More than 10 years ago, a stunning plug-in hybrid sedan called the Fisker Karma made its debut. Despite the gorgeous looks, Fisker sold fewer than 2,500 Karmas before its sole battery supplier went belly-up, leading Fisker to do the same. The company was bought by Wanxiang, a Chinese auto parts supplier, which moved all of the Karma's tooling from Finland to California and reintroduced the car as the 2017 Karma Revero. In 2020, Karma released the updated Revero GT, which boasted a bigger battery pack and traded the old GM-sourced turbocharged four-cylinder engine for a new BMW-supplied 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder.
Got all that? Good, because the Karma gets another rebirth for 2021 in the form of the Karma GS-6, which shares the Revero GT's powertrain — but at $85,700 to start (our test vehicle was optioned up to $114,700), it costs nearly $40,000 less than the Revero GT. With 536 horsepower, 550 lb-ft of torque and an EPA-estimated 61 miles of all-electric driving range, the GS-6 certainly has some legitimate claims to fame. Could it back up the big talk with a fierce track-day performance? There was only one way to find out.
How did the GS-6 perform?
The GS-6's battery can be charged using a plug or with the gasoline engine. Unlike every other plug-in hybrid today, the GS-6 uses a "series" layout, meaning the engine is only used to charge the battery and not to drive the wheels. Two electric motors power the rear wheels using energy from a battery mounted down the spine of the car in a large center tunnel. The EPA estimate of 61 miles of all-electric range is highly impressive, but we drove even farther than that during our street evaluation — the GS-6 covered 64 miles under pure electric power before the gasoline engine kicked in.
At the test track, the GS-6 went from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, matching Karma's own estimate. That run was done in Sport mode using launch control, a setting accessed through the main menu. In the standard EV mode, the Karma was just a hair slower, 4.6 seconds to 60. For quarter-mile acceleration, the GS-6 recorded a run of 12.6 seconds at 110.8 mph in Sport mode, much quicker than the 13.1 seconds at 98.7 mph it put up in the standard EV mode. We discovered that the GS-6 tops out at 99 mph unless you're in Sport, which is why the trap speed is so much lower on the standard runs.
Overall, these are respectable acceleration times, though if you look at the chart below you'll see that the GS-6 is slower than some rivals. In EV mode, the GS-6 fights for traction off the line, though the Goodyear summer performance tires hook up better once they get a little heat into them. Power from the electric motors is smooth and even. When you floor it, the gasoline engine immediately revs to 6,000 rpm, holding there until the end of the run. Because the exhaust exits immediately behind the front wheels, the exhaust booms in the cabin and makes the whole operation sound and feel a bit unrefined.