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Auto buffs of the world: Don’t fear the green-eyed monster

Posted Jan 15 2009 10:37pm
2010 Fisker Karma

2010 Fisker Karma

I’m an auto journalist with a penchant for performance. I’m also an environmentalist. And it gives me great pleasure to announce with fervor that yes, these two passions CAN coexist. Not possible you say? Fear not, for one need look no further than the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan for a glimpse of green performance. And with the record fuel prices of 2008 still fresh in the minds of the motoring public, ultra-efficiency is the trend-setting theme for this year’s show.

First on the list is the Fisker Karma, and with 402 horsepower on hand this plug-in hybrid sport sedan is a stereotype killer. Fisker claims 0-60 times in the high 5 second range with a limited top speed of 125 miles per hour. The rear wheels are driven by two electric motors, while a traditional gas engine is on-board to recharge the batteries when power becomes an issue, which Fisker estimates will happen at around the 50 mile marker. Once the gas engine kicks in, the Karma has a range approaching 300 miles. Combine this technology with crisp handing through a modern, independent suspension, luxurious accomodations and styling from the same minds that crafted Aston Martins and you have the making for a truly exquisite super car experience. And that experience starts this fall; The 2010 Fisker Karma is production-ready, with 1000 orders already on the books and deliveries slated for later this year. Or, you can jump into the waiting line for Fisker’s other eco-performer at the show, the Karma S concept convertible. No official word on production for that car as of yet, but if the sedan does well expect to see the convertible following close behind.

Another electric hotrod garnering attention at the show is the Dodge Circuit EV concept, partly because it’s painted day-glo orange, but also because it’s a pure-electric two-seater that can grab 60 miles per hour in under 5 seconds. Keen eyed enthusiasts will spot a remarkable simalirty to the Lotus Europa in this Dodge concept vehicle, and with good reason. Seems Chrysler took notes from California-based Tesla Motors, who built their own two-seat electric sports car a couple years ago based on another Lotus, this time the nimble Elise. The Circuit concept is powered by a 268-horsepower electric motor, and like the Tesla Roadster has a range in the neighborhood of 150-200 miles. Unlike the Tesla Roadster, this one doesn’t seem to eat transmissions (yet), and though it’s currently a concept, Chrysler says it could see production in 2013.

Though not ranked in the same performance realm of the vehicles described above, it would be an injustice to not mention the all-new Toyota Prius in a blog about green cars at the auto show. The refreshed sci-fi styling is still love-it-or-hate-it, though it’s clear Toyota is at least taking a stab at injecting a bit more ‘tude into the Prius. The car also sports a larger gas engine, and the resulting power bump lops a full second off the 0-60 time, taking it from really slow to just slow but hey, it’s a step in the right direction. The Prius is still a technological powerhouse however, with enough gadgets to satisfy James Bond and that alone makes it a fun car to drive. Critics can say what they want, but until you silently roll up behind someone walking through a parking lot, horn at the ready, display screen spitting out gobs of information about power and synergy and what you had for dinner last night, you’ll never know the true joys of the Prius experience.

Green cars… they’re not just for saving the planet any more.

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