2023 Fisker Ocean Prototype Review: A Solid EV That’s the Good Kind of Weird
The 350-mile Fisker Ocean EV is a little odd, but in a really endearing way.
The Fisker Ocean I drove wasn't done. Henrik Fisker himself—the man's name is on the car—described it as being 85% of the way to production. Despite this, I could tell this car was a special EV. It was fast, sure, but that wasn't really the point. It had plenty of range, fine, but that should be expected out of almost any electric vehicle these days. What the Ocean gets right is what I will call gimmicks that work. Fun features. Features that other cars don't have and you couldn't say why they don't. It's an EV that takes advantage of a page turned in automotive history and does it despite its very conventional layout.
Fisker's first fully electric vehicle is a smallish SUV with two rows of seats. In other words, it's the hottest size and shape in the automotive marketplace right now. Its closest competition when it comes out will be the Tesla Model Y, Cadillac Lyriq, Volkswagen ID.4, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
2023 Fisker Ocean One Prototype Review Specs
- Base price (Ocean One as tested): $37,499 ($68,999)
- Powertrain: nickel manganese cobalt battery | dual electric motors | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 550
- 0-60 mph: 3.6 seconds
- Seating capacity: 5
- Estimated EPA range: 350 miles
- Quick take: Marching very much to the beat of its own drum, the Ocean has all the ingredients to be a success for Fisker—and contract manufacturer Magna.
- Score: 8.5/10
In many respects, it has those cars beat already on paper. Offering the best range in its class at 350 miles in its top trim, it also has the most power at 550 horses from a dual-motor all-wheel-drive system. Pricing will remain stable for the first 40,000 cars and tops out at $68,999. A base, 250-mile range car with front-wheel drive and 275 horsepower costs $37,499.
The car I drove was a launch-spec, top trim "Ocean One" machine. It didn't act like a real hunkered-down performance EV despite offering such lofty performance. That's not a bad thing at all. Its ride is soft but still offers good body control. It doesn't feel heavy. Likewise, torque isn't a full hit right at the beginning. It ramps up smoothly feeling sort of like a turbocharger coming into boost. It's not jarring in the slightest despite sprinting to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.
The real magic of the Fisker Ocean, however, is not in its performance. It's in all of the strangeness the vehicle offers, which is mostly good strangeness. The car has no glovebox, for instance, replacing the conventional dash-mounted storage with compartments below the seats for the passenger as well as the driver. Every window beside the windshield also retracts fully, including the tailgate and rear quarter glass. Combine this with an infotainment display that transitions from portrait to landscape with help from an electric motor, a center console that is completely free-floating to give the rear passengers more legroom, and an airplane-style meal tray that extends from the center console and, well, this thing is just weird.
But it's weird in a good way. It's tackling the perception of crossovers as boring appliances head-on and not through the instant torque of an electric drivetrain, which exists no matter what EV you drive and is almost cliche at this point. This is an intentional effort on Fisker's part. The company's aforementioned chief executive says these sorts of features will be a focus of the brand's future products as well.
The exterior isn't so outrageously quirky. Fisker, a designer himself, said getting something really unique and eye-catching was difficult—the family crossover shape offers much less aesthetic freedom as compared to a stylish coupe or a low-slung sedan. That being said, the Ocean has a wide stance and a few small design features that complete the picture. Pleasant treatments around the wheel arches and pillar-mounted blinkers are a few examples.
As a side note, the Ocean also has a fixed hood which can only be opened by service technicians; no frunk. This is getting more and more common on EVs. It raises the question of how window washer fluid is added. Elegantly, it's just a small port located where the wipers rest on the Ocean and not a strange door on the side of the car like Mercedes-Benz's EVs have.
Lack of frunk aside, it's hard not to touch something that isn't wrapped in stuff made from recycled water bottles, at least on the inside. Beyond what's visible, the car's focus on sustainability is still impressive. The Ocean's charging station finder, for instance, will allegedly be capable of directing drivers to locations that offer strictly green electricity. The automaker has also released a full report on the carbon emissions needed to produce the vehicle. It takes this sort of thing seriously, it seems. Even exterior plastic parts eschew coatings and paints in order to make them easier to recycle, opting for textured finishes instead.
Beyond the nuances of carbon neutrality, the Ocean was a fun car to throw around in the limited time I drove it at Magna Steyr's test track in Austria. Magna is a contract manufacturer, building the likes of the Mercedes G-Wagen, BMW Z4 and 5 Series, as well as the Toyota Supra. Around the company's small testing facility, the car's soft-sprung nature surprisingly didn't give way to any sensation of the heavy batteries it was carrying around. The steering was very nicely sprung and communicative as well, especially for an electric vehicle. Overall, it was surprisingly capable, extremely neutral, and rode very nicely. I can't imagine any pothole or other impact being a harsh one in the Ocean.
The fact that Magna is building Fisker's first mass-market EV seems to be a very good match. The Austrian contract manufacturer is likely happy to be building an electric vehicle at a time when many automakers are moving EV production in-house. Likewise, the business has the know-how and is under financial pressure to get production running smoothly in short order. The result will, in all likelihood, be a smooth launch for the Ocean if it lacks some features initially. Even the highest-trim cars, for instance, won't have cruise control when they roll out the door. The feature will allegedly be added over the air soon after launch.
There are other foibles too. Some interior components were a tad misaligned and a trunk release on a car I drove seemed to be operated with a lanyard. My test car also suddenly lost power while I was driving it on Magna's track, although it recovered after a hard ignition cycle. The cars we interacted with were all prototypes at best, though. All of these things will likely be worked out for production. After all, it's not only Fisker's reputation on the line but Magna's as well.
On that note, the folks at Fisker weren't afraid to poke fun at other American EV companies that struggle with quality. You can guess who they were referring to. The company seems confident that final production cars will be trouble-free and claim to be taking their time with features they can add in a robust state over the air. Build quality is being taken very seriously.
Is the Fisker Ocean revolutionary? No. If the brand plays its cards right, it will likely be quite successful, though. The price is right for what it is and it offers features that set it apart from other automakers, legacy or not. There's tremendous energy behind the Ocean backed up with real engineering acumen. When it finally hits the road in earnest, I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few road bumps, but the car Fisker has on its hands is undeniably practical, unique, and capable. For millions of interested EV buyers, that's more than enough.
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