The new generation of alternative fuel vehicles and powertrain technologies have resulted in some new automobile classifications.

Want proof? This 2012 Fisker Karma is what's called a performance luxury plug-in hybrid. But no matter what you call it, the Fisker Karma is an exciting car inside and out.

It has Cheetah-inspired styling with its 22-inch wheels, sweeping bodylines, and a wheelbase that's over 10 feet long. Nothing else looks like a Fisker.

And listen to the names of the three trim levels: EcoStandard, EcoSport, and EcoChic. The Eco prefix tells you a lot about the Fisker. It's an electric-gas plug-in hybrid with an extended range and a high-level of luxury.

The interior of the Fisker Karma is modern looking but not as upscale as a BMW or Mercedes. We prefer the interior of the EcoSport over the EcoStandard and EcoChic, mainly because the reclaimed wood and simulated leather in those two trims is a bit of a hodge-podge.

How can a car that's so big on the outside be so cramped on the inside? Well, the battery pack runs under the center floorboard and that cuts into shoulder room. The view out the back is stingy, too, but the Fisker's onboard rear-facing camera does help.

The instrumentation is easy to read and in a good location but the in-dash infotainment system takes some learning to navigate. It's also hard to see in bright sunlight and takes way too many clicks to take you where you want to go. However, it does have smartphone connectivity.

First, the good news. The Fisker Karma's gas-electric powertrain stirs up 403-horsepower, propelling it from zero-to-60 in just six point three seconds. And it can travel up to 50 miles on battery power alone. Then the 2-liter, 260-horsepower, 4-cylinder gasoline engine will take you another 250. But here's the twist: the gasoline engine doesn't power the wheels. Instead, it spins a generator which charges the battery pack.

The bad news is the Fisker Karma is very heavy. The car weighs in at 5300-pounds thanks to that jumbo battery pack. Although it accelerates like a performance car, your arms will probably get tired driving windy roads.

Luckily, the big brembo brakes with regenerative braking stop the Fisker Karma quickly and under control.

Stability and traction control, crush zones, and eight airbags top the list of safety equipment along with ABS and Panic Brake Assist.

No question, the Fisker Karma comes at a luxury car price. The base MSRP starts at $102.000 with the top trim level shoots that up to $115,000. You should also know there's a network of over 200 dealers across the country that honor the Fisker's 4-year, 50,000-mile basic warranty.

Only one car qualifies as a direct competitor to the Fisker Karma and that's the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid which has that Porsche prestige at roughly the same price.

Performance, sensational style, luxury, extended range, and plug-in power. Did I leave anything out? Well, there's the six-figure price, the heavy weight and snug interior, but we think you might be able to overlook those speed bumps to own a car that's as exciting and cutting-edge as the 2012 Fisker Karma.



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Scott Markle is an experienced automotive enthusiast and industry observer who is passionate about creating compelling content for car shoppers. He has fifteen years of experience building top-tier websites for the automotive industry and beyond, and was part of the team that launched AutoTrader.com.

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