Top Gear Crowns 2012 Fisker Karma 'Car of the Year'

By · December 02, 2011

Top Gear has crowned the 2012 Fisker Karma plug-in sedan as its "Luxury Car of the Year" and overall "Car of the Year." More specifically, Top Gear presenter, James May, selected the 2012 Fisker Karma as his overall vehicle of the year and BBC Top Gear magazine named the Karma as its "Luxury Car of the Year."

Charlie Turner, BBC Top Gear magazine editor, explained why the Fisker Karma grabbed the number one spot:

"Cleverness abounds in the Fisker and adds to the air of intelligent luxury. It works well, it looks good and it must be a genuinely exciting thing to own. It’s the top-of-the-line spec that features no leather, just textiles and reclaimed wood. And it’s more convincing than it sounds, managing to look, feel and smell premium without any cow peel in it at all."

Fisker Karma

2012 Fisker Karma crownd "Luxury Car of the Year" by Top Gear.

Henrik Fisker, co-founder, chief executive officer and design director of Fisker Automotive, commented:

"It is fantastic news that the Karma has won two awards from Top Gear. We realize that we are at the beginning of our journey and awards like this remind us we are on the right road―building enticing green cars that people actually want to own. It’s particularly pleasing that this award recognizes the Karma as the world’s first luxury hybrid electric car.”

In winning Top Gear's "Luxury Car of the Year" award, the 2012 Fisker Karma joins some prestigious past winners, including the Mercedes-Benz CLS Coupe, Jaguar XJ and Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe. Last month, Automobile Magazine named the Karma “Design of the Year” for 2012, calling it "unlike anything else on the road today and yet very much like dozens of the most beloved sports cars of the past.”

Fisker Karma

2012 Fisker Karma

For its part, Top Gear has an established track record of dissing innovative, fuel-efficient vehicles. Co-host, Jeremy Clarkson, famously trashed the Toyota Prius, calling it one of his "least favorite cars in the world," and Tesla is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the BBC over a misleading segment the show ran in 2008, during which Clarkson outrageously claimed that the true range of the all-electric Roadster was just 55 miles. Similar shenanigans are alleged to have taken place earlier this year, when the show staged a range-anxiety nightmare with the Nissan LEAF.

So while the Karma may have disappointed many green car fans with its lower-than-expected official electric range and fuel economy rating in gas-only mode, response from the automotive press at large seems to be far more positive―even among the most fervent electric-drive detractors.


· Charles (not verified) · 6 years ago

I wish I could get excited by this news, but I really could not care less. What James May and Top Gear think is important in a car and what I think are almost polar opposites.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Fisker should put their money where it counts: in building a car, not in the pockets on journalists.
They say the car doesn't contain leather? May I remind readers that no more than 15 days ago, an article from this very website mentioned that the Karma was late because of "flood-damaged leather"? (ref )
Come on, Top Gear, fire your corrupt journalists and stop lying through your teeth.

· Chris T. (not verified) · 6 years ago

@anonymous: the top-of-the-line Karma, the "EcoChic", has no leather. You pay more to not get leather.

· · 6 years ago

Yes, at 20 mpg (after the battery runs down), this is Top Gear's kind of environmental car.

· · 6 years ago

I couldn't care less what Top Gear proclaims. It's a comedy show that incorporates automobiles. I don't get advice from Seinfeld on where to eat in NY either.

This is obviously a direct stab at Tesla.

· · 6 years ago

Top Gear = Fox News.

Fair & Balanced, they aren't.

· · 6 years ago

Who cares what Top Gear thinks. How about choosing a car that has more than a handful of deliveries so far.

@Tom: No soup for you!

· Durand (not verified) · 6 years ago

You might not care but millions of people watch the show. I do too for the comedy when I can stand Clarkson's attitude. This is probably the first time they've rated an electric car favourably too so it's positive news whatever way you look at it.

· · 6 years ago

The Karma is cynicism incarnate. There is no car that weighs 5300 lb that can reasonably called green. Nor can any car that gets 20 mpg on gas -- that's below the US fleet average, and heading in the wrong direction, not the right direction. There is no production or near production electric car in history that gets fewer miles per kWh. And it's slower from 0 to 60 than a V6 Toyota Camry to boot! The styling is one cliche after another, thrown together. The Tesla S, in comparison, looks like it was designed by an artist. This looks like is was designed by a high schooler trying to steal the looks of a Jag or Maserati.

