Henrik Fisker is a jack of all trades. After a career as a designer at BMW (credits include the Z8) and Aston Martin (the DB9), the young entrepreneur landed his first flop with Fisker Coachbuild, which earned a dubious reputation for disimproving a small batch of BMW 6-series and Mercedes SL models. Not much later, things got a lot worse when the Karma, a pretty yet overhyped and underdeveloped full-size plug-in-hybrid sedan, hit the wall. As a result, Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Nearly three years later, the reborn Fisker Inc. rose from the ashes. Fresh money from various investors funded this restart, which after some to-ing and fro-ing focused on the all-electric Ocean crossover first shown at the 2021 L.A. Auto Show. Only 20 months later, deliveries just started with the limited-edition One priced at $71,437.
Fisker is a truly gifted car designer, and the Ocean once again shows his talent. Well proportioned and intelligently engineered, the new neo-SUV marries European functionality and Californian lifestyle in a clean, compact wrapper. When the plan to use Volkswagen’s MEB platform faltered, the Austrian design-build firm Magna Steyr (which had done the Jaguar I-Pace) was put in charge of R&D and production. Despite a slow ramp-up, the company still expects to complete 50,000 units this year and 70,000 in 2024. “With the Ocean, we are offering stuff nobody else has,” claims the ever-optimistic Danish-born CEO. He identifies unique selling propositions as “the longest range in its segment, a rotating in-dash screen that can be fixed in the vertical or horizontal position, a power liftgate with a roll-down window, 50 kilos [110 pounds] of recycled materials, bidirectional charging, and the California mode that opens all the windows and the sunroof at the touch of a single button.”
Driving the Fisker Ocean
Like most modern EVs, the Ocean targets young digital buyers who prefer touching, zooming, and swiping to flicking a switch or turning a key. There isn’t even a start button—simply pull the column-mounted lever into drive or reverse, and off you go. But before setting sail, don’t forget to adjust the steering wheel via two controllers built into the spokes, dial in the preferred regenerative braking action (low, medium, or high), and choose from three drive modes labeled Earth, Fun, and Hyper. Hyper unlocks a boost feature, which is limited to 500 full-throttle acceleration stints. From a standing start, the 564-hp top-of-the-line version can allegedly beam itself to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, even with energy-saving special-compound 22-inch Bridgestone Potenza tires that are not exactly world champions in terms of grip.
We drove the all-wheel-drive Ocean One equipped with a 106.0-kWh battery, which has a nickel-manganese-cobalt chemistry and promises an EPA range of 360 miles with the 20-inch wheels. If two days of spirited motoring on Austrian two-lane roads are anything to go by, this claim is reasonably realistic. The 800-volt system offered by Hyundai and Kia would have been nice to have, but the Fisker must do with 400 volts and a maximum intake rate of 200 kilowatts, which stretches the 10 to 80 percent recharge time to a leisurely 34.5 minutes. The battery pack is protected by a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Together the two e-motors produce 564 horsepower and 543 pound-feet of twist action, with the torque split evenly between the axles. Variable torque vectoring, a.k.a. Smart Traction, is still in development. (We’re told Magna needs a little more time on Arctic ice to fine-tune the stability-control and traction-control electronics and adapt them to their mechanical sparring partners.) Also not yet available is the advanced driver-assist system update that uses radar and ultrasound sensors in combination with digital cameras for improved object recognition and quicker responses.
True to its name, the Ocean can be anything from a smooth swell to a veritable whitecapped storm. We did not spend much time in Earth mode, which promises to take you to the moon and back on a single charge but has a tranquilizer effect on the drivetrain and is clearly more interested in regenerating energy than spending it. Fun mode is exactly that because it speeds up the throttle response, lets the car’s considerable mass and momentum do their thing on a longer leash, and dishes up the full-course menu of power and torque. On wet pavement, Hyper is almost too much of a good thing. The accelerator reacts to driver inputs like a hungry Doberman greeting the mail carrier, the steering bites with instant vigor, and the electronic accident-prevention squad unleashes stability control rather late and in an uncouth manner. Depending on the type of surface and the urge of the torque feed, the transition from energy-saving front-wheel drive to traction-focused all-wheel drive varies from imperceptible to brutal.
