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

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The 2018 Karma Revero remains as much of a head-turner today as the low, sleek four-door sedan was when it debuted a decade ago under another name.

It also happens to be a range-extended electric luxury sedan, though we tend to think that the Karma would sell just as well if it ran on coal dust and baby-seal blood.

It's a big, low, handsome shape, and we were happy to get a chance to drive the updated version of what began life as the 2012 Fisker Karma.

DON'T MISS: First TV ad for Karma Revero as sales to start in June

First shown as a concept at the 2008 Detroit auto show, the Karma was meant to compete in a "green luxury" segment that came to be defined by the Tesla Model S.

It entered production before the Model S, but quality problems with the Karma and defective cells in its battery pack eventually overwhelmed the struggling company, which collapsed.

The design and tooling for the car are now owned by a subsidiary of Wanxiang, China's largest auto-parts maker, which also bought A123, the cell maker that provided the battery for the Fisker Karma.

Karma Revero assembly at Karma Automotive factory, Moreno Valley, California, July 2016

Karma Revero assembly at Karma Automotive factory, Moreno Valley, California, July 2016

Five years later, Karma has moved the car's tooling from Finland to Moreno Valley, California, and restarted production—after resolving literally hundreds of problems with the vehicle it bought out of bankruptcy after about 2,500 were built.

It had to reopen relationships with hundreds of parts vendors, most of them owed money. Some weren't interested in restarting their production lines, and had to be replaced. That took time.

Meanwhile, engineering changes included an entirely new wiring harness, a new touchscreen display with an entirely redesigned interface, structural reinforcements to meet crash tests not in force when the Fisker was designed, and scores of other tweaks.

READ THIS: Karma gets approval to build electric cars in China (Dec 2016)

Production began earlier this year, and the company is now slowly ramping up to what it suggests will be a maximum of 1,000 Reveros a year for all global markets, to be reached after two or three years.

The company is also quietly working on a lower-priced, higher-volume vehicle, about which it will say very little except to acknowledge that perhaps a range-extended electric powertrain like the Revero's may not be the way to go for that model.

The 2018 Karma Revero still uses lithium-ion battery cells from Wanxiang subsidiary A123 Systems, in a pack with an incrementally higher capacity: it rose from 20.4 kilowatt-hours to 20.8 kwh, of which 17.7 kwh is usable.

2017 Karma Revero, Palisades, NJ, Aug 2017

2017 Karma Revero, Palisades, NJ, Aug 2017

The 2.0-liter range-extending 4-cylinder engine sourced from GM hasn't changed at all; it powers a 175-kilowatt (235-horsepower) generator to recharge the battery. A pair of 150-kw motors powers the rear wheels; the engine serves solely as a generator.

With a list price of $130,000, the 2018 Karma Revero is EPA-rated at 33 miles of electric range and 240 miles overall from gasoline and electric operation combined.

Its fuel economy as a hybrid, once the battery is depleted, is rated at 19 mpg combined, and the energy efficiency is 51 MPGe, the lowest of any car with a plug sold in the U.S. this year. (Not surprising given the car's curb weight of 5,400 pounds.)

CHECK OUT: 2018 Karma Revero (nee Fisker) launch: updates, new infotainment (Sep 2016)

Karma has fitted a 6.6-kw onboard charger, which will recharge a battery from 15 percent to 100 percent in 3 hours at 240 volts and 32 amps, taking about 10 hours at 120 volts and 16 amps.

It also now has a CCS DC quick-charging port capable of 40-kw charging, letting it charge from 15 percent to 85 percent of capacity in just 24 minutes.

The Revero's exceptionally low stance and wide central battery pack makes it an extremely snug four-seat car, and its interior volume remains in the "subcompact" segment under NHTSA sizing rules.

With all that in mind, we set out on a short test of about 60 miles through New York City traffic and along New Jersey parkways, on a hot, sunny summer day.

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