My enthusiasm for Leonardo DeCaprio and Al Gore plummeted when I heard that they each have one of these.

Given the choice between one of these and the ESflow for even money -- I'd go for the ESflow in a heartbeat. The ESflow is worth twice what this monster is worth: sophisticated, nimble, light, and more than twice as energy efficient. I hope Nissan produces it.

A couple pounds of reclaimed wood! Oh there, that makes it all better. This baby is green! Give me four cartons of Lucky Stikes... oh... and a vitamin pill.

The Tesla S is so much better than this behemoth as to defy description.

I feel I should say something nice about the car: Well... at least $100,000 cars are rarely driven. Also, if you want to scream "I have more money than brains!" at the top of your lungs, this is the car.

· Chris T. (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Ken Fry: 7.0 seconds is faster than 6.3 seconds? Who knew!

· · 6 years ago

Hi Chris T.

The Car and Driver test of the Camry shows an actual test result of 5.8 seconds.
Here's the link:

Often, one trades performance for practicality, but the Camry is both faster and far more practical than the Karma. It's more fuel efficent. And it's a fraction of the price.

The Volt is a marvel of efficiency as compared to the Karma.

And the Tesla is dramatically better in every respect than the Karma. It has much better passenger room, incredible cargo room, and, of course, better performance, with a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds.

Heres' an article which provides some comparisons:

You will find me generally rooting for plug-in hybrids -- the Zing! is my life's work after all -- but the whole idea with the Zing! is to use fewer resources. The whole idea with the Karma is to use more resources, but to hide that with greenwashing. That's an idea I can't support.

Want a fast, flashy, practical, luxurious, innovative electric car: Get a Tesla S, for not much more than half the price of the Karma. Want a practical, fun, plug-in hybrid sedan with some real cred -- get a Volt.

Lest I sound too pious here: sure, I've driven and worked on gas guzzling exotics. I still love the sound of a well-tuned Ferrari. I once owned a 4wd F150. Never, however, did I claim that the F150 (which weighed less than the Karma) was in any way, shape, or form, green. 85% of the time, I used it to haul around just me, and only rarely used it for the tough work for which I bought it. With its straight 6, it got the same mileage as the Karma -- an egregious waste of resources for transporting one person. Mia culpa.

· · 6 years ago

I'd like to see this ad for the Karma:
Fisker himself is holding a cow, with a knife at its throat. He says, "Give me more money for non-leather seats, or the cow gets it."

· Chris T. (not verified) · 6 years ago

It is pretty weird to charge five grand more for "not-leather". :-)

· Chris T. (not verified) · 6 years ago

Also, there's something weird in those Car and Driver numbers:

Zero to 60 mph: 5.8 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 14.1 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 6.1 sec

How does it do 0-60 (5.8 seconds) faster than 5-60 (6.1 seconds)?

In any case, if you're comparing manufacturer advertised numbers, I'd suggest sticking with the manufacturer's advertised 7.0 (for the 2012 model). The Karma was originally supposed to do 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. That claim slipped to 6.3 (no doubt for those "5300 reasons"), and Motor Trend measured something like 6.1 recently.

Besides, if you want great 0-60 times, there's always the Tesla Roadster. :D

· jim1961 (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Ken Fry,

You said,

"...My enthusiasm for Leonardo DeCaprio and Al Gore plummeted when I heard that they each have one of these..."

I assume Gore and DeCaprio placed their order for the Karma before the EPA numbers were released.

Furthermore, many people have the mistaken belief that a series hybrid is more efficient than a parallel hybrid. I can't fault people for believing this myth if they're not well versed in automotive technology and physics.

· · 6 years ago

@jim1961 (not verified) · "Furthermore, many people have the mistaken belief that a series hybrid is more efficient than a parallel hybrid. I can't fault people for believing this myth if they're not well versed in automotive technology and physics."

