This American built Karma GS-6 is the best American car on the market and fully worth every cent. So, that is out there. I know a lot of the back story and I have heard all the criticisms, so I was quite apprehensive when I started this drive, but I came away with a very different mindset completely! I LOVE IT! I don’t easily say this, and I have driven enough cars to be “fair and balanced”, but this different. For the price of an average Tesla, one that everyone and their grandma seems to have these days, a non-de-script anonymous form of un-emotional transportation, I can have this.., the complete opposite? Any day! Any day!
I have some history with this car, but as you all know me, I will be objective. I actually worked on parts of this design back in 2008 at Fisker Automotive. I did some Alias surfacing on exterior details as well on some bigger parts of the 2 door convertible version of it, exterior and interior. The essence of what was then there is clearly still here now, albeit with a different front end and a different logo.
I had never driven the car as a Fisker Karma, nor did I have any experience with it in it’s Karma Revero phase and now as Karma GS-6. I did follow the press and the rumor mill of course, and that was far from positive. I live quite close to Karma’s main office so I did see them drive around “in the wild” more often than most people, for they are a rare sight. But each time I saw one approach I never initially associated it with the Karma. First impressions always gave me associations with much more well known sports car brands, like Ferrari, Aston Martin and the like. That was a good thing.
Only when it passed by did I realize it was the Karma, and still that was not a negative impression. So I got keen to drive one for myself and it took quite a while, but finally it worked out.
When you stand next to the car it is very low and sculptured. The doors seem very small as well, which made me worry since I am not exactly a jockey figure. Indeed, it was difficult to get in and get out the first time. It was not something I wanted witnesses for, but after doing it a few times I found a reasonably logical way to get in and to get out. I saw it a fitness training, using muscles which I had not used in years.
Once sat behind the wheel though…. Awesome!!!
That hood and those fenders, THAT was pure pleasure! To look out over the IP and see those fenders and the bulge made the car look extremely sexy. You would think you’d have a 12 cylinder out in front, like the classic Ferrari’s of the 60’s. Of course you realize this is not a classic Ferrari so you prepare yourself for a bit of a disappointment, but when you step on it: Forget Ferrari!!! You’re forcefully pushed back into the back of your seat and the smile on my face was getting bigger and bigger… Until I reached the legal speed limit of course.
The GS-8 is a hybrid, so the range of the car fully charged with me was about 99 miles. Regenerative braking works really well, so within reason on a hilly drive it doesn’t cost you that much in range. On a flat freeway of course it will be over soon, but then the 1.5 liter BMW engine kicks in. That transformation between the 2 drive sources was different, but it went smooth enough. The one thing I had to get used to was that there was no real relationship between the engine sound and my throttle. The engine powers the battery charger and you still drive on the electric motors. So coming down the mountains over Lake Elsinore after the photo shoot, I started out with 0 range. Initially the BMW motor was on, but then, downhill, it created enough energy from the regenerative braking that I could drive most of the next 15 miles in silence with the electric motors, and even after leaving the 74 back to home, the charge was enough to get me there at least another 7 miles before the engine kicked in.
The interior is rich, opulent, and definitely created with a passion for cars, for driving and for car history. This is not a generic looking thing to get from A to B with. This is not trying to emulate an airplane steering wheel. This is not black and white leather/plastic in a sterile environment. This is rich Ferrari, Aston Martin and not many others come to mind. The attention to detail in the initial design was tremendous, especially for such a tiny start-up as Fisker was at the time and as Karma still is today. It is not owned by a major OEM car producer, so it cannot rely on parts bins, software based on other products. Everything is clearly made for this car. The interface in front of the driver as well as the display on the screen are totally unique and work amazingly well. You see the themes on the detailing in the front and rear bumper repeated in the background diamonds in a playful way, but not in a distractive way.
There were things in there that I never even thought about. Simple example: If I am approaching a crossing and want to turn left, I switch on my indicators, move to the left, wait for the traffic lights and then turn. Normally I hear the indicators the whole time. In the Karma GS-6 I hear the indicators when I switch them on, they become silent while I am waiting, and as soon as I press on the throttle pedal the sound comes back one. Logical. Why have that sound while you’re waiting?
My seating position was sporty but comfortable even with my size. I could see well everywhere. There is a blind corner of course, but with the mirrors and rear view camera there was move I could not make with ease. Of course, being a low slung sports car with 4 seats and 4 doors, it is cramped inside, but then, it’s a low 4 seat sports car. I’ve never heard people complain about that with their Ferrari’s and Aston Martin’s and these were not really any better.
Realizing the Karma GS-6 has been introduced in 2012 and started life already in 2007/2008, I wondered what would be next. The fully electric Karma GSe-6 will be introduced soon with about 300 miles of range depending on your driving style, weather, the kind of roads you travel and the amount of regenerative braking you can apply. That would be priced squarely in the Tesla range, but as said, with a much more passionate product.
Ultimately, for a successor to this Karma GS-6, I was running through a list of what I would want for me: I would keep the passionate designs on exterior and interior, keep the opulence, keep the exclusivity. I would like to get better ingress and egress. I am in doubt about the wide center console. They use that for batteries of course, but for a proper EV you would need many more batteries, so a whole load of underfloor batteries would be obvious, which would raise your seating position, and therefore the height of the car.
Ideally I would try and find a middle ground by still having a wide center console, but some batteries in strategic places under the cabin. If that would not be possible, I would raise the passenger cell, but make sure that the extra height is not clearly visible from the exterior design by making that chassis height in an offset color as a lower part and the main sculpture voluptuous in much a same way as it is now, clear oversized fenders with a bulge in the hood, for extra frunk space, and I would add doors that hinge up both in the front and back, so that ingress and egress are much improved.
By chance, from the end of 2016 till the middle of April 2017 I worked on just that car. It was called the Fisker Emotion, designed and built by Henrik Fisker at now Fisker Inc.. I believe that never went beyond the concept car stage, but that would be a good successor to this car, especially if you leave out some of Henrik’s design quirks he always feels he has to add in.