Beautiful, likeable and amazingly credible for a brand new car from a brand new company. Just don’t expect it to be a hoot to drive.

What is it?

Regardless of what its makers hope and despite its extraordinary specification, a drive in the Fisker Karma does not feel like a glimpse into the future. This is largely because for the most part driving this ground-breaking new car is such an abidingly normal experience. It is only when you climb from the Karma back into the old world that the more revealing sight hoves into view: one that now feels substantially like the past.

What can we surmise from this? Only that the cleverest thing about this ever so clever car is not its twin 201bhp electric motors, its 260bhp petrol engine/generator nor even its 20kWh lithium ion battery pack. It is its timing.

What’s it like?

Architecturally the Karma’s closest rival is the Mercedes CLS. Conceptually it’s out on its own. Running on electric power alone, no Rolls-Royce ever felt as effortless as this. Although maximum performance comes only when you select Sport and let the petrol engine kick in, so blaring is its noise it’s greatest talent is for shattering your tranquillity. Internally this unworthy ex-Pontiac engine is known as ‘the dragon’, and they don’t mean it kindly.

So turn it off, put up with merely fleet rather than truly fast and let it waft. Sit back and soak up the fine ride and survey the simple, stylish, sustainable interior. In here there are lessons for all manufacturers to learn.

Just don’t expect too much. The Karma is unique among four door cars in making an Aston Rapide feel spacious, nor is there enough space in the disappointingly shallow boot. We also experienced minor software glitches on an early but not pre-production car.

It’s important too to understand what kind of car this is. Visually it might carry overtones of both BMW Z8 and Aston Vantage (Henrik Fisker styled both), but this is no sports car. It’s a massively heavy cruiser with an immense wheelbase, and despite a centre of gravity lower than a Ford GT’s, it feels it. ‘Cumbersome’ is not too strong a word to describe its low speed handling, though the electro-hydraulic steering is lovely and high speed stability and poise beyond reproach.

Should I buy one?

So, serious drivers, look away now for this car is not for you. But let us say you live outside London but work in the City. Your daily commute is 40 miles of usually hellish traffic. You can afford the congestion charge but hate paying it. You want a car of timeless elegance and outstanding efficiency to soothe you there and back. There would be no better weapon for this journey.

Except for this. The Karma is so chock-full of widgetry Fisker lacked either the will or way to make right-hand drive even a possibility. So you’re either going to pay £87,000 for a leftie, or sit back in some other chair and enjoy it only vicariously from your disadvantaged position in the past.

Of course the irony is that Britain is chock-full of all the conditions in which the Karma excels. For the two to live as strangers is to deny this flawed but fascinating newcomer the very environment that would likely show its manifest talent to greatest effect.

Fisker Karma

Price: £87,000, left hand drive only; Top speed: 125mph (limited); 0-60mph: 5.9sec; Economy: 67mpg; Co2: 87g/100km; Kerbweight: 2539kg; Engine type, twin electric traction engines with 260bhp 2-litre turbo petrol engine/generator; Installation: electric engines at the rear, engine/generator in the front; Power: 402bhp; Torque: 981lb ft from rest; Gearbox: Direct drive

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Jon Hardcastle 20 October 2011

Re: Fisker Karma

BMW Z3/4 meets Maserati Grand Tourismo.

Interesting car though.

Dave Ryan 14 August 2011

Re: Fisker Karma

Not bad for a first effort I'd say, but the no-RHD and choice of engine issues could be potential dealbreakers for what would be a strong market for it. Styling is a subjective point anyway (personally I find nothing too objectionable about it) and the packaging looks decent for the market so neither of them are particular concerns, but the other issues are. Also I would love to know why these engineers insist on one-speed gearboxes for electric drivetrains - it's not as if you'd drive a petrol or diesel in 3rd gear all the time even if the power and torque were up to it, so why do they think it'll work any better with an electric motor?

TBC 14 August 2011

Re: Fisker Karma


Back to reality - maybe Tesla can do better.

The Tesla's Achilles heel has always been its real-world range, in a much larger, and presumably heavier, premium saloon this is likely to be considerably worse. So unless you live fairly close to your place work and/or drive at speeds that would shame a nun, the revolution will have to wait.