The New York Times finally got the chance to test-drive the infamous U.S.-government-funded, Finland-built Fisker Karma over the weekend. Despite a $528.7 million loan from the Department of Energy to help Fisker develop the vehicle, and the $103,000 per-unit price (enough to buy Ann Romney’s two Cadillacs), the car hardly seemed to give the Times tester any thrills up his leg.
The car’s bodywork is certainly attractive, with the reviewer noting that, “like the similarly sized Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera, the Karma is a fastback sedan masquerading as a coupe.” Further, Fisker took pride in its radical looks: “As a former designer of BMWs and Aston Martins, [company founder] Henrik Fisker objects to bold design studies that are watered down for production. ‘I also believe hybrids don’t have to be boring,’ Mr. Fisker said in an earlier interview. ‘Or ugly.’”
But despite the Karma’s athletic looks, Fisker doesn’t apparently believe that hybrids need to be fast. In electric-only mode, the Karma does 0–60 in 7.9 seconds — minivan territory — and tops out at 95 m.p.h. — go-kart territory. But that’s not all that your federally funded fastback can provide: “For a jolt of performance there is Sport mode, when the output of the 600-pound, 22-kilowatt-hour battery pack is supplemented by a 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine from General Motors. In Sport, the car reaches 60 m.p.h. in about 6 seconds, right up there with a Volkswagen Golf GTI.” That is, despite its supposedly high-performance hybrid-power train, the Karma is slower than literally any other sedan out there at a similar price point.
Finally, as reported a while ago, the Fisker combines uninspiring performance with disappointing fuel mileage: In full-electric mode, it gets 52 m.p.g., but the EPA rates its overall mileage as a paltry 20 m.p.g. (better than most 5,600 lb. sedans, but far worse than you’d want from a “green energy” project).
While the Times tester was somewhat pleased with the interior, calling it “appealing as well, but low-key” — perhaps he would have been more impressed by a flashier leather interior, but alas, Fisker had equipped him with a car sporting the “the EcoChic package, that includes textile — not leather — upholstery and salvaged wood trim.”