Henrik Fisker doesn’t hold back on superlatives: He touts his new SUV, named Ocean and priced from around 40K to over 60K dollars (and euros), as the “most sustainable” SUV ever; his company Fisker Inc. “puts people and planet first,” it is “revolutionising the automotive industry by designing and developing individual mobility in alignment with nature.”
This latest effort marks the designer’s third attempt as an entrepreneur, following Fisker Coachbuild as a luxury car carossier, and Fisker Automotive, which developed and launched the long-defunct hybrid, sedan Karma. Now Fisker has teamed up with Magna Steyr, a solid partner.
the Ocean rolls off the assembly line in Graz.
But the company’s headquarters are located in California, and the allure of this glamorous locale is utilized to enhance the brand image: the Ocean boasts a “California” mode, allowing all glass surfaces, including the rear window and two square portholes in the rear pillar, to slide open at the press of a button. Thus, the proverbial surfboard can protrude from the rear window decoratively, while the openings allow a whiff of the zesty Pacific air to infiltrate the interior.
It’s a charming concept, just like the two other – likely quite costly – gimmicks which the Ocean serves up: a central screen that rotates from vertical to horizontal in “Hollywood mode”, allowing you to indulge in cinematic entertainment while stationary, and retractable tables in the centre console, reminiscent of a Maybach. Both are useful when you are waiting for a charging station, an all-too-frequent scenario for electric cars.
Henrik Fisker, who once refined Ian Callum’s designs at Aston Martin, is hailed as a star designer; expectations for the Ocean were high. Yet its appearance is rather unremarkable: It’s compact and bulky, somewhat faceless, with ultra-thin taillights. Solar panels sit atop the roof in the top-tier version we tested. They’re intended to feed up to 3200 kilometres of range per year into the batteries, under scorching sun; in most climates, it will be a fraction of that.
Before hitting the road, we cast our gaze around the interior and can’t help but notice the sorry quality: the rearview mirror wobbles, the materials are positively subpar. Only the strategically placed Alcantara patches please the eye, while the widespread hard plastic insults it. There’s more: The turn signals stumble in an uneven manner, the horn doesn’t work at all in our test car. We are getting “Fisker-Price” vibes.
Let’s hit the accelerator: 550 horsepower, fed to all four wheels, deliver brutal acceleration, 0-100 kph comes in under four seconds. Of course it’s no surprise that yet another EVs excels at dragster races, but the suspension leaves much to be desired: there is significant body roll and the brakes are completely numb. This was a common issue with many first-generation electric cars, but most established manufacturers have long made significant strides. And thus, despite its good acceleration, the Ocean isn’t a particularly sporty nor a notably comfortable vehicle.
It is, in fact, a thoroughly average electric SUV. And this is not much of a surprise: While Fisker emphasises the company’s unique development prowess, the Ocean’s specifications overlap notably with the Alpha-T by the Chinese manufacturer Arcfox.
Fisker has been collecting deposits for the Ocean for years, and deliveries are finally commencing. But instead of applying laser focus on cranking out and refining this delayed yet still unfinished product, he keeps announcing further models, notably the entry-level Pear, the sports car Ronin, and a pickup truck named Alaska.
Unsurprisingly, Fisker claims they will possess superior qualities, leaving established competitors in the dust – much like the Ocean. Or the Karma. Indeed, when the Karma debuted in January 2012, Fisker was featured on the cover of the since-expired magazine “Auto Week” with the caption: “Will this man save the U.S. car industry?”
Fisker’s promises and bombast might remind you of Elon Musk, with whom he had legal disputes; in fact, the Tesla brand guru is often seen as his nemesis. But throughout his career, Musk has consistently shown disruptive qualities, pursued genuinely new approaches, and propelled the entire industry forward. Unfortunately, our test drive with the Ocean confirms that these qualities are largely absent not only in Henrik Fisker but also in his products.