Rackermobile: My first few days with the Fisker Karma
“The Company Car”
The 3rd generation of “The Company Car”, “Rackspace Rackermobile” is a coveted reward for those who have gone above and beyond. First, it was a 3-series BMW convertible, with manual transmission. That thing went through numerous transmissions, services, and was pretty much beat all to hell. Gen2 was a 6-series BMW vert, but we learned from the lack of Rackers with manual transmission skills, and went to an auto. However, that one saw better days as well. “Drive it like you stole it” comes to mind. I’m not quite sure how many Rackers have had this privilege, but there are over 6000 of us worldwide, and 4500 in San Antonio, TX, so I can’t imagine a very high ratio… Gen2 was auctioned off on eBay, and a number of Rackers joined in on the battle to own a piece of history. Luckily, a San Diego Racker won the auction, and flew out to pick up his prize. Keep it in the family, right?
Moving along, the search was on for a new machine to glorify as the company car. This time, Rackers were asked to vote on a number of fancy new tech. Fisker, Tesla, and a few others were on the list. Of course, the Fisker Karma won, and was delivered by the dealer owner himself. Man, the car looked amazing that day! It still looks dang good, overall, but there is a good deal of curb rash from th flat-faced rims being run along curbs, and the tell-tail signs of folks who don’t know you don’t nose-in a sports car (ALWAYS back in with a lowered car). Looking under the nose, you can see where it was run-a-ground on curbs, and even snagged on the rebar of a parking spot block, and torn. Surprisingly, the damage isn’t super noticeable unless you want the blood to flow to your head. The rim damage is a bit embarrassing, being a car enthusiast I feel the judging eyes of on-lookers. “It wasn’t me, I promise!” Oh, right… speaking of on-lookers…
No big deal
Normally, I would be the last person to want to be publicly awarded anything, let alone boast about it, but this one hits on one of my passions, and I’ll be damned if I don’t show this one off! Yes, I’ve joined the elite club of Rackermobile drivers, Rackermobile flag hangers, and Rackermobile T-shirt holders. Having it be a rolling piece of mechanical beauty only makes it that much sweeter. Typically, the honor is nominated by your departmental leadership, and you are voted on by your peers. In my case, I was shocked to hear the nomination came from a bit higher than that… Our Chairman, Graham Weston along with Director of Community Affairs and Rack Gives Back, Cara Nichols took it upon themselves to recognize my work with Extra-Life.org and RackerGamers.org. During the Rackspace Private Cloud Holiday Party, my VP John Igoe, and SVP “Godfather of OpenStack” Jim Curry, decided to embarrass me in front of 120+ of my RPC family, and present the award in front of everyone; even pointing out how Graham himself made the point to push for this one. A speech followed from me, on the event, and well it is all a blur now. (I’m not the only one recognized for the same work. Our Team Captain, Arthur Wilson had the car the week before me.)
Details on what we did with Extra-Life: http://www.rackspace.com/blog/rackergamers-playing-for-extra-life-be-heroes-for-kids/
This is one award, however unexpected and unnecessary, I will GLADLY accept, enjoy, and write to the world about!!! Graham and Cara, I love you both; thank you!
(more pictures at the end of the article)
<Updates in follow-up post:>
At first approach, it’s obvious the Fisker Karma is a looker with all her curves, those wide hips, those eyes, and that mouth! Yes, I’m still talking about a car… The lines on this car are like something out of a futuristic spaceship. Just look at the hood. Wide? Yea, she fills the lane. Those rear 285/35R22’s need a place to fit, and the factory wide body accepts them quite well. In the front, her tires are larger and wider than the rears of most of my other cars! With some 255/35R22’s holding down the nose, though fairly bald from use, the front end holds turns very nicely! At driveway speeds, you really notice the lack of tread with the stiff unforgiving sidewalls. The front tires don’t flex when turning, which leads to a noticeable sliding and grinding across the road when moving at very low speeds. (This is only due to the lack of tread on the one I’m driving. I’d imagine new tires from my trusted tire dealers would fix this…) Once you get going though, it’s smooth sailing, and they still hold the road like sticky slicks. (I am going to strongly suggest we replace them before the next, less skilled driver, puts her into a wall in the rain. Dry road? Fine! But the water channels are gone.) With the number of miles, and the aged looked of the front sidewalls, compared to the rear, I’d say the fronts are factory and rears have been replaced after numerous burnouts.
