Second chances are rare in the automotive world. But thanks to the deep, privately owned pockets of the Chinese company Wanxiang, the voluptuous Fisker Karma gets another shot at success. The 5-year-old sedan has been reborn into the new Karma Revero. One look at the photos and it’s clear: As pretty as the Revero may be, this is the same car that once wore a Fisker badge on its nose. However, as we learned at a launch event in Huntington Beach, California, Karma Automotive has made some important upgrades to the sedan that should make the $130,000 Revero a far more reliable and enjoyable ride.
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The Fisker rushed the original Karma into production too quickly. The car’s complicated powertrain needed another round of development, according to Carl Jenkins, senior vice president and vehicle line executive of Karma Automotive. He says engineering team simply didn’t have a powerful enough voice within the company. The integration of the car’s suppliers was poorly managed, too. The result (in addition to bankruptcy) was a healthy list of ailments, including the Karma’s heart—its battery pack.
Jenkins says it has targeted those trouble spots. The team ran three cars for 100,000 miles to test for problems. And that resulted in Karma replacing the entire electrical system right down to the key fobs and backup cameras. The team used a special car in their lab stripped of bodywork specifically to hunt down electrical gremlins. Jenkins’ own Fisker test car overheated on a mountain pass outside Los Angeles. So he personally oversaw improvements in thermal management that included better airflow through the grille and a redesigned front fascia, as well as new software.
Even with those improvements, the Revero’s powertrain remains largely the same. And that includes the turbocharged GM Ecotec four-cylinder engine under the hood that acts as a generator for the battery pack. The new pack is an evolution of the old one with fresh electronics, software and a revamped manufacturing process. However, it is still produced by A123 Systems—a company Wanxiang also now owns. The new pack has a 21.1 kWh capacity an improvement of 1 kWh over the old one. And that helps the Revero to boast an electric-only range of 50 miles, up from 32 miles in the old Fisker. Acceleration has been improved, too. Karma says the Revero can hit 60 mph 5.4 seconds in “sport” mode, down from 5.9 seconds. It’s about a second and a half slower in both “stealth” and the new “sustain” modes. The solar roof panel is back, but it’s completely new and generates enough juice to power the Revero an extra 1.5 miles after day sitting under the sun. And a quick charger brings the Revero’s pack to an 80 percent state of charge in just 24 minutes.
Karma ditched the slow-performing infotainment system in the previous model for an all-new system that’s quicker. Still, potential Revero customers said they weren’t interested in an overly complex tech-forward infotainment system like the one found in Tesla’s cars. So the team developed one with an emphasis on ease of use. Karma says an owner can pair an iPhone in under six seconds. A new navigation system takes information from the “cloud,” and there’s an elaborate power flow screen that has been designed to impress those sitting in the passenger seat. Karma says the new system will allow it to make firmware updates as well as software updates for the infotainment system.
The core of the old Karma remains under the bodywork. So to help the car meet current safety regulations, the team improved the structure with side door beams and new airbags. However, the company was clear to say it doesn’t aspire to receive a five-star safety rating. Still, the Revero does come standard with safety tech the old car never had, like lane departure and forward collision warning systems.