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Auto review: Curvaceous Karma makes a sporty plug-in pitch

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

With instant torque and low center of gravity, Karma enjoyed hustling around a West Virginia test track. But this is a grand tourer, not a track rat. I’m the rare motorhead that will push this diva.

More interesting were the drive modes on my journey to the Mountain State. I mostly cruised in hybrid, SUSTAIN mode — the gas engine acting as a generator for the battery to preserve range. Upon hitting U.S. 35’s twisties, I switched to SPORT mode for maximum system power. Huzzah! Corner exits were a hoot with instant electric torque — the turbo-3 maintaining the torque curve at higher revs.

But maintaining battery reserve takes discipline. After a restroom stop, I forgot to return to SUSTAIN mode and promptly drained the battery to just 12 miles before realizing I was in SPORT mode.

At my West Virginia family’s home, I plugged into the local John Amos coal plant for the night (via 110-volt wall charger) to try and get my 80 miles back. After 12 hours, the battery range indicated 48 miles (from 20% to 65% of charge).

That was enough for a stealthy tour of Charleston in battery-only STEALTH mode — my relatives lounging in the rear bucket seats. They cheered Karma’s instant torque out of stoplight, enjoyed its quiet through city streets.

Tesla’s performance has opened a generation to the possibilities of all-electric powertrains (Karma, too, will be offering an all-electric version of the GS-6). But EVs are inferior to gas engines when it comes to long hauls. Now that the Karma finally has its act together, it can claim the crown as a plug-in halo.

 

Its $109,100 sticker may be exclusive, but it might inspire a look at more affordable plug-ins. Check out the $40,000 Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Ioniq plug-ins at your local dealership.

2021 Karma GS-6

Vehicle type: Front-engine, twin-rear electric motor, rear-wheel-drive, four-passenger, series hybrid sports sedan

Price: $85,700, including $1,800 destination fee ($109,100 GS-6L as tested)

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