From one extreme to the other


From one extreme to the other

From $25,000 Smart EV to $100,000 plus hybrid Fisker Karma

If what you’re after is more style, more power, more luxury… well, more everything, then the Fisker Karma may be what you’re looking for more than the Smart Electric Drive. Then again, you could buy four Smarts for the price of one Karma, and still have a little left over. Yes, we know that this car has been around for awhile, but this was our first opportunity to drive one. We were not going to pass it up.
First – more style. Long, low and swoopy, it attracts stares like few other four door sport sedans out there. Even its curves have curves. We suppose there are some that may find the design a bit much, but there are many more that would love to drive this up to valet stand just to watch everyone else watching them drive up. Then again, just about anything offers more style than the Smart.
Second – more power. More power than what, you ask? Pretty much anything else that might pull up next to it. Again, we’re not talking horsepower, as horsepower matters little in the world of daily drivers (though this example has over 400). We’re talking torque. And this Karma offers up nearly 1,000 lbs.-ft. of torque. Enough to press you nicely back into your comfy leather chair (to call it a seat is really doing it an injustice). We didn’t make our LA Auto Show host nauseaus with our repeated agressive accelerations, but we did have a hard time trying to avoid a ticket driving around the convention center complex.
Finally, more luxury. One’s first impression upon entering the cabin is really indescribable. At least for this guy.  There are several interior option materials available to provide for pretty much any potential owners desires. While both the Karma and the Volt are four seaters, due to the battery running down the middle of the car, the Karma really owns that and places a tall central tunnel all the way down the middle of the car boldly claiming that space for itself. The Volt, on the other hand, is trying to minimize the intrusion using a half-height tunnel which just makes one wonder why they couldn’t reduce the height a little more to make it a much more practical five seater.


As we pulled back in to park after our drive, we needed to try something. The Karma transmission selector is a push-button cluster on the center console. It rather reminded us of the Chrysler push-button transmissions of a half century ago, although those buttons were on the dash. Wow, we really are getting old. As we pulled into our parking slot, we intentionally tried to turn the car off while still in drive. Nothing happened. Our Nissan LEAF automatically places the transmission in Park when you do this, and turns off the car. Why can’t Fisker do the same? 

Another quirk that we noticed when we backed out to start our drive – the back glass is extremely small, so a rear view monitor provides an additional glimpse at what is going on back there. But as we backed up, we noticed severe jitter of the digital image. Clearly the computer could not keep up with the speed of the changing image. We had not seen such poor imagery in any other vehicle that we have driven with a rear view monitor, including some with very low price points. Unfortunately, we see this as a safety issue. If one can’t see out of the back glass, an accurate rear view monitor must be reliably available.


Alas, this could have been our last opportunity to drive a Karma. The battery supplier A123 going into bankruptcy takes away the sole source of juice for this car. Fisker has enough batteries to continue production for a few more months, but that should also make a potential buyer wonder what might happen should they need to replace battery modules for any reason in the future.
Fun? Yes. Sexy? Absolutely. Found in our driveway? Not likely, even if we had the green.