The Fisker Karma might look good from the outside, but the view from the driver's seat is anything but infotaining.

That's the detailed, expert opinion of Brian Greenstone, an Austin, TX-based programmer who owns both a Karma and an Aston Vantage, according to The Truth About Cars. Greenstone also has enough time and passion for his cars that he recorded a 41-minute video about just why the Karma's infotainment and climate control panel, the Command Center, is so tremendously bad (he also made a 27-minute video reviewing the car as a whole. Both are available below). Greenstone gives the system an F. That's up from an F- before a recent software update. These are grades only an owner can give, someone who's spent time getting to know the car. He says:
  • Automatic climate control? It "basically doesn't work."
  • Bluetooth? The screen "gives you no information."
  • Changing audio inputs using the steering wheel controls? "I have no idea what audio mode I'm in."
  • System settings? "I've got to take a breath before I start talking about this. This is awful. This makes you wonder what two-year-old designed it."
In short, Greenstone doesn't like the Command Center. Fisker, since these are mostly software issues, the ball is in your court to improve things. Do a good job and Greenstone might just bump you up to a D-.





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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 45 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      I currently own a Karma signature edition. I have driven it for ~ 4000 miles as my daily driver. I think many of the issues with the command center are overblown. The initial start can be slow, but once the car has "booted up" it has a reasonable response time. I have no issues using my iPod, placing/ending a phone call or adjusting the temperature in my vehicle. These are the usual daily interactions I have with the command center. I must admit I have not had a reason to use the navigation system yet. The area of the commander center pictured above where interior and exterior options are set etc... is not something I access regularly or while driving. I adjusted these while the vehicle was parked in my garage. I did not find it particularly challenging or frustrating to work with. No more so then a BMW or Audi. As an end user I agree, there is always room for improvement. I would give the command center a "C", nothing outstanding but not particularly disturbing either. However I don't look at the command center through the critical eye of an interface designer/programmer or expect it to work like an i Pad or Android tablet. Since it is software I know Fisker is working to improve the user experience and expect they will continue to update the command center. I must say I thoroughly enjoy driving the car and have had very few issues with the vehicle.
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wait, so I see 3 Karmas running around near Apple in the South Bay, now another one is sold to famous Mac/iOS developer Brian Greenstone, I wonder if 100% of all Karmas are in the hands of Mac/Apple users?
        Maddoxx
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        There's 2 in mountain view google area. Both silver they're as big as boats. One tried to pass me up on 101 but couldn't quiet get fast enough before he reached traffic. At least his car didn't catch fire or malfunction.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        There are at least 2 in SoCal, based on colors. I wouldn't be surprised if they're in the hands of Mac / Apple users, given the premium branding.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      He did say though he would still buy car even knowing what he knows now. That tells me there is some basic goodness there, but what seperates the start-ups from the established companies is the attention to detail.
        throwback
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        True, but as any enthusiast will tell you, the heart always wins out.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        He also says that even though the car has broken down and burned out its wing mirrors due to a glitch in the few months he's owned it, he'd give it a B+. So he's clearly making his decisions about the car more with his heart than his head.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          It's a $100k car, and he had 60+ minutes to create YouTube videos about it. Clearly, he's emotion driven.
          briang19
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this is kinda one of those cases. When the car works, it really is quite a pleasure to drive around town. It has many, many flaws, but it's about the experience not the details, and it's about how the car makes you feel (well, the Karma makes me angry a lot, but you know what I mean). I do think this is the best daily driver I've ever owned despite all the problems. The Aston is 100x better tho, but not a good daily driver car :)
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well, they said the same kind of things about the Bricklin and we all know how super awesome that turned out so,er, well, Never Mind.
      Spiffster
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hmmm, not sure about that claim on the 120W solar panel and that 200 mile per year yield at the equator. Solar exposure in CO is 5.5 hrs a day (average) so 5.5 * 120 = .66kWh of juice a day. The battery is 22kWh so 22 / .66 = 33 days to full charge. 365 / 33 = 11.06 * ~50 miles range is 553 miles... and that's here in Colorado, far from the equator. Im also pretty sure that the battery SOC window is less than 100%. Please correct me if im wrong...
