The 2018 Karma Revero has a huge task ahead of it—not many, if any, failed luxury cars have made a comeback. Introduced five years ago as the Fisker Karma EVer, the reborn Revero has taken the model name as its new marque. But beyond creating a new nameplate, Karma’s owner, Chinese conglomerate Wanxiang Group, has funded a new U.S. factory in California and bought Fisker battery supplier A123.

The first of these $130,000 plug-in hybrid sedans have rolled off the assembly line and will be making their way to about 10 dealers located in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Chicago metro areas. 

Familiar face

The car retains the same sexy shape that turned heads in 2012, and the design still holds up quite well today. Add to the fact that only 2,349 Fiskers were built, the new car has a look that is at once both fresh and timeless. There are other touches that are in keeping with the uniqueness of the car, like the individually hand painted-badges affixed to the hood and rear decklid, a new front grille treatment and new paint schemes courtesy of the Moreno Valley, Calif., assembly plant, which has a state-of-the-art robotic paint system.

Other upgrades to the car include the use of more sound deadening foam up front and a completely re-engineered and more user-friendly infotainment system that also incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The basic mechanical package remains the same. There’s a 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine under the hood from General Motors that acts as a power generator and two 150 kilowatt electric motors mounted on the rear axle, which is good for a combined 403 horsepower output.

UPDATE: Check out the updated 2020 Karma Revero GT, and two Karma concept cars

More 4-door coupe than sedan

Slide behind the wheel of the Revero and you’ll find yourself settling into a well-bolstered sport seat and a thick, grippy, leather-covered steering wheel before you. With its closely coupled cabin, the Revero can truly be called a 4-door coupe. The two rear seats of this 4-passenger automobile are also aggressively bolstered and despite the long wheelbase, rear seat legroom is at a premium. Still, tight cabin aside, the Karma Revero is more than being looked at and admired; it’s also about the driving.

The vehicle’s aluminum spaceframe is stiff and well-tuned to the car’s independent suspension. One gripe of the original was that despite this foundation, it felt loose. There were large gaps and the interior didn’t seem to fit together well. Additional insulation with its better noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) control and a high level of craftsmanship now gives the Revero the solid feel of an automobile that can command $130,000.

The push-button start and faceted crystal gear selector carry over. Punch the start button and the car comes to life and offers three distinct driving options. Stealth is the pure EV mode that allows the vehicle to be driven from the lithium-ion battery pack. Although the EPA rating on the car says the Karma is good for 32 pure electric miles, during our two-hour test drive, we saw the range indicate a distance of something over 40 miles and by the end of the run, we still had about 27 miles of EV motoring left. There are three stages of regenerative braking and if you select the most aggressive Level 3, you can push quite a bit of energy back into the battery pack. Also, the car’s solar roof has been upgraded to be able to over the course of a day, generate enough electricity to give you an additional 3 miles of range. Recharging the battery pack using 240 volts takes three hours (10 at 110 volts), but also a quick charge feature can give you up to 80 percent in 24 minutes.

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0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds

While Stealth mode is good in and around town and has some decent performance of its own (0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds to a 95 mph top speed), there’s a Sustain mode that will keep the battery charged and run the vehicle off the engine generator. In this mode, the vehicle operates more like a conventional hybrid and has, because of the lower power rating, a more leisurely 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds. It also is electronically limited to a 95 mph top speed. Finally, the Sport mode uses both battery and generator power to give the Revero the snap off the line of its 5.4-second 0-60 mph capability (almost a second quicker than the Fisker version, thanks to improved electric motor technology). Top speed is also limited in this mode to 125 mph.

In addition to the three basic driving modes, you can mix and match the weighting of the steering with sport, normal and sustainable settings that move from very heavy (sport) to light (sustainable). Normal seemed just about right for all-around driving, since Sport can feel like the steering is heavily mired in parking lot maneuvers.

The new infotainment system is buttonless, but still pretty easy to navigate and use. Response times are quick and there are some slick features, like the ability to move the nav screen from the center display to the instrument cluster, eliminating the need for an intrusive head-up display.

Exclusivity is its calling card

Our time behind the wheel was relatively short, but impressive. It appears that a lot of build issues have been worked out along with making some of the user interfaces more intuitive while still retaining a high-tech edge.

Perhaps the most refreshing element of the rebirth of the Karma is the promise that the Revero is not out there to sell in huge numbers or change the automotive landscape. Its goals are modest—being able to offer a distinctive, competent and efficient vehicle to a discriminating, well-heeled clientele. It’s an approach that bodes well for this second act in the Karma story.


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