In The City — 02 December 2012
The electrifying Fisker Karma EcoSport

The woman in the red pickup next to us on Las Olas turns her head – and her neck, shoulders and pretty much everything else – to wave at us out the window.

“I don’t think she’s watching where she’s going,” says Robert Manrique, general manager of Fisker Miami, in the passenger seat of the Fisker Karma EcoSport, “The World’s First Electric High Performance Luxury Vehicle.”

“I see her,” I say, swerving the $110,050 environmentally friendly sports car – and, apparently, babe magnet – to the left and out of her way. “People are too busy watching us to watch where they’re going.’’

“The same thing happened to me coming up here on I-95,” Manrique laughs. “This car turns heads – it really gets attention.’’

It does.

The Fisker Karma first turned my head in Europe this September, during the Monaco Yacht Show. A shadow gray Fisker EVer (Electric Vehicle extended range) pulled up to a curb, the driver popped what looked like the gas cap in back and plugged an orange electrical cord from the car to a municipal charging station.

It was an awesome vision – sleek, powerful, sexy – and full of the promise of an alternative-energy future. But even more astonishing was seeing a sleek, powerful, sexy car charging up like an electric razor. It was the first time I’d seen people stop to take pictures of a car refueling. Refueling.

The Fisker Karma uses a 260 horsepower, 4-cylinder GM engine in series with a generator and a lithium-ion battery to power the electric motors that turn the rear wheels with an output of 403 horsepower. That gives the car, according to Fisker Automotive Inc., “up to 50 miles of electric driving. After that, the [gas] engine engages to generate energy for the electric motors, providing an additional 250 miles of range.”

That’s not a lot of electric-only range, if you’re driving from Miami to Stuart, but enough to cover many commutes in South Florida. Manrique says there are about 200 Fisker Karmas already on the road here, and some day, Fisker Automotive hopes many more of us will be charging up at electric stations – like Monaco’s – instead of filling up at gas pumps.

For now, the EVers are an interim solution – hot wiring an electrical power-train (capable of hurling a 5,300-pound car up to 125 miles per hour) to a conventional engine with a 9.5-gallon gas reserve tank that can take you safely to the next electrical outlet. All in a very comfortable, simple to operate, eco-friendly interior (reclaimed woods and 100 percent recycled EcoSuede) – with other driving perks unique to an electric car.

“There is no transmission on the vehicle,’’ Manrique says from the bucket seat beside me. “When you accelerate it feels like you’re just taking off in a jetliner on a runway.”

I confirm this – briefly – on Las Olas, on the way down to the beach. There is, indeed, no hesitation as the power goes to the rear wheels, just smooth acceleration – and, since the Fisker Karma in electric “Stealth’’ mode makes no engine noise, the wind and wheels are your soundtrack. It’s very soothing – and reassuring that I could, if I wanted to, peel out 0-60 in 6.3 seconds – in a quiet, environmentally sustainable way.

Heads start to turn again as I cruise north on A1A, and I don’t think it’s because I just averaged 409 miles per gallon. Pedestrians gawk at the sexy exterior of the car, almost stepping into the street in front of us. I start to wonder why such paparazzi magnets as Ashton Kutcher, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber would all drive Fisker Karmas. Why would they want to attract more attention?

“Because when they are seen,” Manrique says, “they want to be seen as being environmentally conscious.’’

Maybe. Or maybe it’s just way more fun than separating plastics for the recycling bin.

Mark Gauert

The 2012 Fisker Karma EcoSport starts at $104,850 and goes up to $116,600, depending on color, exterior and interior combinations. Fisker Miami, 20800 NW Second Ave., Miami, 888-616-0381; Fisker Palm Beach, 915 Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, 888-708-1273.

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