Although newly revealed at the ongoing Frankfurt Motor Show and scheduled for production next year, Henrik Fisker said his company had the Surf in its back pocket since the extended-range Karma and convertible version were designed in 2009.
Based on the same shared powertrain, and dimensionally nearly identical from the front of the car to the D-pillar, the Surf is a five-door wagon, or “shooting brake” variant offering more utility while retaining 981 pound-feet of torque on tap.
“[The Surf] is really a kind of merger of a sports car with a station wagon,” said Fisker to the media just before Frankfurt. “The inspirations for me – in growing up – were cars like the Jensen Interceptor and the Lamborghini Espada. They were super-cool sports cars that you could actually imagine living with and fitting a little bit of luggage and some people into.”
Fisker has designed vehicles for BMW and Aston Martin, and his new high-line wagon is packed with earth-friendly accoutrements one would expect from a green car vying to earn a rightful place among such brands.
Beneath the standard glass roof, or optional (lighter-than-the-glass) solar roof is seating made with eco-friendly, low-emissions tanning process Scottish leather. Alternatively, synthetic materials will be available via EcoStandard or EcoChic trim packages for those who prefer to avoid animal byproducts.
Further U.S. green car cred is offered by way of American-sourced wood for trim that was salvaged both from California’s not-long-ago fires, and from previously submerged logs raised from the Great Lakes.
Seat cushions, metal trim, carpet and undersides are also recycled, Fisker said.
As for that 981 pound-feet of torque – and 403 maximum horsepower – The Karma’s powertrain relies on a 260 horsepower, 2.0-liter GM Ecotec turbo engine plus two electric motors powered by a 20 kWh li-ion battery.
Fisker says the Surf’s power is enough to move it at a Karma-equaling pace of 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds in “sport” mode which uses gasoline and electric power combined. In the default all-electric “stealth” mode, 60 mph from zero is said to arrive in 7.9 seconds.
One would think having more torque than the Bugatti Veyron would make it capable of quicker acceleration – and ordinarily they would be correct. But the vehicle is handicapped by making due with one gear ratio, and weighing something like two-and a half tons.
Motor Trend reported its weight increases just 77 pounds over the Karma, and without specifying, Fisker’s head of PR Roger Ormisher told us today “We are still awaiting final certified figures by under 5,300 pounds.”
Ormisher confirmed also the company is developing a multi-speed transmission on models to come.
Is this necessary? Some would say not, but as EV transmission makers are saying to persuade those not yet convinced, it could improve efficiency and speed potential as well.
But this is a small-scale company, working with great gobs of talent, decent funding, but not infinitely deep-pocketed, and first things first have been to get good quality products to market without excessive delay.
In keeping with this dictate, Fisker said the aluminum and composite-bodied Surf has just 233 unique parts differentiating it from its fraternal triplet sibling Karma. And though they were conceived and brought to life in the same flurry of activity as the yet-to-be-launched convertible Karma version, in the wisdom of their creator they were separated at birth, and destined for staged introductions into the awaiting automotive world.
“We have a whole different design process when compared to other car companies,” said VP of global design Alex Pratt. “We designed our three vehicles simultaneously from the beginning of the project – we believe we save a lot of money and time in doing that. So the Surf was designed a while ago. We designed the four-door with [the thought] in mind that we were going to do the Surf, and [the Karma] was also designed to do a convertible.
Therefore, all this was planned all along; nothing about this was an afterthought. And, therefore, it wasn’t that difficult to implement it, and it was, in fact, a very cost-efficient vehicle to put on the market. That’s why we can make a very good business case with this vehicle, even if we do a very low volume of only two and a half thousand or 3000 a year.”
The Surf – named after the ocean waves in the company’s new-found Southern California home – is intended to be even more practical than a three-door Ferrari FF wagon.
Tugging on its leather shoulder latches on the back seats lowers them to allow 28.9 cubic feet of cargo space. This said, the Surf won’t quite be at home backing up to Home Depot for a load of 2X4s, as the trunk is segmented and prevents those kind of work-a-day considerations.
Fisker is however designing a suitably attractive roof rack to carry longer items as needed, although the thinking is these would be essentials like surf boards, snow boards or skis.
Another concern – even though the 124.4-inch (or so) wheelbase vehicle is as big as a family wagon – is back-seat passengers over-six-feet-tall will find the accommodations limited.
Reportedly Fisker intentionally kept some dimensions tight, so those in the rear seats will be better off if they have tiny feet, as the front bucket seats don’t allow much room for larger feet to slide under.
But Fisker told the press he knew the Surf – expected to sell for a bit more than the high-five-figure Karma – was a niche vehicle, and not for everyone.
“We aim to create new, innovative vehicles – ones that no one has ever done. You know, the Surf is not going to be to everybody’s liking, but I think as a smaller new car manufacturer, we have to be able to take some risk and go out and create some different vehicles that are not necessarily mainstream and for everybody. A lot of people will probably say it is maybe ‘too extreme for me,’ but a lot of people will be like, ‘You know, this is exactly what I want.’”
Plans are for Fisker’s more than 50 global distributors to begin receiving Surfs in mid-2012. Sales are estimated to be split 40/20/20 percent between Europe, America and China, with the remaining 20 percent going to the rest of the company’s growing sphere of influence.