The 2021 Karma GS-6 is the most impressive version of the
plug-in hybridyet, but it's taken about a decade of trial and error to get there.
Originally launched by designer Henrik Fisker, only about 2,000 OG Fisker Karma models were ever made. Before creating the Karma, he had previously worked with BMW and Aston Martin. He even had a brief tenure at Tesla, which is what initially inspired him to design a hybrid car.
Fisker himself is no longer with the company, but the revamped Karma is poised to be the brand’s most successful launch yet.
Jerryis here to break down each version of the Karma from 2011, 2012, and the latest 2021 model.
Origins of the Fisker Karma
The Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid first started catching the attention of automotive reporters as the ambitious Henrik Fisker vowed to reinvent the automotive business.
Back in 2009, Fisker told
Car and Driverthat the electric powertrain of the future would be a hybrid one, wherein the gas engine is able to alleviate some of the charging time and range issues of purely electric cars.
The 2011 Fisker Karma married the practicality of a hybrid car with the luxury of an exotic sports car. According to
cars.com, it seats four adults and has four doors, and measures 196.7 inches long.
From the outside, the Fisker Karma looked somewhat conventional compared to other sports cars at the time, but it had several hybrid-specific quirks that set it apart.
Where the tailpipes would be were actually speakers that broadcast engine sounds, while the real tailpipe was situated in the front of the vehicle near the gas engine and generator.
The roof also incorporates a solar panel, which doesn’t help much in terms of driving range, but it does contribute to charge.
Unlike contemporary electric cars where the battery pack is built into the floor of the vehicle, the 2011 Karma’s battery runs down the center of the car, creating a console that divides the seats.
The 2012 Fisker Karma and onward
By 2012, Fisker finally had the funds to roll out the Karma as a production car. Similar to the 2011 version, the 2012 Karma consumes no gas for the first 50 miles, after which it defers to the gas-powered engine.
The 2012 Fisker Karma was powered by a 260-hp four-cylinder engine and a 20-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Like the Nissan Leaf at the time, the Karma was always electrically driven, only using gasoline to continue powering the electric generator.
Still, the Fisker Karma faced some drawbacks compared to other sports sedans of its time. The $100,000 price tag came with a curb weight of over 4,000 lbs.
Put simply, at the time the Karma came out, there were sports sedans that delivered more in performance and hybrids that were vastly more affordable.
There were also design flaws, like uncomfortable seating, an awkward steering wheel, and a confusing push-button shifter. The interior space was also small and cramped.
The future of Karma
The remains of what was left of Fisker Automotive were bought out by Chinese auto parts supplier Wanxiang in 2016, and the new owners opted to lose the Fisker moniker altogether and reintroduce Karma as a standalone brand.
The luxury hybrid model was revamped as the Karma Revero, but it still faced challenges as consumers thought it was too pricey, too heavy, and uncomfortable.
The latest version, the GS-6, is a hybrid powertrain with a starting price of $85,700. That’s $60K less than the least expensive 2021 Revero GT. While it's certainly an improvement from before, some flaws like the cramped interior and push-button shifter still remain to this day.
In spite of this, the latest Karma sedan is the best version yet, but it's hard to say if that will guarantee successful sales. Tesla’s success has shifted the market from hybrids to electric vehicles, but the Karma certainly still has a kind of irreverent road appeal.
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