Fisker argues the Karma’s major selling point is its blend of sportiness and green credentials. I’m not convinced. Luxury consumers don’t like compromises, and the Karma is full of them. The car works similarly to the Chevy Volt. It can run on all-electric power from a lithium-ion battery pack in what Fisker calls “stealth mode.” Most drivers will get more than 30 miles of range this way. Plug the car into a 220-volt outlet every night for a six-hour recharge, and you’ll use little or no gasoline on short commutes. It has a 2.0-liter, turbocharged gasoline engine, which turns on when the batteries are depleted, or when the driver wants more oomph. Simply turn it to sport mode. The 260-horsepower engine powers a generator, which in turn recharges the batteries on the go. While this eliminates range limitations, it also hurts the Karma’s official Environmental Protection Agency numbers. The EPA gave it a 52 miles-per-gallon equivalence in all-electric mode and only 20 mpg when running fully on gas.
Reliability IssueThis new technology comes with its own set of issues. These may include reliability. Consumer Reports said its Karma, which it bought, broke down. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that four out of five shipped to one dealership had software glitches almost immediately.
I experienced nothing like that. But the meshing of systems is often noisy and harsh, with unaccounted-for noises and vibrations. This happens almost entirely when the gas engine is on, and in a luxury ride it’s unacceptable.