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  1. Standing in the early morning California sunshine talking to
    Henrik Fisker, you’d think this was just another informal chat about his latest
    project. We’ve had plenty of those over the years, first when he was head of
    BMW Designworks and designer of the Z8, then design chief at Aston Martin and
    later as the head of Ford’s Advance Design Studio. He is his normal open,
    friendly self, and there is no trace of stress or anxiety. This is odd, as
    surely there must be a few concerns on this, the first day anyone outside of
    the company has driven his billion-dollar baby, the extended-range electric
    Fisker Karma.

    Words: Pat Devereux
    Photography: Anton Watts

    Read the full story on Fisker’s Karma in the new issue of TopGear magazine, on sale now.

  2. “No. I’m just excited to know what you think about the car,”
    he says with a smile. That might seem like over-confidence from anyone else,
    but maybe not Henrik. He’s got a fabulous track record himself, and has
    assembled what he calls the dream team of designers, engineers and executives
    who have been responsible for producing winners such as the Rolls-Royce
    Phantom, Ford GT and BMW 5-Series. So maybe he has the right to be so sure.

  3. But even he would have to admit that it’s been quite a wild
    ride to end up where he is today, standing on the verge of launching his global
    empire, just 37 months after first showing the concept Karma to the world at
    the 2008 NAIAS in Detroit. In those three years since he wowed the world with
    his new car, Henrik and his partner, Barny Koehler, raised a billion dollars,
    set up a global dealer network and got 3,000 people to put down deposits for a
    car that had never moved a wheel under its own power. All this, despite the
    implosion of the global car industry.

  4. One entirely forgivable reason for people giving them their
    cash was the way the car looked. Drawing on all his years of designing and
    overseeing gorgeous cars for other companies, Henrik created a fabulously
    desirable four-door saloon that had its own unique personality. The second
    reason was that this hugely indulgent-looking car was a hybrid. So some could
    justify it on rational rather than emotional grounds. And the final, shocking
    must-have-one-now for buyers was that it was going to cost under $90k.

  5. It didn’t all go to plan over the following three years, the
    production date slipping from 2009 to 2010 to the current March 2011. The price
    has inflated from $80k to a starting bid of $95,900 (£63,500). And the car has
    put on some weight, rising from the originally predicted 2,086kg to an expected
    figure somewhere around the 2,495kg mark. But that’s about it. Everything else
    remains pretty much as promised, which is nothing short of remarkable, not just
    for a start-up car company, but any car company.

  6. So, in something of a first, instead of a badly watered-down
    version of the dramatic concept car, the production Karma looks as radically
    sexy and desirable on its standard 22-inch Circuit Blade wheels as the one that
    we first saw in the Cobo Hall back in 2008. Maybe more so as the sun sparkles
    and flickers off the Karma’s Diamond Dust paint out here on the infield of this
    deserted racetrack. This bodes well for the certain appearance of the
    open-topped and equally gorgeous Fisker Sunset next year - and possibly a
    shooting brake version à la Ferrari FF not long after that.

  7. Looking around - and under - the cars (these are early
    production validation models flown in from the factory in Finland where they
    are made alongside Porsche Boxsters and Caymans), it’s immediately clear why
    the team looks so confident. The exterior fit and finish is excellent - all
    narrow gaps, perfectly matched lines and super-lustrous paint. Not a ripple or
    piece of loose trim in sight. The underside of the car looks equally tidy, the
    entire surface from the rear of the front wheel arches back to the back of the
    car being completely flat and smooth. This all helps the Karma achieve a Cd of
    0.31, which isn’t stellar but definitely in the ballpark.

  8. To give you some sense of the Karma’s scale, it’s the same
    length as a Mercedes-Benz CLS with the wheelbase of an S-Class. Yet it’s only the
    height of a Porsche 911 and is 5cm wider than a Panamera. So it’s low, wide -
    very wide - with a long wheelbase for its overall size. If those numbers add up
    to a GT rather than a four-door luxury saloon, that’s no mistake. Because
    that’s just how the aluminium space-framed and bodied Karma looks when you get
    up close to it. It’s like the solar-roofed concept for the next Aston Martin
    Rapide or Maserati Quattroporte that you can buy today.

    Read the full story on Fisker’s Karma in the new issue of TopGear magazine, on sale now.

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