There is no particular reason why series should be less efficient than parallel. Afterall parallel hybrids have been around for a long time - series is just about starting. When OEMs make ICE that is particularly optimized for series - and run at the most optimal speed to recharge the batteries - we will know whether it can be more efficient than parallel.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

To all the Tesla S fans; Henrik Fisker designed the Tesla S! The Tesla's price is a fantasy just to get all of you optimistic. Those two seats facing backwards, how ridiculous. I can't wait for the first lawsuit when a child is killed from a minor rear end accident. Oh and the Tesla roadster is the biggest joke, just go buy an old Lutus. I wonder if all the anymosity towards Top Gear is because they slammed the Tesla for constantly breaking down? And what does the fearless owner do? he tries to sue them, and loses; much like trying to sue Fisker for stealing "his idea" of plug in cars. Hey Elon, ever heard of the EV1?

· jim1961 (not verified) · 6 years ago

@EVNow "...There is no particular reason why series should be less efficient than parallel..."

Perhaps I'm mistaken but here's how I look at it. When taken together the inverter and motor/generator is roughly 90% efficient. In a series hybrid the ICE supplies mechanical energy to a generator/inverter and 90% of this energy comes out as electrical energy. This electrical energy is then converted back to mechanical energy through an inverter/motor at 90% efficiency. 0.9 X 0.9 = 0.81 or 81%. So roughly 19% of the energy is lost. The wheels require mechanical energy to move the vehicle and the ICE supplies mechanical energy so supplying that mechanical energy directly to the wheels is more efficient. Some will say that a series hybrid allows the possibility of running the ICE in a narrow RPM band where the ICE is at peak efficiency. If the engine runs at a constant RPM while the energy required to move the car is varying due to hills and stopping and starting then the battery must act as a buffer. Charging and discharging a battery is also not 100% efficient. That's why batteries give off heat when charging or discharging. If motor/generators, inverters and batteries were closer to 100% efficient then a series hybrid might be the way to go.

· · 6 years ago

I have had a little versing in physics and I don't know than any serial hybrid supporters claim that they are a more efficient gas-burner than a parallel hybrid.
To begin with, most of us don't care how efficiently a PHEV burns gas since we only expect to use the ICE less than 10% of the time. This means we'd prefer to forgo the expense and vehicle system design restrictions caused by having to mechanically link the ICE to the wheels.
The real reason that the parallel hybrid topology is preferred by the ICE automobile companies is that it's block diagram looks a lot like the org-chart for the company. Everybody gets a piece of the revenue from a parallel hybrid while several divisions get bypassed or trivialized by a serial one.
I will also suggest that I'm pretty sure a serial arrangement can come pretty close to the same efficiency as a parallel one with a little work though. You suggest a 90% efficiency in the motor/generator and the inverter/generator. While this 90% number is what we usually use today as being easily achievable, it can definitely be improved if anyone cares.
An ICE averages about 17% efficiency in the dynamic application of a car, a transmission is around 95% efficient for a total of around 16% losses or 84% net efficiency. In stationary applications, the ICE can exceed 25% efficiency, leading to a net efficiency savings of around 10% if one can enable the ICE to operate constantly at its optimal RPM and torque.
If you can improve your electrical conversion efficiencies from 90% to 95%, your 19% losses improve to about 10%, about the same as you benefit by the constant load ICE for the serial versus the parallel. The constant load on the ICE for the serial also benefits a bit over the dynamic load because some auxiliary losses will also be reduced but that starts toward splitting hairs.
Overall, I'll summarize:
The serial topology is:
- more flexible
- cheaper
- lighter weight
- easy to replace with more batteries or a different electricity source, should better options for these become available
- about the same efficiency when running the ICE (This is, of course, irrelevant since I don't expect this mode will be used very often)
- as unpopular in an ICE company as a PC was in a 1980's typewriter factory (ever heard of Smith Corona?).

· · 6 years ago

Hi Jim 1961,

As the builder and promoter of a serial hybrid, I can only say that you are a stupid dummy do-do head. ;) Actually, your figures are pretty good, and in fact a little higher (in terms of efficiency) than the real numbers. Although electric motors are typically 90% efficient at peak, that figure drops when off peak, and can drop a great deal when far off peak. (In my Zing! POC prototype, the batteries rarely warm up significantly, because they are relatively massive, but the motor and controller both become warm when well-exercised -- that warmth is the result of the losses.)

