- The Fisker Karma was the original Model S rival.
- But Fisker Automotive went bankrupt in 2013 leaving Tesla the victor of the electric car space.
- Now, the car is making a comeback, but this time it is being called the Karma Revero.
Want to go fast and look cool in an electric car? Buy a Tesla Model S. Discussion over. After all, the Model S has all the gadgets, performance, and technocratic street cred you’ll ever need. However, things were very different at the end of the last decade.
Back in 2010, Tesla wasn’t yet an automotive juggernaut with a market cap rivaling that of General Motors. Instead, it was still an upstart car maker with the guy from PayPal and a far-from-mainstream electric sports car as its only product.
And then came the Model S, four door sedan with a surprising amount performance in package relatable to most premium car buyers. But it wasn’t immediately crowned king of the hill. That’s because there was a rival lurking in the wings.
The Fisker Karma. The stunningly beautiful Karma sedan was the brainchild of famed car designer Henrik Fisker. Unlike the all-electric Model S, the Karma was an electric car with a gasoline generator on board.
Both cars vied for the hearts and wallets of the eco-friendly elite. And for a while, Fisker held its own. Leonardo DiCaprio had a Karma. In fact, the Oscar-winner wasn’t just the company’s brand ambassador, he was an investor. “Fast and Furious” star Tyrese owned one as well. As did Justin Bieber, whose car was wrapped in chrome.
However, Hurricane Sandy, a parking lot with several hundred flooded out Karmas, and a defunct battery supplier teamed up to doom the budding car company.
By November 2013, Fisker Automotive was bankrupt, leaving the increasingly capable Model S as the victor.
Now, the Karma is back. In 2014, Wanxiang America, the Illinois-based subsidiary of China’s Wanxiang Group, purchased the intellectual property and assets of the defunct Fisker Automotive for $US150 million. Soon afterward, Karma Automotive was created. In 2017, the company began customer deliveries of its first model — the resurrected sedan formerly known as the Fisker Karma.
Recently, Business Insider spent a day with a 2018 Karma Revero test car clad in an eye-catching Corona Del Sol paint job. The 2018 Revero starts at $US130,000 and tops out at around $US140,000.
Unlike the Fisker, which was made by Valmet in Finland, the Revero will be assembled at Karma's new factory in Moreno Valley, California.
For better or worse, one look at the Revero and you know immediately it was designed by a true artist. The sleek hood ...
The triangular push button shifter is unique. As is the exposed battery pack visible through a clear panel.
The rear seat center console is an interesting touch, also makes the already tight rear cabin feel more claustrophobic.
One major improvement is the new infotainment system. Unlike the unit found on the Fisker, this one seems to actually work. In fact, it didn't fail once during our time with the car.
In addition, the solar roof has doubled in capacity and will now be able to help charge the main battery pack.
Unlike the Tesla, the Karma isn't a pure EV. Rather, it's a range extended, plug-in series hybrid. I know that's a lot to unpack, but here's what it means.
In most instances, the Revero runs on electric power from the battery pack. On its own, the pack delivers 50 miles of electric range. Power can be replenished by plugging it into a charger or ...
... by firing up the 2.0-litre, 235-horsepower, turbocharged Ecotec inline-four-cylinder engine sourced from General Motors. In the engine doesn't provide direct drive to the wheels. Instead, it's used purely as a power generator.
So what is powering the Revero? How about a pair of electric motors generating an impressive 403 horsepower and a mind blowing 981 foot-pounds of torque to rear wheels!!
According to Karma, the 5,400-pound Revero can hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 125 mph. It can also do the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 93 mph.
The Karma Revero today is what the Fisker Karma was five years ago. It's stunningly beautiful, rich with character, not very practical, and imperfect.
Behind the wheel, the Revero feels every bit of its 5,400-pound curb weight. While it's 403 horsepower and 981 foot-pounds of torque should deliver head-snapping accelerating, it doesn't. The drivetrain and traction control systems dull the power delivery. It's certainly capable of going quick, but it doesn't seem to want to. Believe it or not, there's lag in an electric car, something that I've never encountered before.
Karma characterises the Revero as a charmingly relaxed grand tourer and not as a speed demon to rival the comparably priced Model S P100D. However, I've driven enough 400 horsepower GT cars to know that it should have more pep in its step. On a positive note, the Revero's hydraulic steering is communicative and well weighted.
In addition, with fuel economy ratings of just 19 MPG and 51 MPGe, it doesn't really deliver on its eco-friendly image either.
The interior of the Revero, while cramped, was full of personality. It felt cosy and well designed. Unlike the Model S and its cool technocratic aesthetic, the Karma feels like a true luxury car. Its occupants are surrounded by rich leather, unpolished wood, carefully crafted switches, and charming design details. In fact, the wood accents in the cabin come from sustainable reclaimed logs. (Our test car had the carbon fibre accents instead of wood.) It makes you feel special the way a car of this price point should.
In spite the charming interior, the Revero is a sedan that isn't very practical and an EV that's not all that efficient. However, it's a vehicle that can't really be judged by traditional criteria.
At the end of the day, the Revero has to be taken into context. For Karma Automotive, the Revero is not meant to be a money maker. Nor is it meant to sell in large numbers. Rather, it's a starting point for a fledgling car maker. It's a niche product designed to help build awareness for the brand and put them in a position to release more mainstream models.
In that regard, well done Karma. You have my attention. Now, I need you to build a better car.
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