Fisker Ocean Interior
The Ocean welcomes passengers with first-class seats, plenty of legroom and headroom, and good all-around visibility. Trimmed in a tasteful mix of synthetic materials, the cockpit is plain but not austere. The small digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel is flanked by a large upright monitor. There is no head-up display or glovebox, but there is a so-called taco tray and a drawer under the driver’s seat. The main in-cabin novelty is the rotating center screen that changes its format from portrait to landscape. The content can be mixed and matched to the user’s liking, but you typically look at a large navigation map topped by a pictogram of the car in traffic. Right below it sits a floating island of buttons offering direct access to temperature control, fan speed, audio volume, and window defrosting.
Well equipped, roomy, practical, quiet, and stylish, the Fisker is an entertaining multipurpose tool. It rides well if not with quite the same depth and malleability as a Volkswagen ID.4; it ticks all the essential performance boxes, including for top speed (128 mph); and the consumption-versus-range equation also looks promising, at least on paper. The steering is, however, a little light and not quite as quick as expected, and the wide turning circle needs to tighten its belt one notch. The brakes have no trouble reeling in more than two tons of EV again and again, and they respond with welcome eagerness, but a more progressive deceleration would be welcome. Smart Traction and the dynamic torque vectoring that comes with it should improve the somewhat edgy handling and boost confidence at the limit. We’d also like to see adaptive dampers to squash the exaggerated body motions over bumpy pavement.
Fisker Ocean Pricing
Pricing starts at $39,937 for the 275-hp Ocean Sport, which isn’t the fanciest item in the valet corral but has everything one needs except perhaps a second motor, more oomph, and all-wheel drive. The $52,437 Ultra offers exactly that along with the big battery, a nicer sound system, and the Open Sky sunroof. If you want all the goodies, the Extreme is the model to go for. At just over $70K before options, this version is priced uncomfortably close to more seasoned premium EVs, such as the $75,595 Audi Q8 e-tron, the $76,050 Mercedes EQE SUV, the $67,550 Genesis Electrified GV70, and the Tesla Model Y Performance, which is a steal at $58,630. In terms of perceived quality, the Fisker looks and feels more like the Tesla than the legacy-brand competitors, but as a cool anti-establishment family cruiser with a strong lifestyle twist, the Ocean is bound to make waves.
2023 Fisker Ocean One
Vehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Front Motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC
Rear Motor: permanent-magnet synchronous AC
Combined Power: 564 hp
Combined Torque: 543 lb-ft
Battery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 106.0 kWh
Onboard Charger: 11.0 kW
Peak DC Fast-Charge Rate: 200 kW
Transmissions, F/R: direct-drive
Wheelbase: 115.0 in
Length: 188.0 in
Width: 83.5 in
Height: 64.1 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 55/50 ft3
Cargo Volume, behind F/R: 32/17 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 5400 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 3.7 sec
100 mph: 9.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 12.1 sec
Top Speed: 128 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 90–100/95–105/85–95 MPGe
Range: 320–360 mi
Although I was born the only son of an ornithologist and a postal clerk, it was clear from the beginning that birdwatching and stamp collecting were not my thing. Had I known that God wanted me to grow to 6’8″, I also would have ruled out anything to do with cars, which are to blame for a couple of slipped discs, a torn ligament, and that stupid stooped posture behind the wheel. While working as a keeper in the Aberdeen Zoo, smuggling cheap cigarettes from Yugoslavia to Germany, and an embarrassing interlude with an amateur drama group also failed to yield fulfillment, driving and writing about cars became a much better option. And it still is now, many years later, as I approach my 70th birthday. I love every aspect of my job except long-haul travel on lousy airlines, and I hope it shows.