        Peder Norby
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spiffster
        Hi Spiffster, I'm an ActiveE driver and solar paner owner so I can give you a good idea. In San Diego the solar radiance is 6.2 but using your Colorado example, 120 watts times 5.5 equal 660 watts. 660 watts times 365 days a year equal 241kw a year. 241kw for a car like the Karma, this is just a guess but I'd say 2.5 miles a KW so that would be 602 miles a year. The car would need to be parked in full sunshine during the day at an 18% angle facing south to get that. In reality with shade and sporadic covered parking on flat land I would say divide in half or more so 120kwh a year and approximatly 300 miles is a more realistic figure. The same 5k used to buy the panel on the car would buy you a 1.3kwh system for your house that would produce 2000kwh a month and drive the Karma approx 5000miles a year or the BMW ActiveE . 7500 miles a year. Cheers
          RoyEMunson
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Peder Norby
          I have solar panels as well... the 5.5 number comes from here: http://www.freesunpower.com/radiation.php i dont think panel angle/azimuth is factored in here. I have panels angled east and south at 30 degrees, and 5.5 is just about right considering my panel production over a year. Fisker may be factoring in the current draw for the air circulating fans too, who knows. They may just be stating very conservative numbers.
        briang19
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spiffster
        I'm not sure, but Fisker claims 200 miles per year. The panel aims straight up, so I imagine it doesn't get 120watts most of the time. Maybe only at noon during the summer.
      Edge
      • 2 Years Ago
      I never like this look of this car, until now. For some reason, it looks great in that picture, but my preference by far is the Model S in the design and engineering department.
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well . . . isn't he the fool for buying a car that he hates so much?
        briang19
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        I don't hate the car - I hate the Command Center. If you watch the other review of the car itself you'll see that I actually like the car and gave it a B+ overall with potential for more when they get some glitches worked out.
          Spiffster
          • 2 Years Ago
          @briang19
          @Spec... they could just overhaul the entire interface, which it sounds like thats what they will need to do. The only thing they may not be able to fix via software would be the climate control, as that may be a hardware design issue... If Fisker really anted to get this car out the door ASAP, software is the obvious area to skimp on, because those refinements could always be made later down the road at a much lower cost to Fisker than replacing faulty hardware.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @briang19
          I know a guy who interviewed to take over the entire command center for Fisker. They're looking for good people to take it over. I don't know if they got anyone good to do so yet, but they didn't that day.
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @briang19
          Well . . . maybe they can issue enough patches that fix several of the errors? But I doubt they'll be able to fix everything just with software patches. :-/
        briang19
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Yeah, I agree. I've been waiting 6 months for them to get things fixed, and while they have fixed most of the major issues, there are still many more waiting. The car did leave me stranded a few weeks ago - almost had to get towed, but eventually it fixed itself after a reboot. I've lost a lot of faith in Fisker, but I really do still like driving the car... when it works.
          Maddoxx
          • 2 Years Ago
          @briang19
          Thanks for the video we usually have an attention span of 14 seconds but you made a good interesting video to have a lot of people watch all of it. Now if you could review the Tesla S..
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      I see Brian is here, so no need to point out this video has been available for some time, and that he actually likes the car (when it works).
      briang19
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow! My video made it onto AutoBlog! Weee!!!
        • 2 Years Ago
        @briang19
        PLEASE review the Tesla model S when it comes out! I can't wait to get that kind of detail for its interface. From all the research I've done, the Model S should absolutely blow away the Karma in EVERY category! :)
        Spiffster
        • 2 Years Ago
        @briang19
        That's awesome... I have been trying to get them to cover my apps for a while now... I guess they dont like the self promoting types, so I just keep my mouth shut about it anymore :)
          Spiffster
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spiffster
          BTW nice cars... thats how I would roll if I had the money, an Aston, and a Fisker.
      StevenG
      • 2 Years Ago
      Good god, what a piece of junk. Sooo many bad UI decisions made in the development of this garbage. I'd be a lot more pissed off if I paid $100k and had to deal with that garbage every day. People love to trash the Volt, but guess what? The UI works, makes sense, and uses conventions. Building cars for 100 years helps you get the little things right, things that Fisker clearly doesn't understand. P.S. Having seen a few Karmas up close, the panel gaps are terrible, it doesn't leave you with an impression of quality.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Brian - that's a great review. You didn't miss anything. Wonder how long it will take them to offer you a job or buy you out to win you over. Glad I didn't spurge and pick this one up. Now what to do with that extra $100K - Really!
        David H Dennis
        • 2 Years Ago
        Consider a Tesla Model S? That's always seemed like a better bet than the Fisker. D
      Mike G
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like they rushed the usability and probably did not do much testing as they were building the car. That's understandable since they had a ton of engineering challenges to work out and this is version 1.0. I'm a usability engineer by day (mostly web pages but have also done software, inkjet printers, touchscreen kiosks, and video cameras). I saw a posting at Tesla for a UI designer and really wanted to pursue it but it's on the other side of the country and the wife has a good job and no interest in relocating. Too bad, as it would be really cool to work on the design of the UI for Model X or Bluestar.
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