2018 Karma Revero: first drive of reborn luxury plug-in hybrid sedan Page 2

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2017 Karma Revero, Palisades, NJ, Aug 2017

2017 Karma Revero, Palisades, NJ, Aug 2017

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So what's it like on the road?

In our full review of the then-new 2012 Fisker Karma, we wrote that it was "a curious and unique beast, a stylish, luxurious, and pricey sedan with 32 miles of electric range, low gasoline efficiency, and a tiny interior and trunk."

None of that has changed, but the 2018 Karma we drove thankfully suffered from none of the electronic glitches that our two test drives of the 2012 Fisker revealed.

(Those included instruments going completely dark, requiring a 5-minute stop while the car rebooted itself, and a USB port that instantly shut down various unrelated electronic functions.)

Karma has put considerably more sound insulation between the occupants and the engine in its redo, and it worked: what we recalled as a thrashy and raucous engine under full power now produces a more refined loud whirr from up beyond the firewall.

The car still corners flat and solid, with good steering feel through old-school electrohydraulic steering.

2017 Karma Revero, Palisades, NJ, Aug 2017

2017 Karma Revero, Palisades, NJ, Aug 2017

Enlarge Photo

But with minimal suspension travel on gigantic 22-inch wheels and tires, it thumps over bumps, ridges, and potholes pretty much as the old one did.

Stealth vs Sport

The Karma still offers two drive modes—Stealth and Sport—but our efforts to try the all-electric Stealth mode were frustrated by 96-degree-F heat in bright sunshine, which kept the engine on to provide enough power to run the electric air-conditioning compressor at full blast.

Stealth is clearly slower, with a quoted 0-to-60-mph time of 6.9 seconds, while the quicker Sport mode (5.4 seconds to 60 mph) keeps the engine on and uses the battery energy for more power under full acceleration.

Stealth wasn't lightning-quick off the line (that 5,400 pounds again), but for the uses we suspect many owners will put the car to, it's fine for the 30 to 35 miles you'll get from your battery. (Then it becomes a regular hybrid.)

Sport mode was fun, but we found it unexpectedly noisier than Stealth even when the engine was running in the background.

We had few places to wring the car out on this drive, so it was back to Stealth for calmer travel.

2017 Karma Revero

2017 Karma Revero

Enlarge Photo
2017 Karma Revero

2017 Karma Revero

Enlarge Photo
2017 Karma Revero

2017 Karma Revero

Enlarge Photo

Regen unimpressive

As in the 2012 iteration, we noticed some "cogging" (juddering) at very low speeds like those you'd use in crowded parking lots. It vanished before the car reached 10 mph, but considerably less expensive electric cars have by now solved the problem entirely.

While there are three levels of regenerative braking, they only somewhat slow the car down even at higher speeds. At low speeds, their effect is only barely evident, even in the most aggressive setting. Again, a cheaper car like the Chevrolet Bolt EV has this function entirely sorted out.

One of the updates made by Karma's engineers was fitting sensors for functions like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.

Those features haven't yet been activated, but executives promise existing cars can be updated when the software has been finished, tested, and validated.

Our two 2018 Karma Revero test cars each carried a base price of $130,000, with metallic paint as a $1,500 option and bright-red brake calipers adding another $900.

The 22-inch wheels were standard, and with a $1,400 mandatory destination charge, the bottom line on the window sticker came to $133,800.

2017 Karma Revero, Palisades, NJ, Aug 2017

2017 Karma Revero, Palisades, NJ, Aug 2017

Enlarge Photo

All about attention

In the end, the 2018 Karma Revero remains what it was at launch five years ago: one of the most remarkable attention magnets on wheels you've ever seen.

At a scenic viewpoint along the Hudson River in New Jersey where we stopped to take photos, no more than 2 minutes passed before someone wandered over and started peppering the Karma executives with questions.

As a car, it's a very tight, very heavy, firm-riding large sedan with minimal luggage space that happens to plug into the wall for 30-ish miles of range.

But as a statement about the owner, it's all but unparalleled.

There's clearly a global market for that.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article called the Karma Revero a 2017 car; the model year is actually a 2018. Also, it has a CCS quick-charging port and not a CHAdeMO port. We apologize for the errors.

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