Déjà vu happens often in the car world, especially when old names rise again as “new” models and brands.
Thursday night in Laguna Beach, Calif., Karma Automotive debuted the 2017 Karma Revero, a $130,000 four-door sedan that looks nearly identical to the Fisker Karma sedan conceived by Henrik Fisker. Despite such fans as Justin Bieber, the company fell into bankruptcy three years ago.
Now, under the direction of parent-company Wanxiang Group, we have a new Karma, take two. Here’s what you should know about it so far.
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
From a distance, the new Revero looks nearly identical to the original Fisker Karma (see: phoenix, ash) but with a few tweaks along the grill, long bi-xenon headlights, and side vents. There are also unique, hand-painted emblems on the front and rear of the body that signify the update. Inside, the Karma’s infotainment system has been streamlined so that it is more intuitive and simpler than its predecessor, and functions such as Apple CarPlay are also new to the Revero.
The car does not have several comforts we expect from a car at this price point (panoramic sunroof; carbon fiber; ceramic brakes; optional all-wheel drive) but Bluetooth, park assist, multiple USB ports, Navigation, and interior trim made from real “reclaimed wood” all come standard.
It’s Fast—for a Hybrid
Revero has three drive modes and regenerative braking. It gets the equivalent of 403 horsepower on its rear-wheel-drivetrain, which includes a 260-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine sourced from GM and a 21.4 kWh lithium ion battery. Top speed is 125 miles per hour, with a 0-60mph sprint of 5.4 seconds, or .2 seconds slower than the $93,200 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid.
The car’s solar-cell-covered roof helps it reach a total driving range of 300 miles; electric-only range hits just 50 miles. You can charge it to 80 percent of capacity in 24 minutes, if you have a special charger. Using a 120-v, 16-amp charger, it takes 10 hours.
It’s No Tesla
Did you catch all that? Yes, unlike the pure-electric plug-in Tesla Model S and Model X SUV, which are excellent vehicles, the Revero uses electricity, gas and solar power to run. “It will be the first car sold in the U.S. powered by electricity, gas and solar,” company execs repeated like a mantra in press materials and statements.
In fact this new Karma Revero straddles the Old World (engaged analog driving) and New World (alt-fuel energy and auto-drive), rather than forcing any sort of new electric revolution. It’s not just a big computer on wheels was the message at the debut.
That’s in stark contrast with Tesla, which founder Elon Musk has often said is meant to engage owners more like an iPhone 7 than a conventional V8.
Jim Taylor, Karma’s chief revenue officer, spoke specifically about the Revero as a relaxed driving machine, not a technological device. Reports of Karma company executives in tears at the debut reinforced the brand’s reputation as one for true-believing hybrid devotees.
Karma Automotive hasn’t yet allowed press drives of the car, and it hasn’t specified when production will begin, but it is taking pre-orders. Someone had better tell Bieber.