What is it?
A luxurious, range-extender four- seat hybrid from Henrik Fisker, the designer who penned the BMW Z8 and Aston Martin DB9 before heading to California to start up his own company. Unlike most petrol- electric hybrids, which can manage just a mile or two on electric power alone, this plush four-door is capable of running for around 50 miles in zero-emissions ‘stealth’ mode. But, unlike all-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf, you won’t be stranded when you run out of electric power: the Karma has a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine to recharge the batteries and provide extra motive force.
In all-electric mode, the Karma serves up an unlikely but brilliant experience, allowing you to cruise for mile after mile in spooky, wafty silence. Despite its enormous dimensions – the Karma has the same footprint as a Mercedes S-Class – it feels nimble and compact in traffic, the electric motor serving up all its torque from a standstill to give you a linear slug of power whenever you need it. Though its standard wheels are 22-inchers (21s are available as an option), the Karma rides acceptably.
No, it isn’t fun to drive, not in the traditional sense – the Karma’s 2.5-tonne kerbweight puts paid to any truly sporty intentions – but as a sensory experience it’s addictive: simultaneously perfectly normal yet entirely strange. Click into Sport mode to activate the petrol engine, and things aren’t quite so good. With its exhausts exiting behind the front wheel arches, the turbo four drones like a noisy pub bore and fails to make the Karma feel much quicker. Best to treat the petrol engine for what it is – a back-up, to be used only when strictly necessary.
On the inside
Forget its futuristic powertrain: the cabin is where the Karma really excels. The cabin is lined with wonderful leather, far hairier and more organic than the standard hide found in luxury cars. The dashboard wood is recovered from Lake Michigan, its grain coarse and natural. The fit and finish is plusher and more convincing than even the top-end German barges can manage, but there’s a touch less space in here than you get in a Porsche Panamera, that plunging roofline compromising headroom for rear seat. And, with that huge battery pack lurking just above the rear axle, boot space is appalling. Use the rear seats instead.
If you lived 40 miles from the office, and could charge your car at either end, you might never need to refill the Karma with petrol, instead running it solely on electricity. But even with electricity and a free tax disc (the Karma officially emits just 53g/km of CO2), it’ll take a while to recoup the £72,500 outlay. Even so, as giant luxo-coupes go, this should be a cheap thing to run.