Electric-Car-Hating Top Gear Names Fisker Karma Luxury Car Of The Year

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2012 Fisker Karma

2012 Fisker Karma

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For as long as we can remember, there’s been an ongoing love-to-hate relationship between the BBC's Top Gear show and electric cars. 

Until yesterday that is, when Top Gear Magazine caught everyone off guard by announcing that its Luxury Car of The Year was none other than the $95,900 Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid

Chosen twice, once as Luxury Car of The Year by Top Gear Magazine editor Charlie Turner, and once by Top Gear presenter James May as his Car of The Year, Fisker couldn’t wait to share the good news with its fans. 

“We’re big fans of both the Top Gear show and magazine - It’s great to see motoring entertainment that is loved by millions,” said Henrik Fisker, CEO and co-founder of Fisker Automotive “It’s particularly pleasing that this award recognizes the Karma as the world’s first luxury hybrid electric car”.

In the past, the Top Gear show has tortured numerous electric cars in the name of entertainment. Past electric-car stunts included destroying several G-Wiz neighborhood electric cars, building a poorly-performing, range-extended electric car from scrap, and staging a  review of the 2008 Tesla Roadster to make it appear as if the sexy sportscar had ran out of charge after 50 miles. 

2012 Fisker Karma

2012 Fisker Karma

Enlarge Photo

That last particular stunt landed the BBC’s Top Gear show in court as the defendants in a sworded libel case against the Californian automaker in the U.K. High Court. Sadly, it didn’t stop Messrs. Clarkson and May -- two of the shows middle-aged presenters -- from shooting a less-than-favorable feature on the 2011 Peugeot Ion and 2011 Nissan Leaf earlier this year

We’re glad to see that Top Gear Magazine has given an award to a plug-in car, but with an official gasoline-electric EPA rating of just 52 MPGe, and a gasoline-only rating of 20 MPG, the 2012 Fisker Karma is the least environmentally-friendly plug-in car on the market today. 

But perhaps the more important question we’d like to answer relates to the sudden change of heart from Top Gear towards plug-in vehicles. Does the award mark a change towards a more accepting view of electric cars from the million-dollar Top Gear franchise? 

Don’t hold your breath. Although they share the same name, some staff and occasional content, the Top Gear Magazine and BBC Top Gear show aren’t joined at the hip. Instead, they operate as two distinct organizations, complete with different editorial teams and most importantly,  a different editorial voice. 

That said, we think Top Gear Magazine’s decision to present two awards to Fisker is the ultimate put-down to Tesla, which lost its court case with BBC Top Gear earlier this fall.


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Comments (14)
  1. I loved your article, up until the point where you took a cheap shot at the Fisker Karma for being the least eco-friendly plug-in on the market. First of all, the Fisker can't be judged against all-electric cars, as it is an extended range vehicle with a 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that only kicks in when the juice runs out -- or when you want more power. Moreover, you only used the obviously flawed EPA rating figures. As you well know, the European testing agency, TUV (which is what TOP GEAR uses) found the Karma had a range of 51.6 miles in all-electric mode and a combined mileage of 112 (city & highway). Also, you missed the critical point: Top Gear voted the Karma "LUXURY CAR" of the year. Why not compare it to other luxury cars!

  2. I couldn't agree more. Comparing a Karma to the Volt is like comparing a Mazda Miata to a Ferrari 599 GTB, both cars a great in their own way but are in two completely different leagues.

  3. Peter, you're making far too much sense here. I understand that in terms of pure efficiency, the Karma isn't anywhere near the LEAF, Volt or the Prius. But as so many can't admit, it's a LUXURY car and if it was as slow and ugly as the Prius, its customers would walk away immediately. Compare it with its ICE rivals like the 5-series, Aston Martin, etc., not with a $25k economy car with zero styling.
    The problem with your anti-EPA comments is that the EPA tests show mileage much closer to what people get in real life. Or do you know of someone getting 71 MPG in the Prius, as claimed in the TUV testing? Flawed, but the EPA test results are much closer to actual results, at least for the Prius.

  4. Please explain how I'm making too much sense, robok2. :-) Neither the EPA or TUV figures are realistic. If you drive a Fisker Karma like a Ferrari, then your mileage will obviously reflect that. But, in the real world, people who drive plug-in hybrids tend to drive in all-electric mode the vast majority of the time -- and therefore use very little gasoline, which the EPA doesn't seem to consider in determining its average mileage figures for the Karma. Once enough Karma drivers start reporting real world results, I'll bet their numbers are closer to the TUV figures than the EPAs. More importantly, let's see how the Karma's mileage compares to other luxury cars.

  5. Peter, I'm assuming you understood that I was complimenting 90% of your post. As for the mileage/emissions ratings between the EPA and TUV, both are based more on their region's driving styles. My point was that the Prius qualified on the TUV at 71 MPG and at 51 here. Drving test after driving test has shown close to 50 here and I've never heard of even one approaching even 60, much less 71. Hence my poin about the EPA version being more accurate for here.
    But yes, agreed that it's better to wait and see where the data lands. Unlike other vehicles, test drives and reviews have been limited. It's a beautiful car, though.

  6. Top Gear does seem to be lightning up as far a EVs are concerned. They did admit that their way of thinking is going extinct when they tested the Peugeot Ion and Nissan Leaf. And of course the Fisker is the easiest near electric car for Top Gear to like, it's beautiful, its fun to drive, and still uses a little gasoline. Still in the Top Gear world having any plug-in car win in one of their car of the year categories is huge.

  7. Maybe Clarkson's EV bashing is to do with his weird sense of humour. Right now he is in trouble again for his comments on striking civil servants. Apparently they should all be shot in front of their families. Very funny obviously, but the trade unions demand his head on a platter...

    Bit sad that this guy is so self destructive, but more worrying is the damage he does to all our futures by playing such a large role in spreading the FUD on EVs, which thanks to Top Gear are firmly associated in the collective mind with images of cars being pushed.

  8. Fisker learned something during all those years that GM never did:
    looks sell.

  9. Totally agree with you, Ramon. Fisker knows it's not enough to simply be electric. To compete against BMW. Mercedes, Porsche, and Audi on their home turf (ie, the European Luxury Market) the Karma needed to be electrifying -- and Fisker delivered big-time! Now, European luxury car owners really need to think twice before paying those high carbon taxes.
    That's why Top Gear choosing the Karma as the best luxury car is represents a major milestone in the EV world -- and the auto world in general.

  10. And perhaps you could still stun us someday by learning something yourself, Ramon: it's a lot easier to make an attractive car when it sells for $95k and up and it's low volume, as well.
    But I'll give you some credit, you managed to get in your daily anti-GM jibe without the usual obligatory dig at government officials...
    GM being profitable and making better cars finally, it must just be tearing you up inside...

  11. Top Gear is not down on/negative/hateful of EV's; but of BEV's. Their behaviour regarding this has been consistent.

  12. I had my second Fisker Karma test drive today, and I'd say that the 50 mile electric range is easily achievable. When we left the dealership the Karma was fully charged showing 50 miles, we went on a 14 mile round trip drive and had 35 miles left on the electric charge when we returned. And I was a bit of a led foot hitting 80 mph at one point.

  13. Top Gear is entertainment and so they have taken the low road toward BEVs to garner numbers. Truth be told, the BEV isn't ready for the general public yet simply because the batteries haven't been proven and distance between charges is a limiting factor.

    Top Gear is the Rush Limbaugh of Car reporting...looking for the twist and bending the facts to suit their agenda...viewer numbers.

    This car will never be a hit... just another expensive pretty face with no substance and terrible performance; form over function.

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