Behind the wheel of the electrifying new Karma Revero
Lean, curvaceous, and low, the Karma Revero looks just as stunning as the start-up sedan that debuted in 2010. But the intervening years have seen a roller coaster of change, from the bankruptcy of Fisker — the original company behind the car — in 2013 to an infusion of cash from Chinese suitors to a phoenix-like rebirth.
Originally built in Finland, the new iteration is now manufactured in Moreno Valley, California, and reflects a dramatically updated take on the plug-in hybrid vehicle, despite its familiar sheet metal. “If it has a bolt, it’s old,” one Karma rep says of the updated four-seater, “and if it has an electrode, it’s new.” As such, the Revero’s plug-in hybrid power train is still motivated by electric motors, producing 296 kW and 1330 Nm. A 21.4 kWh lithium-ion battery is charged by a GM-sourced 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. Also aiding the electricity-fueled proceedings are roof-mounted solar panels, which are now capable of adding an additional 5 kilometres of range (on a sunny day).
Climbing into the Revero, it becomes clear that the original model’s spatial limitations remain. Certain sacrifices were made in the name of sexiness (among them a surprisingly expansive footprint and diminutive interior volume). But don’t expect any apologies from Alexander Klatt, Karma’s vice president of global design and vehicle architecture. Originally the No. 3 employee at Fisker Automotive, Klatt worked with then-founder Henrik Fisker, who penned the exterior shape and tasked Klatt with designing the interior and the user interface. Klatt describes the process as “the best experience I had in my career as a designer,” adding that having a designer lead the company freed him from conventional carmaker concerns. “We knew our compromise was not on beauty or aesthetics; it was on other elements like trunk space or rear head clearance, where a sleek coupe look was more relevant.” This environment also enabled Klatt to introduce a new electronics interface that feels contemporary and slick, with well-executed graphics and a quick-reacting touchscreen.
While the Revero adheres to its originally unrelenting design proportions, the driving experience has been refined thanks to updated power-train and battery calibrations, suspension and steering tuning, and extensive sound deadening. With power routed through a single-speed transmission, the 5,449 kg Revero’s acceleration might not set the interstate ablaze, but it does feel sufficiently fleet once it builds momentum. Thanks to the low centre of gravity — aided by floor-mounted batteries — the Revero manages its weight gracefully in the curves. And though it is not without its sonic faults — among them the drone of the four-cylinder engine and some high-frequency whines — the new package feels dramatically improved over its predecessor. The Revero may struggle against its exceptionally engineered plug-in-hybrid competitors, but the reborn sedan does excel in one indisputable area: style.