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2021 Karma GS-6 review: Updated take on a familiar formula

For those who remember the Fisker Karma, the 2021 Karma GS-6 will be familiar because it’s essentially the same car. This is the latest evolution of that formula only this time it’s been refined with more modern features plus a slightly revised look. It’s also one of the few series hybrids on sale in the U.S. market, meaning it’s a battery-electric vehicle with a backup plan. Being from a boutique brand, you may be wondering if the GS-6 is worth your attention, especially with that peculiar powertrain. Let’s take a look at this Luxury trim example and find out.

2021 Karma GS-6 exterior

2021 Karma GS 6 rear three quarters 02 1
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Alluring is the best way to describe the 2021 Karma GS-6’s design. Massive curves, a low roofline, and a long hood give it svelte proportions and a low-slung, sports carlike stance. The front fascia still has hints of the old Fisker Karma but the reshaped headlights and the closed grille’s rounded shape complement the car’s curvaceous appearance, giving it a distinct presence. Wide fenders and thin horizontal taillights give the GS-6 width, showing off the vehicle’s hips that amplify its road-hugging profile.

2021 Karma GS-6 interior

2021 Karma GS 6 rear seats 01 1
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The first thing you notice inside the GS-6’s interior are the generous swathes of leather in it. Everything from the dash to the seats and door panels is covered in the material; even the padded surfaces have it as the top layer. However, the controls could operate with a little more tactility; the buttons, stalks, and switches could be more tactile when you use them. Additionally, extra brightwork could offset the all-black interior and carbon-fiber trim so that the cabin doesn’t feel too dark, especially with how narrow the windows are. Extra sound insulation could help, too, because the 22-inch wheels create a significant amount of road and tire noise, especially on unmaintained roads with lots of potholes, expansion joints, and bumps.

Despite its size, the Karma GS-6’s interior is tight. It’s best to consider it a 2+2 with four doors due to that coupe-like roofline, which also makes ingress/egress tough. Rear passengers will feel a little intimate because of the small windows and lack of head- and legroom. The center console extends to the back, too, further cutting into space there. You don’t have much storage either because the two cubbies on the center console are shallow and the trunk’s floor is raised. Although the seats are supportive and hold you in place nicely, the cushions and seat backs are firm and you can’t tilt the front portion of the former up or down.

2021 Karma GS-6 tech features

2021 Karma GS 6 main display 01 1
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Most of the GS-6’s functions are found within the infotainment system’s 10.2-inch touch screen. Everything from the driver’s seat memory and side mirror adjustments to climate and media functions are found within the display. That means you’ll need to dig into one or two submenus to get to what you need. At least it’s reasonably responsive, has crisp graphics, features over-the-air (OTA) update capability, and your frequently used functions are all at the bottom. You’ll need to rely on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for navigation because the GS-6 doesn’t have one included. The standard eight-speaker audio system is clear and does a good job covering the entire cabin; however, it could use more customizability.

Our test car came with a full suite of driver assistance features that work well. Adaptive cruise control works seamlessly and follows traffic based on your set distance without much deviation. The warnings, however, could be a little less intrusive. Steering wheel vibrations are especially noticeable since the car lowers the volume of whatever is playing when blind-spot monitoring activates. Lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning requires clearly marked roads to activate. On highways where the dividers aren’t as obvious, both tend to stay out of the picture.

2021 Karma GS-6 driving impressions

2021 Karma GS 6 front three quarters 04 1
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The Karma GS-6 looks like a sports sedan, but you’ll realize it’s more of a grand tourer once you get on the road. Despite our test car’s 22-inch wheels and summer performance tires, it rides well, absorbing road imperfections adeptly. Occupants barely feel impacts even if they happen successively. Great body control and high grip levels bestow the GS-6 with agile handling for its size and 2.5-ton curb weight. Although it drives big, there’s never a time where the car becomes a handful, even when you push it hard through tight corners. The steering is responsive and accurate but not to the point that it’s twitchy, adding to the GT car driving character: relaxed yet connected and confident.

One of the GS-6’s unique aspects is that it’s a series hybrid. That means the gas engine only works as a generator creating electricity for the 28-kWh battery and two electric motors powering the rear wheels. In this case, the generator is a BMW-sourced 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder. The combined output from the two electric motors is 536 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque. This gives the GS-6 quick acceleration; however, since its RWD, it doesn’t gain traction as quickly as an EV or series hybrid with a drive motor on each axle. Once the tires grip, the car moves effortlessly and will get you up to highway speeds or climb a hill without any fuss. Put the car in Sport mode and you get instantaneous throttle response, allowing you to get around slower traffic swiftly.

Transitions between regenerative and friction braking are seamless, allowing you the stop smoothly in a consistent manner. There are three levels of recuperation accessed via the right paddle shifter, allowing you to slow down by easing off the accelerator. Level three is strong enough to allow for a good degree of one-pedal driving, making the GS-6 even easier to drive in traffic. You can also keep it at full strength on your favorite mountain road so that you rarely need to use the brakes when slowing down for corners. Just lift off to get down to the ideal speed for the turn and then rocket out using that delicious instant torque delivery from the two electric motors.

Fully charging the Karma GS-6’s battery takes four hours using a level 2 AC charger or 240-volt outlet. The GS-6 lineup is also one of the few plug-in hybrids capable of level 3 DC charging and this one uses a combo CCS connector. If you use a DC charger, it can get to 80 percent in roughly 34 minutes.

2021 Karma GS-6 pricing

The 2021 Karma GS-6 starts at $95,700 and our GS-6 tester with several options checked in at $114,700. The GS-6 is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit plus local incentives.

2021 Karma GS-6 final verdict

2021 Karma GS 6 front three quarters 03 1
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Karma may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to luxurious electrified vehicles but their offering is something unique. The 2021 Karma GS-6 gives you exclusivity and the driving experience of a battery-electric vehicle without the range anxiety thanks to the gas engine generator. While it succeeds in giving you well-rounded road manners, the GS-6’s range is on the short side. At an EPA-rated 280 to 330 miles with a full tank and charge depending on the wheel size you get; the overall range is on the low end by plug-in hybrid standards.

For those looking to stand out and feel like they’re driving an EV without the range anxiety, that may be a worthy trade-off especially when you consider how well it drives and how much attention it gets. If you’re exactly the person described above and you don’t mind the hit in practicality or fueling up more often on longer drives, this may just be the hybrid for you.

At a glance

  • Year: 2021
  • Make: Karma
  • Model: GS-6
  • Trim: Luxury
  • Type: four-door full-size luxury sedan
  • Horsepower: 536
  • Torque: 551 lb-ft (650 lb-ft with Performance package)
  • MPGe: 70 (22-inch wheels: 62)
  • EV range: 61 miles (22-inch wheels: 54 miles)
  • Pros: Attractive exterior, quick acceleration, balanced ride and handling
  • Cons: Cramped interior, lots of tire noise, short overall range by hybrid standards
  • Base price: $85,700
  • Price as tested: $114,700
Written by Stefan Ogbac
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