As a freelance EV reporter, I’m not always first in line to test new cars, even the electric ones. So I was delighted when I learned I would get a 2023 Fisker Ocean to test. Sure, by then it was May 2024, but I’d seen a few on the roads—and the car clearly had buzz, of many kinds. 

I took delivery of the car on June 7 and headed for the hills. I planned to rack up the miles, including some longer trips that would test its real-world range and fast-charging performance.

Fisker Ocean

Then, on June 17, Fisker filed for bankruptcy protection. The company said it’s in “advanced discussions with financial stakeholders regarding debtor-in-possession financing and the sale of its assets.” Translated, that means the company will get parted out for whatever cash its assets—such as they are—may fetch to pay its creditors.

(Full Disclosure: Fisker loaned us the Ocean to test for this review.)

2023 Fisker Ocean Extreme

Base Price $61,499 (Not including fees)
Drive Type Dual-Motor AWD
EV Range 360 miles (EPA Estimated)
Output 564 HP; 543 LB-FT
Battery 106 kWh Lithium-Ion
Transmission One-Speed Electric Drive
Weight 5,400 LBS (Estimated)

Was The Fisker Ocean Ever A Contender?

As we face the death of Fisker, it seems worth asking: Was its sole product ever really worth a damn? Did it have the potential to be a contender? Was this a fundamentally decent car plagued by bad decisions/management/quality? Or was it fundamentally flawed? Might Fisker have succeeded if they sold the cars with the latest software update and promised features from the start?

Gallery: 2023 Fisker Ocean

It’s important to get one thing out of the way up front: Fisker would have failed if it were a gasoline car too. “The automaker had unique problems from the get-go,” wrote InsideEVs Editor-in-Chief Patrick George, “from launching a product that many said was fundamentally incomplete to lacking a proper infrastructure for sales, parts and repairs.” Bloomberg was even more brutal: “Fisker Failed Because It Botched Virtually Every Task It Took On." 

Business-side issues were one thing, but the car itself was another. With a handsome shape penned by car design legend Henrik Fisker—the company’s namesake and CEO—up to 360 miles of range, and cool features like the rotating screen and “California Mode” windows-down switch, the Ocean once seemed promising. It was even meant to be the “world’s most sustainable vehicle,” full of recycled materials and offering a solar panel roof. Yet the Ocean too was dogged with issues from the very start.

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

Fisker Ocean

In particular, the car’s Version 1.0 software was the subject of widespread condemnation. It was sometimes painfully slow, locked up frequently, and glitched regularly. In February, Auto Focus reviewer Marques Brownlee called it “the worst car I’ve ever reviewed” as well as “the buggiest car I’ve ever tried.” That utterly scathing review got widespread attention and compounded Fisker’s problems at a time when the company was already on the ropes.

So how does the Ocean hold up right now, with software updates that Brownlee’s tester didn’t have and more eyes on it than ever? 

Upgraded, But Still Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree

My test car didn't come with a spec sheet and Fisker didn't provide one to us (or Consumer Reports, which had it before we did) but it's a 2023 model year Ocean Extreme.

Until recently—and this is all still listed on Fisker's website—an Ocean Extreme retailed for $61,499 when new, before destination or other fees. A base Fisker Ocean Sport started at $38,999, also before destination or other fees. But in recent months as part of its troubles, Fisker dramatically slashed the prices of its cars to where the Ocean Sport started at just $24,999. As of this writing, we've seen new Oceans listed online anywhere from about $32,000 to $72,000.

Our test car has software version 2.1, the latest. That didn’t prevent the dash from lighting up like a Christmas tree, once, while on the road. My better half, who is somehow along whenever a test EV malfunctions (or an old British car fails to proceed), rolled his eyes, sighed, and dug out his phone to watch a movie.

Fisker Ocean Warning Lights

Fisker Ocean Warning Lights

The solution turned out to be a Deep Sleep reset, after which the Ocean rebooted from scratch. Newer software includes a crucial setting in the Energy menu that lets you change the standby time before the car goes to sleep. There are three options: 24 hours, 10 minutes, and 30 seconds. I changed the setting to 30 seconds, waited a few minutes for the charge-port light to go out—signaling the car was indeed asleep—and then unlocked the doors and let it reboot. After I got going, it still took several minutes to clear the last of the warning lights.

