I’m in the market for a new car, and I’m struggling with what to buy. Currently, I have a 2003 Infiniti FX45, which I love, but it is starting to feel its age. I tried the new FX50, but it seems that, to get ahead of the technology curve, I should get a hybrid or electric car, and Infiniti doesn’t make one of those. In addition, the FX50 looks like they grafted a new nose and tail to my car, and the whole thing doesn’t look very attractive to me. It reminds me of bad plastic surgery.
Given the soon to be released US government program offering $4,500 for any car that gets under 18 miles per gallon, I figure some of you may be in the same spot I am, and are currently thinking of something new and different. Unlike me, I’ll bet most of you are thinking of something affordable as well. I’m thinking of high tech, still want performance, and wondering about an all-electric or hybrid vehicle that still kicks a little butt.
Most of us that follow high-tech performance cars have heard of the Tesla Roadster, a $120,000 electric sports car with a Lotus design that celebrities and some of the Google founders now drive. While it’s an attractive vehicle, given the price, amount of money you’d likely save on gas, and the limitations of a two-seat sports car, you’d either have to be really wealthy, have a very understanding bank, or a very rich and understanding spouse to make this work.
Still, the Tesla gives a four-second 0-60 time, range of about 220 miles, and a ton of exclusivity. Your neighbor probably wouldn’t have one of these. And with 100 percent of the available torque available from launch, there clearly would be a lot of high performance car drivers that would only see your taillights.
Tesla also has a four-door electric sedan coming to market, called the Tesla S. It has similar range, a 5.9-second 0-60 time, and that wonderful off-the-line torque. It also has a much more affordable price, at around $50,000. The problem is that it looks like a nice, high-end Japanese car, like a Lexus, and I doubt if anyone would even know I had something exotic. Pulling up to a stop light with the sound of an electric golf cart doesn’t excite me much, even though I know the car is green. And if I need to drive farther than 220 miles, I’ll need to find someplace to park for a few hours with a plug I can charge the car with. God save me if I were in a rush one night and forgot to plug the car in.
So while the Tesla S is green, until there are fast recharging stations I can depend on, I’m not certain that this is the car for me. And, despite everything I’ve said, if I have a hot performance car, I want it to look (and kind of sound) like a hot performance car.
The Fisker Karma
Henrik Fisker is the guy who designed the Tesla sedan, and then went off to create his own company located in Irvine California (close to where I grew up) and build the car he wanted to build. The Karma is a gas-electric hybrid, which means that while it only has a 50-mile range on electricity – good enough to get you to the store and back – it has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as well, which means you can take it on a long trip.
It looks like an exotic, both inside and out. To my eye, it’s kind of a cross between a Ferrari and a Jaguar, and not a bad cross at that. It has four doors, so it is more practical than a two-seat sports car, and it’s still fast, with a 0-60 time of around six seconds.
As you would expect, it has all the bells and whistles of a high-tech car, including a solar roof that will run an in-car cooler and keep the battery topped off. But the coolest part is speakers where the exhaust would typically be. Out of those speakers can come a number of different engine sounds, including that of a jet engine. To me, pulling up to a stop sign sounding like you have a jet under the hood means you never have to test that 0-60 time. The look of the car, coupled with the sound, should intimidate most drivers.
The only problem is this puppy is $80,000, which also means I need my wife to be more understanding than she currently is. Another catch: the car is sold out for 2009. But then, my FX is still running strong, and I think I can wait and dream about that first stoplight and the sounds of a fighter jet coming out of the back of my new car. And dreaming, well that is free, and doesn’t require anyone’s permission.
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