For a serial hybrid to beat a parallel hybrid, the driving cycle in question must be urban. Then, the fact that the serial hybrid engine only runs at peak efficiency (rather than all over the map -- the brake-specific-fuel-consumption map, that is) can counter the parallel architecture advantage in steady state cruise. The Prius engine often spends time at below 25% efficiency, even though its peak is 38%.

When evaluating the possibilities for the Zing!, I seriously considered serial, parallel and multimode options, but if efficiency is already inherently very high (in other words, if streamlining is unusually effective and weight is very low, as it is in the Zing!, which gets about 10 miles per kWh or 100 mpg on gas alone) the cost, weight, and complexity of a parallel or multimode option is not warranted. (The same applies re using a diesel instead of gas engine: the diesel is just too expensive to cost justify -- at least for the Zing!.) Chevy is correct that there is a 15% efficiency gain by powering the wheels directly during cruise. But in urban operation that advantage disappears.

I would probably have done the Volt differently, focusing more on basic engine and vehicular (light-weighting and streamlining) efficiency, rather than transmission complexity. This would improve urban efficiency (the Volt's primary mode for most buyers) and allow series architecture to be used without suffering a low number in the highway charge-sustaining mode. But pushing an idea through GM is tough, so many compromises are made. Armchair quarter backing is easy. I think Chevy did a great job with the Volt, given the constraints.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Charles (not verified) · 2 days ago
"I wish I could get excited by this news, but I really could not care less. What James May and Top Gear think is important in a car and what I think are almost polar opposites."

Then why are you reading?

· · 6 years ago

Hi Chris,
You'd asked (a while ago): "How does it do 0-60 (5.8 seconds) faster than 5-60 (6.1 seconds)?"

The difference is street start vs drag racing start. Acceleration depends upon HP-to-weight ratio. (The folks who used to think it has to do with torque to weight are wrong, but that's a long physics discussion for another time.) The HP curve for an AC motor is not a ton different that that for an ICE. (Early in the rev range, torque is constant, so the HP curve is a straight line inclined up from zero until the motor reaches maximum HP. Then it levels out, and eventually begins to drop, as torque falls off faster than RPM increases. AC motors are sometimes call "constant HP devices", but that's never true in practice.)

So in a drag racing start, the wheels are spinning at the instant of start, allowing the motor to develop near-maximum HP. In a street start, the wheels are not spinning, so the hp at the instant of start is 0 (500 lb ft x 0 rpm, for example). If the HP peak (plateau) starts at 2000 rpm, then the car has to get to the corresponding speed before max HP is developed. In a typical EV, this speed may be 40 - 50 mph. The average HP applied during this 0 - 40ish phase is then half of the maximum available.

Based on this alone, you'd expect the drag racing start to yield a much quicker time, but it's not that simple. Maximum thrust occurs with about 10% tire slip, so there is a balancing act between keeping wheel speed high (for max developed HP) and lower (for maximum thrust). So, the difference between street start and drag start are not as great as the difference in average HP would suggest.

There are also subtleties re wheel spin. Dragsters do burnouts to heat up the tires for better traction, etc. Also, a spinning wheel does not permit the motor to produce its full rated torque, so the HP is not really at its max value.

· Sam (not verified) · 6 years ago

You damn eco lunatics.
First time an EV gets a great response from top gear it is not good.

What do you want.
The fisker is a great car offering up to 80 gas free kilometers. for lots of trips a sufficient range, the gas consumption are not that good, but for a sports car again it is quite normal.

I wonder what you could get with hypermiling and using the blended mode for accelerating.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

The funniest thing about all this hoopla is that James May hasn't actually DRIVEN the car!! He just likes all the "lovely touches" and "forward thinking."

This is what happens when another US Government funded fiasco, Telsa, has your legal department fighting for the BBC's life!! Just like the Fisker, Tesla made outrageous claims about range and "greenness..." Top Gear had TWO Teslas and couldn't complete it's road tests because they both broke down.

It's enough to make me want to DUMP Owebama in THAT'S a great idea!!!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Here's what Consumer Reports thinks about this pile of hype!

· · 6 years ago

A new luxury car on the market......... There will undoubtedly be some people who love it, as well as others who just despise it. But one thing you can say unequivocally about this automobile : it's extremely interesting.

· AlanDee (not verified) · 6 years ago

the fisker has potential - especially when they drop that ICE and put in a gas turbine engine

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

James drove it you retard. Season 18 episode 4.

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