2021 Karma GS-6 Pros and Cons Review: Resurrecting Fisker’s ’Vette11/08/2021
- Four-door Corvette style
- 4-second acceleration
- Soviet powertrain NVH
- Cozy coupe packaging
- Prototype refinement
Back at Car of the Year in 2011, an identical-looking pre-production Fisker Karma arrived at the Hyundai Proving Ground with parts falling off or warping in the desert sun and doors that wouldn’t stay shut under cornering. After 10 years, a bankruptcy, a Chinese purchase of Fisker Automotive’s assets, and a major re-engineering effort, the Karma GS-6 returns for our consideration. Surely a decade in various ovens has fully baked this cake, right?
The many novice chefs attempting this Cordon Bleu recipe failed to nail this luxe/sport PHEV cake. Many ingredients are baked in: powerful rear motors to deliver Ken Block-worthy drifts, 45-kW DC fast charging for the battery, hand-stitched leather and carbon fiber galore, plus handling and design evocative of a four-door Corvette.
The 2021 Karma GS-6’s acceleration improves on the original Fisker’s by about 2 seconds to 60 mph, through the quarter mile, and around our figure eight, thanks to the addition of 133 electric horses and the loss of 313 pounds. But undoubtedly the worst “improvement” since 2012 was replacing GM’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger with a 1.5-liter turbo-three from BMW that’s down 29 hp and 22 lb-ft. It compensates with double the noise and vibration. “Anybody impressed by the styling who stands outside and hears that three-banger fire up will think the car is broken,” digital director Erik Johnson said. Senior editor Conner Golden described the racket as “thrash, gnash, and crash.” Worse yet, the engine never connects to the tires, so the noise never correlates directly to the acceleration you feel.
Not surprisingly, a 231-hp, 236-lb-ft generator can’t feed a 536-hp, 650-lb-ft electric drivetrain for long after the battery is depleted, and two of our judges depleted the battery sufficiently for speed to suddenly drop to about 60 mph—once in the middle of a corner. Professionally developed cars don’t do this.
Blending regenerative and friction braking is devilishly difficult, so road test editor Chris Walton’s observation surprised no one: “The brake pedal seems only somewhat related to actual braking. Decent performance [105 feet from 60 mph] but doesn’t inspire confidence.” But he was amused by its “natural attitude on the skidpad: mild to moderate oversteer, with a lurid slide on the exit.”
The Karma GS-6’s package hasn’t changed over the years, so it remains claustrophobic in every seat, with trunk space for two small suitcases at best. Many judges were outraged that any $108,700 modern car could lack proximity key unlocking, a power trunk (or even a button to open the trunk from the outside), height-adjustable seat belts, rear A/C vents, or USB charging in the rear.
Then there were the features that didn’t work—the adaptive cruise suffered a fault that flashed on the screen too quickly for us to read it, the lane keeping veered dangerously close to a car and frequently drove itself across a line only to buzz the steering wheel like we were the one that had done something wrong, and we got warnings about missing the key when it was sitting in the cupholder.
In the end, the Karma GS-6 failed to score highly in any of our key criteria. Perhaps COTY 2032 will be its year!
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