2018 Karma Revero – An Exotic Plug-In Hybrid

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By Nauman Farooq

The word “Karma” refers to cause and effect – essentially, what goes around, comes around! That is very fitting for the vehicle we’re featuring this week, because, it is its second coming – question is, was it worthy of a second life?

Before we tackle that, let’s look at its history! At the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan (USA), Henrik Fisker unveiled a concept of a plug-in hybrid vehicle, that would be the first exotic automobile to enter this segment of the market. I had personally known Mr. Fisker for a few years by this point, so he took me behind the curtains, to show me his latest creation, a day before the rest of the world got to see it – that car was called the Fisker Karma.

My first reaction upon seeing it, was “Wow.” The world was just getting into the whole four-door coupe segment, and no one had done a vehicle that pulled off that design language well – until the Karma appeared. Its low, wide, with a very long wheelbase – all design features that were never seen on a four-door car. Couple that with new tech, such as solar panel roof that helps charge the car, and a tablet style infotainment system – the Karma was well ahead of the mainstream competition.

Many at that auto show, thought that the Fisker Karma promised too much, and that it would never go into production. They were wrong! In 2011, the Karma went into production, looking exactly like the concept version, and it even offered the tech that was promised. Upon launch, the vehicle received plenty of rave reviews, and those who could afford, bought into the world’s first plug-in hybrid luxury car.

But things, sadly, didn’t last. First, the battery supplier for Fisker Automotive (A123 Systems) filed for bankruptcy, and then Hurricane Sandy destroyed a large batch of brand new Karma’s that were sitting at a port in New Jersey – the car’s were not covered for flood damage.

The loss of inventory, and a loss of their battery supplier, lead to the inevitable, and Fisker Automotive closed its doors in November, 2013, after producing just over 2,000 vehicles.

It seemed like the Fisker Karma story was over, but like its name suggests, it made a comeback! Wanxiang Group, a Chinese automotive parts supplier, bought the design and intellectual rights to the vehicle, and set about to put it back in production. They turned Karma into the brand name -rather than the model name- and decided upon Revero to be the new model name.

Since Fisker Automotive was established using a lot of loans from the U.S. government, the new deal was to also set up a manufacturing facility in America – the original Fisker Karma was built in Norway.

Karma Automotive was born in October, 2015, and they went to work to bring the Karma back to life from their new manufacturing plant in Moreno Valley, California – the company headquarters are in Irvine, California.

Customer cars started rolling out in late 2016, with units arriving in Canada in late 2017. This year -2018- marks a decade since the first Fisker Karma concept was shown, so what has changed in all this time?

From the looks of things, not much at all! The car still looks the same –which is no bad thing- and most of the features and technology remains the same, too. But, there have been updates! The infotainment system has been revised, and the car’s battery pack has slightly more capacity now, growing from 20.1 kWh of the Fisker Karma, to 20.8 kWh for the Karma Revero – this results in an increased all-electric driving range. The old, Fisker Karma was rated at 51 km of pure electric driving, the Karma Revero is rated at a much more usable 80 km of electric driving.

The other end of the powertrain remains the same as it always was, a turbocharged 2.0L, four-cylinder, Ecotec motor bought from General Motors. This engine works as a generator to propel the vehicle, when you’ve depleted the battery. Thanks to its various drive modes (Stealth, Sustain, and Sport), you can also save your battery power – after all, you can drain your battery much faster on the highway, so best to save EV propulsion for when you’re in the city, or in a traffic jam. In total, between its fuel tank (36 litres) and battery pack, the Revero has a driving range of about 480 km, which is not bad at all.

Your range will get affected, if you play with ‘Sport’ mode a lot, because this mode combines
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the power from the combustion engine (which is referred to as a ‘generator’ in this vehicle) along with the power from its two electric motors, for a combined output of 403 hp, and a mind-blowing 981 lb-ft of torque.

Given that this vehicle has no conventional gearbox -it makes do with a single ratio gearbox with a limited slip differential- there is no time lost between shifts, so despite its hefty curb weight of 2,449 kg – the Karma Revero can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in about 5.4 seconds, and is electronically limited to a top speed of 200 km/h.

That is fast enough to please most of us, and the unique sound and sensations produced by this vehicle, bring about their own style of thrills – I quite enjoyed it. What’s more, this hefty car can handle well, it is no track day animal, but it copes with twisty roads rather well, and on the highway offers a very comfortable ride.If you’ve been having too much fun, then the Revero’s solar panel roof, and regenerative braking does help a little bit towards extending the cars’ driving range!

The solar roof (a feature not available on any other current production vehicle) helps regain between three to five kilometers of driving range per day, when left parked outside on a sunny day – which, according to Karma, will give you between 800 km to 1,600 km of ‘free’ driving every year. The selectable regen braking (three modes) help convert your coasting and braking energy into charging the battery.

I have driven a few vehicles featuring regen braking, and I think the system in the Revero is the best I’ve come across.

However, not all is the ‘best’ with the Karma Revero. Compared to other similarly priced luxury vehicles (we’ll get to the price in a moment), it is well behind the competition. There is no autonomous style drive systems, it doesn’t even have adaptive cruise control.

While the Revero does have lane departure warning, it doesn’t have lane keep assist. While it has parking sensors and a proximity radar system to help you park, it doesn’t have around view monitoring.

Plus, if you look through the cabin, you’ll find switches from old BMW and Porsche models, which is a bit of a let down. The biggest let down, was build quality, with certain pieces looking loose – the trunk lining was particularly bad.

However, when I returned the vehicle, I was told that what I was driving was a pre-production demo vehicle, so it has been used and abused, so it was not a proper representation of a vehicle a customer would get. I was shown a brand new, for sale unit in the showroom, and while it wasn’t what I’d call perfect, it was a lot better than the demo vehicle.

Now, let’s come to price. The Karma Revero (which is sold exclusively through Grand Touring Automobiles in Ontario) has a base price of $149,000.

Since the Karma brand has just been launched in Canada, there is an introductory offer, which lets you lease the vehicle for up to five years, at a rate of 0%. Couple that with a full warranty for five years, with unlimited miles, and a battery warranty for up to eight years, and your decision to buy a Karma gets a little easier.

The Karma Revero would not be the obvious choice for a first time exotic car buyer, it wouldn’t even be a logical choice for a seasoned luxury car buyer. But, it looks fantastic (it draws a crowd everywhere you go), offers a very usable electric driving range, and the ride, handling and smoothness of this vehicle are really impressive along with its jet-like acceleration.

It might not be the conventional choice for most, but its rarity (production numbers are around 300 units globally, per year) and uniqueness has an appeal of their own. So, is the Karma Revero worthy of its second chance at life? I say, absolutely yes.