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Fisker Karma Gets EPA Rated And Gives Us A Few More Reasons Not To Buy It

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On: Fri, Oct 21, 2011 at 9:28AM | By: Chris Weiss

Fisker Karma Gets EPA Rated And Gives Us A Few More Reasons Not To Buy It

Poor Fisker. Once a highly respectable name in cutting edge green car innovation, the auto start-up is now left trying to peddle an overpriced plug-in that was basically out of date before it was ever available. Two or three years (and several production delays and price increases) ago, a $97,000 plug-in sports-luxury hybrid with 400 hp might have seemed like a really attractive alternative to the Tesla Roadster. But with the equally sporty, cleaner, Tesla Model S ($57,000 to $77,000) preparing to hit the market next year, the Karma just looks like a last-generation green car arriving to the market way too late.

And its final clearance toward that market arrival isn't helping. The EPA tested the car and the finalized numbers fall well short of Fisker's own projections, making the Karma look even more clunky and outdated.

The EPA put a 52 mpg-e sticker on the Fisker Karma. On first blush, that doesn't look all bad, but compare it to the Chevy Volt's—the U.S. market's other series hybrid that costs less than half the Karma—94 mpg-e rating and it looks paltry. Heck, it's hardly any better than the 50 mpg of the Toyota Prius, a series parallel hybrid that starts at $23,500.

The electric-only range of the Karma is equally disappointing, with the EPA giving it 32 miles, well short of Fisker's claims of 50 miles.

The biggest disappointment, however, is in the gas-only mileage. Despite using a 260-hp 2.0-liter turbo four GM engine, the Karma gets only 20 mpg, a figure that looks more V-8 sports car than series hybrid. I guess an engine-generator pumping electrons to 400 horses worth of electric motors isn't the most earth-friendly configuration. Considering you'll be able to lean on the battery pack for only about 30 miles, you really won't be enjoying a particularly efficient ride if you intend to drive any distance.

For comparison, the 2012 Chevy Volt doesn't offer much more all-electric range, with an EPA-rated 35 miles, but has a much more respectable 37 mpg gas-only rating. Those numbers look green all the way through.

Heck, a better gas-on-gas comparison would be with the V-8 powered Chevy Corvette or Camaro, which get 19 mpg combined. The 3.6-liter V-6 Camaro gets 22 mpg.

Frankly, the EPA's numbers reframe the Fisker Karma. At first, it promised luxury and performance within an efficient, economical package. When compared to the Tesla Roadster, it offered comparable luxury and performance, more range, and a still-green package.

Seeing the EPA numbers, you just think it offers a whole lot less performance than other $90,000 to $100,000 sports and luxury cars without bringing all that much green credibility. I can't think of one reason why I'd buy this car rather than the 300-mile Tesla Model S for $20,000 less.

The Karma looks like a lame duck—let's just hope Fisker makes some big improvements on its second model.


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