The seats are comfy, after you spend a good bit adjusting EVERYTHING around you.
Sitting in the futuristic cockpit, you see nothing but digital everything mixed with the soft luxury or smooth italian leather and teak wood. The dash is all digital LCD, without a single analog needle in sight. The central command center is also a large resistive touchscreen LCD with haptic feedback. Everything in the car, from radio, climate control, to diagnostics is controlled here.
The whole car is pretty much push-button operation and fairly intuitive. I say fairly, as the electronic parking brake is a bit off. The rocker switch is push to disengage, and pull to engage. Kind of backwards to your typical car, but I got it after the third try.
Speaking of push-button… push-to-start, ok. Waiiiiting… waiiiting… oh, right, this is electric. The car just boots up, and is ready to run. As soon as you put your foot on the throttle, you hear the slight whine of the electric motor. Coming to a stop reminds me of riding the DC Metro Subway, and that sound it makes when the electric motors spin down. Ahh, reminds me of home. That’s Stealth Mode (battery only), but what about Sport Mode (with generator)? We’ll discuss that later on.
Day 1: Nervous?
Not at all! I’ve driven cars with more torque, power, larger, and lower than this car; it’s simply a matter of re-calibrating your brain for all the variables. Sure, it’s not my car, it’s worth a lot of money, and oh did I mention not mine? While most would be in fear of damaging someone else’s belongings, I feel responsible for someone else’s toy. There is a difference. It’s not JUST someone else’s toy, it’s Graham Weston’s toy! It’s his car, he pays for all the maintenance, he owns it, and I respect the hell out of that man! I can’t think of many Chairman of the boards who would take their time to really respond to an email from someone down on the food chain like he does. The man is a true humanitarian, and someone I consider a good friend.
Know your limits, know the car’s limits, and just relax. Don’t go crazy.
Is that a traction control disabled LED I see? #angel
27,500 on the dial!
The first day trip home was a relaxing and empowering feeling, though I didn’t really put the car through its paces that night. It was wet out, I was tired, left work late, and wanted to get to know the car first. Think of it like going on a first date; you don’t go right in for the kiss. The first night trip home was a comfortable easy ride, getting used to where everything was, all the controls, and just feeling the way the car moved. Did I get any looks? Maybe a few.
I almost forgot what it was like to drive a lowered car. It’s been a good while. That symphonic melody of sticky tires peppering the bottom of the car with pebbles from the road. The oh so gentle ‘tink tink… tink’, as you drive along the road. It was enough for me to turn off the radio, and just listen to the road. Obviously, I’m not going to turn the radio off and listen to the engine in this ride… It was peace on wheels.
As soon as I got home, my wife and her parents took a quick ride with me, and posed for pictures with the car. Everyone enjoyed the cruise, and dreamed of one day owning one. “Go on e-bay; I hear they are pretty cheap right now, since Fisker went under” was my reply. I’m sure you can easily search for a number of stories on this issue, so I’ll refrain from adding a linkback for some random site here. (I’ll tell you this. you will be VERY shocked to see how a car went from costing $660,000 to selling on the market for ~$108,000 new. There’s a hint for your searching. Have fun.)
Good-night, Karma. Plugged her in, and off to bed.
Day 2: Let the friend making begin!
Woke up, got ready for work, and went out to unplug the car. The previous night, I parked it with about 32 miles left on the battery (50 mile capacity). By morning, it was at about 45 miles. Wow, slow charge. I guess the 120V 12A home circuit charging unit doesn’t cut it. I wonder what the CPS Charging stations use… 240V 30A? Oh well, Sport mode is more fun anyway. This mode turns the 2.0L turbo-charged generator, under the hood, on constant adding more voltage to the rear while trickle charging the battery. The battery does drain a bit though, but much slower in this mode, than when in the battery only Stealth mode. To be clear, this is not a hybrid where the engine is also attached to the drive-train. This engine is strictly for generating electricity. It also exhausts right behind the front tires. Kind of hot rod if you ask me.
