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TRACK TESTED: The 2021 Karma GS-6 Is Reborn Once Again

TRACK TESTED: The 2021 Karma GS-6 Is Reborn Once Again

Can a $40K price cut finally make the Karma competitive?

  • The Karma GS-6 is the third iteration of what was originally the Fisker Karma, a sleek plug-in hybrid sedan that debuted — and quickly fizzled — a decade ago.
  • The GS-6 uses a plug-in hybrid powertrain that pairs electric motors with a BMW-sourced gasoline engine.
  • We took the GS-6 to the track to see how it compares to other electrified luxury sedans.

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.

Edmunds logo
Test Car
Braking distance
2021 Karma GS-69/27/215,038 lbs4.5 sec12.6 sec @ 110.8 mph115 ft0.97 g
2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid7/26/215,146 lbs3.4 sec11.6 sec @ 117.7 mph99 ft1.03 g
2021 Volvo S90 Recharge1/11/214,718 lbs5.1 sec13.5 sec @ 100.5 mph112 ft0.93 g
2020 Tesla Model S Performance11/16/204,934 lbs2.9 sec11.3 sec @ 120.9 mph109 ft0.97 g
2020 Porsche Taycan 4S11/2/205,120 lbs3.6 sec11.6 sec @ 121.9 mph102 ft1.11 g

Braking and handling were about on the same level as acceleration. Stopping from 60 mph in 115 feet is fine, but off the mark for sport sedans. Lateral grip on the skidpad was an impressive 0.97 g, matching the Tesla Model S. The car feels fairly neutral, though the rear end will happily kick out if you get on the throttle a little too early out of a corner. The battery pack helps keep the GS-6's center of gravity relatively low, a good thing given the more than 2.5-ton curb weight. The steering, while not particularly quick, provided more feedback than expected. Still, we've had more fun behind the wheel of cars like Porsche's Taycan and Panamera 4S E-Hybrid.

Edmunds says

The Karma GS-6 is reasonably sporty and efficient, and it packs more personality than most sedans. The new price makes it a lot more compelling than the Revero GT, while its electric range is better than any other plug-in hybrid's. But performance falls a little flat compared to other electrified luxury sedans, and the small interior makes it less usable than most rivals.