Driven: 2012 Fisker Karma ES

The Chevy Volt, for all its well-deserved accolades and awards, is a great piece of science. But let's be honest: the show car that captured the imagination of millions failed to materialize. Yes, the powertrain made it, but only after it was wrapped in a rather plain-Jane package. We named it Automobile of the Year because of what's under the hood. Without that, the Volt would be just another car.

Like Apple's coolest products, which have turned people who don't care about computers into cultish gadget geeks, the Karma is cutting-edge technology wrapped in a jaw-dropping package and offered at a competitive price. It may fall short on engine refinement or trunk space or whatever, but when the overall package is this compelling, those things just don't matter. Magic has a way of transcending flaws-again, just look at the iPhone.

Auto executives often lament that young people just don't get excited about cars these days. It seems these gentlemen have been paying too much attention to their BlackBerrys and not enough to their kids' iThings. Making small steps at advancing existing technology is great, but it's not magic, and it takes magic to capture the imagination of a new generation. By bringing science fiction to life and putting it in a real car that's also beautiful, Fisker is creating a kind of Apple for the American car industry. An industry that, judging by the Fisker Karma's delectable curves, has never looked so good.

2012 Fisker Karma ES

BASE PRICE $96,850

MOTORS: Two liquid-cooled AC
BATTERIES: Lithium-ion, 20 kWh, 241 hp max output
RANGE EXTENDER: 2.0-liter turbo I-4, 260 hp; 235-hp generator
TOTAL TORQUE: 981 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: Single-speed
DRIVE: Rear-wheel

STEERING : Electrohydraulically assisted
SUSPENSION, FRONT: Control arms, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR: Control arms, coil springs
BRAKES: Vented discs, ABS
TIRES: Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar
TIRE SIZE F, R: 255/35WR-22, 285/35WR-22

L x W x H: 196.7 x 78.1 x 52.4 in
WHEELBASE: 124.4 in
WEIGHT: 5300 lb (est.)
WEIGHT: DIST. F/R 47/53%
CHARGING: 6 hours @ 240V, 15A; 14 hours @ 120V, 15A
RANGE: 50/250 miles (electric/gas)
0-60 MPH: 5.9/7.9 sec (hybrid/battery only)
TOP SPEED: 125/95 mph (hybrid/battery only)

5 of 5
The problem of importing and using oil has been well defined. Natural gas does not produce massive toxic waste. Natural gas and nuclear energy produce produce about the same amount of electrical generation as coal. The vast majority of the remaining electrical generation sources are low in pollution. Electric cars are no panacea, but they can certainly be part of a transitional solution.
I will answer your last question for you. It is expensive, has average performance, and a limited range. Electric cars are an answer to a problem that has yet to be defined. Unless we switch to nuclear energy, electric cars are nothing more than a toxic waste dump waiting for the day to be put to rest.

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