regenerative braking effect in three steps; this unique function provides an effect similar to downshifting a conventional car's transmission to offer varied levels of speed control. Hill Mode is ideal for downhill grades and can be used to shorten braking distances.

World Class Ride and Handling

In all aspects of performance, the Fisker Karma is designed to be a true driver's car, one dedicated to the concept of Pure Driving Passion. Its proprietary, advanced aluminum space frame incorporates new levels of rigidity and strength that give the Karma world-class ride and handling characteristics.

Fisker Automotive's engineering team designed the Karma's space frame around the car's unique EVer powertrain, filing for multiple patents in the process.

Housing the car's battery pack in a structural tunnel running down the car's centerline helps endow the Karma with a very low center of gravity, and also contributes to the car's ideal weight distribution.

As a result, the Karma drives more like a midsize sport sedan than a full-size luxury sedan. In addition, the Karma does not need expensive, complex and power-robbing suspension aids to deliver flat cornering.

The four-wheel independent SLA suspension, also employing aluminum components, has been specially tuned to work with the first standard 22-inch aluminum wheels on a production car.

The Fisker-designed Circuit Blade wheels first appeared on the original concept vehicle in 2008. Electro-hydraulic, variable-ratio and variable-assist power steering is tuned for optimum control and feel.

The Karma's space frame also forms the foundation of occupant safety - and protection for the sealed batteries - helping the luxury sedan to exceed global crash protection standards.

Eight advanced airbags, Antilock Brakes (ABS), traction control (TCS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Panic Brake Assist (PBA) are all part of the package.

Brembo 6-piston monoblock front brakes and 4-piston rear brakes provide incredible stopping power, bolstered by the regenerative braking.

Fisker Karma: Photo Gallery, Review (1/2) and Specifications

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