With a full day of meetings and working, I did manage to schedule in a few ride-along’s for some fellow Rackers; as well as taking a few to lunch in the car. “Lunch in the Fisker” is on my calendar all week. Oh, that’s right; we only get to keep the car for a week.
Everyone seems to enjoy the ride, and a number of them took pictures, and tagged me in them on social media. Good times!
Later that night, my wife and I did some holiday shopping. While leaving our house, a cascadia evolution truck pulled up next to us at a T-intersection light. I guess he was checking the car out a bit too hard. We were in the center lane, which is a left, and he was in the right turn lane. Well, when the light turned green, he decided he was going to cut me off… Hrm. Good thing I have great reflexes, and the massive brakes on this thing are amazing!
At the shopping center, we parked way out from the stores; much like we normally do in our cars. While we were walking in, and on the way out, we saw cars circling back to take a look. She’s pretty popular so far. Can you blame them? She’s purty.
Day 3: I could get used to this
Yet again, the day started off without a full battery. I’m beginning to see how this car is more of a novelty, and less of a legitimate daily driver. Unless the use of a 220V home charger over a 120V home charger is a game changer… Anyway, I don’t drive far to work anyway, and there is a charging station there.
The frost from the other night caused a case of serious water spotting, and the Fisker was going to be in a photo shoot today. So, I took her to a touchless car wash to quickly rinse her off. I didn’t have time to do this at home. No leaks, nothing exploded, all was well. Just what you would expect from a car meant to be driven in weather and every day. (I still question that every day part though.)
Leaving the gas station, everyone was watching her exit. Ah, the feeling.
OK, let’s see what this Sport Mode is all about. Opening her up off the exit ramp, you are thrown back by the instant torque and feel the car continue to accelerate. It’s the weirdest feeling though, I’m expecting shifts, and they never happen. It just continues to increase in RPM. Ah, now that’s a sound I know… With the generator’s voltage regulator requesting more voltage to the wheels, it ramps up the speed of the generator to match. The unmistakable sound of a tiny turbo can be heard under the hood. You don’t even really feel like you are going fast in this thing; it’s smooth and road noise? What road noise? It’s not hard to get in trouble, if you aren’t paying attention.
(Entering the highway, the ability to kick the back out from under you is noticeable for sure. Maybe not past 50mph, but she has some torque, and I did a little dance when turning onto the ramp first.)
Torque? For days! It wasn’t QUITE as impressive as I expected, and certainly doesn’t compare to even that of a good ole Chevy V8, but it does keep what torque it has, at any speed. Passing gear? What passing gear? There is certainly a lack of the expected kick-down in that of an automatic transmission, when passing on the highway. When you hit the throttle to pass, she simply torques away. It’s an odd feeling, but I may be able to get use to it.
(Even without a transmission, the Fisker Karma does have a simulated hill descend mode, that will simulate the downshifting of a transmission when traversing hilly countryside. I gave this a quick test on a small hill, but haven’t really taken it to the hill country yet.)
Yet again, plenty of stares, looks, and honks.
Lunch with the Fisker was on again, and this time, there were people circled around the car in the parking lot, while we ate. Boy, she sure does get some attention.
I’ve NEVER seen so many polite people on the road in San Antonio, until driving this car. On the way home from work, I was trying to merge into 35N traffic. Turn signal on, being more patient than normal, cars were simply passing me on the left without any attempt to open a gap enough to move in. Then, this minivan slows along side me, and starts to pace me. First though, what the hell are you doing? When her window aligned with mine, she looked over and waved me ahead. “You couldn’t have flashed your lights to let me over sooner?” Then it dawned on me; she probably just wanted to look at the car and see who was driving first? Maybe, I don’t know, but it was weird. I smash on the throttle, threaded the needle, and hit the hazards in front of her. “Thanks, lady!” On to home.
Day 4: So it is
Yaaawwwwn. Time to get out of bed, and start this day off right! Coffee is made, breakfast has been served, my wife just got to work, and one of my dogs (Torq) just crawled into bed and put his face under my laptop… Time to get out of bed, and get ready for the day. Keep charging, Karma, I’ll be outside shortly.
(Click to enlarge)