2012 Fisker Karma Electric Car: Quick Drive Review [Video]

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Price increases be damned, the 2012 Fisker Karma is finally here, and first examples are about to arrive in customers' driveways.

Earlier in the week we posted our video driving impressions of the new four-door extended-range electric car from startup Fisker Automotive. Now it's time to expand on those.

Before you even get into the Fisker Karma, it presents a commanding presence. With more curves than most pop stars, it's one car that earns the term sexy styling.

Up front you have what some would call a mustache of a grille, below a hood with some deep sculpting. With 22-inch wheels filling the wheel wells, and tasteful chrome accents strewn about the exterior, the Karma isn't flashy but looks like nothing else on the road.

The car overall is very low-slung, and the view from the driver's seat reminds us a lot of a Corvette's, with a long curvy hood ahead. Front and side visilibity is good, with rear vision being hampered by the relatively high trunk line. While the windows are small, the cabin never feels claustrophobic, only cozy.

The inside of the EcoSport model we tested was finished in a Canyon tri-tone color scheme with thick leather and nicely finished wood trim. Glass and metal accents are placed around the cabin to finish off the well executed and unique design.

We wouldn't call the interior of the Fisker spacious, but it isn't cramped. Entry and exit from the back seat will be less than pretty, though, and we wouldn't recommend that rear-seat passengers wear short skirts. While comfortable, the front seats are not wide; large Americans need not apply.

2012 Fisker Karma EcoSport

2012 Fisker Karma EcoSport

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The EPA declared the Karma a subcompact car, however, based on its interior volume. And storage space is hardly lavish.

With a tiny trunk and very little storage in-side the cabin, we suggest packing lightly. The center armrest is large enough for two iPhones, while the trunk will likely fit three weekend bags. There are two cup holders up front, with small storage in the front door pockets.

When we saw a prototype Karma on an early road tour, it felt very unfinished--as if we might break something if we touched it wrong. While there is no question the Fisker has the slight irregularities of a hand-built car, the cabin now feels well put together and very luxurious, as you are wrapped in leather, wood, glass, and metal.

The Karma's powertrain is what sets it apart from any other good-looking, expensive four-seat luxury sport sedan. Its range-extended electric powertrain draws electricity from the lithium-ion battery pack in the tunnel (visible through a clear panel in the console) to operate a pair of electric motors totaling 400 horsepower that turn the rear wheels.

In Stealth mode, the car runs on electricity until the pack is depleted. At that point, the range extender--a combustion engine that only turns a generator, and does not drive the wheels mechanically--switches on to provide electric power to the drive motors.

There's also a Sport mode, that switches on the engine even if the pack isn't depleted to provide additional current for better performance..

We tested all three driving modes: Stealth, Sport, and Hill. The Hill mode, with its stronger regenerative braking, reminds us of the Tesla Roadster--though the regen still isn't as aggressive as the Tesla, and we aren't sure you could drive the car completely on a single pedal.

In Stealth mode, the Karma is powered only by the lithium-ion battery pack. That mode offers quick, but not neck-snapping, acceleration. Running electrically, the car is nearly silent, with a surprising lack of tire and wind noise even at highway speeds.

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