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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Matchbox Fisker Karma

Now the Tesla is the latest stylish electric car for Matchbox (and Hot Wheels), but before that the Fisker Karma was the king in that department.  After a few years of lame Toyota Prius and Honda Insight hybrids that were mostly pegwarmers at the stores, the Fisker Karma reversed that with a long and stylish four-door sedan that was mostly electric but resolved range anxieties of typical electric cars with a gas engine at the front.  Let's see what makes this one truly a classic.

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Fisker was started by Henrik Fisker, the legendary Dutch designer who crafted such designs as the BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9 and V8 Vantage, and of course the car you see here.  Fisker wanted to try and create his own vision of an electric car that is stylish and earth-friendly as it can be.  The wood trim is used from salvaged/reclaimed lumber and scratched hides, but higher end models can opt for the real leather.  The Karma is powered by two electric motors that send power to a limited slip differential, producing 161 hp and 479 Ib-ft or torque each.  The batteries are 20.1 kWh lithium-ion batteries that are situated in the center of the car (which also houses the center console inside) and get charged by two ways:  either by the solar powered roof on sunny days or a plug-in at the rear for other times, and by the gas engine at the front.  The engine is the GM-sourced 2.0L turbocharged ECOTEC I-4 that produces an estimated 200 hp using direct injection and the exhaust exits out just after the right-front wheel.  It's no surprise that Fisker used this engine as production started at the Delaware GM plant where the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters, who used the turbo I-4 in GXP and Redline trims, used to be built.

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Sadly, production, finance, and even recalls related to battery fires prompted Fisker to shut down production in November 2012.  Chinese firm Wanxiang bought the company and is now preparing to revive the Karma with a new California-based plant by next year, with hopefully some upcoming future models as well.  Matchbox did a great job with this car, the overall shape of the car is long and flowing with curves and highlighted by kickups of the fenders as well.  The front has the moustache-like twin-grilles with projector-beam headlights and diamond-shaped slots at the lower-end of the bumper.  The sides have a flowing look with four doors, flush door handles, large 5-spoke wheels (recommended by Fisker), and despite one exhaust outlet two notches on each of the front fenders to hide the sole exhaust exit.  The rear gets really extreme with a tapered-down roofline, L-shaled LED taillights, diamond reverse lamps, and a kickup in the rear bumper.  Even the Karma plate is a nice touch on the first release in silver.

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Unlike the Tesla, the Karma has a solar-panel roof instead of sunroofs to provide additional power, and Matchbox did a great job with the detailing of the solar panel grid lines.  If you see two gas cap covers on each side of the rear fenders, you are not seeing things: the left one is for charging, the right is for fuel to the gas motor.  The base is plain and simple like the Tesla, but not so with the interior:  Laid out in a nice tan interior, it features comfy and stylish seats for four with a long center console to conceal the batteries.  The steering wheel is radically-styled with a diamond shape to it instead of the usual spoked wheels, dual-pod gauge cluster with digital gauges, and a long sweeping dashboard with round air vents and a touch screen for controls.  Indeed it is one stylish piece, but you get what you pay for:  the swooping roofline impacts outward vision and door access more than the Tesla, and as does the trunk with a very small opening.

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The next recolor was red with the tan interior that is one of my favorite versions and looks better than the simple silver and black interior.  Then a 2011 5-pack introduced a blue one with the second detailed rear reverse lamps following the red, and finally the last version by far is the 2013 black with blacked-out 5-spoke wheels.  All vehicles have different plates, from the silver KARMA1 to the red California Karma plate, to the blue California Plug-In to the black Karma plate.  Will this car come back now that it is owned by new owners?  Probably, because even with competition from Tesla the Fisker Karma still has a unique style of its own that no one else can claim and that alone is worth bringing it back!

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