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

Fisker Ocean 

So far, that’s only happened once. The center display also froze entirely once. And on one trip, the navigation stopped displaying its last time digit: “5:2 ” rather than “5:20.” Throughout our three weeks, the car spat warning lights and messages onto the display at random: “Brake system malfunction, service required,” or “ADAS fault—features limited or unavailable, drive carefully,” or “Left daytime running lamp malfunction,” and others. They were accompanied by lit symbols showing which systems weren’t working. But then they’d go away. Eventually, I learned to ignore the warnings. 

The whole affair took this author right back to January 2012, on a memorable test drive in the delayed but eagerly awaited Fisker Karma range-extended electric luxury sedan. 

Deja Vu, Fisker-Style

Very low, very sleek, riding on then-unusual 22-inch wheels, it’s the sole car I’ve driven that made a pair of jaded NYC construction workers swivel a full 180 degrees to watch it travel down a side street. But then things went sideways, as I wrote in my brief drive review for Green Car Reports

After taking the photos you see here at Grant's Tomb, we pulled out into traffic, only to notice the entire instrument cluster was dark. 

The display in the center stack was still working, but none of the digitally rendered gauges ahead of the driver were visible.  Pulling over and turning the car off and on didn't solve the problem. It ultimately required turning the car off for several minutes, so it could "go to sleep" and shut itself completely down, before a restart lit up everything as per usual. 

"We rely on our early customers to identify issues like this for us," said [Fisker’s PR person], cheerfully.

That first corporate iteration of Fisker Automotive—started by the same guy, but a totally separate company from the Fisker Inc. that made the Ocean EV—also failed. Its fate may have been sealed when a Karma tested in March 2012 by Consumer Reports locked up during a test on their track. It suffered from what proved to be a batch of defective cells manufactured by A123, Fisker’s battery partner, that bricked it—along with numerous customers’ cars. 

2010 Fisker Karma

A 2010 Fisker Karma. 

Also, it had this little problem with catching fire, which is an outcome you generally do not want.

The assets of not only A123, but also Fisker, were sold to Chinese auto-parts supplier Wanxiang. The successor company, Karma Automotive, is still around today, but we haven't heard much from them lately.

So Is The Fisker Ocean A Good Car?

I raise the Karma anecdote to point out that Henrik Fisker has now started two auto companies that went into bankruptcy over quality issues. Not a great track record. The shape of the Karma sedan was like nothing else anyone had seen on the roads—striking enough that it was worth further production as the Karma Revero.

Two unicorns in Woodstock NY - 20240614_124106

Two unicorns in Woodstock, NY.

The Ocean doesn’t have that advantage. It’s a decent-looking SUV, but the design constraints on crossover utilities are far more stringent than a no-holds-barred sedan only 4 feet, 4 inches high. It’s giving Range Rover Evoque vibes, and the slim, horizontal lights front and rear are very on-trend. The white bars in the door handles turn out to light up at night, eye-catching if a bit gaudy.

Inside, the cabin is spacious, with four and even five 6-foot adults capable of traveling in relative comfort. The materials are pleasant, with a few quirks like an asymmetric stitching pattern in the suede-feel upholstery. The driver faces a short, wide digital instrument panel (channeling the Mach-E), and the huge 17.1-inch center touchscreen can be rotated from portrait to landscape mode. 

2023 Fisker Ocean

2023 Fisker Ocean Interior

Fisker gets points for an entire panel of horizontal rocker switches for ventilation functions below the screen, though air vents must still be adjusted with multiple taps on the display, an irritating flaw also found in Rivians. Sun visors are split lengthwise and fold forward, peculiar at first but still functional. Cargo space isn’t substantial, at a listed 32.4 cubic feet with the rear seat down, but it felt larger than that—and swallowed a brand-new trail bike just fine.

Some features were missing: The Fisker Ocean has no front trunk. Nor does it have a glove box, just a horizontal plastic tray that slides out from above where the glove box ought to be. There’s another tray for the driver’s seat that unfolds from the console; it looked and felt cheap. Although map pockets are missing from the backs of the front seats, instead it has … coat hooks? Why? 

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

Decidedly Average On The Road

Behind the wheel, the Ocean doesn’t distinguish itself one way or another. The electric power steering lacks feel. The suspension is tuned for comfort over poise, which made it bouncy on some curvy Catskills roads. And in “Earth” mode, the throttle response has a gigantic dead space and lag before the power kicks in. That downside is really the only thing that separates it from half a dozen competing EV SUVs. I did appreciate its consistent regenerative braking even at 100 percent battery charge, something other EVs neglect. Hill-hold has been added in the Version 2.0 software and works fine once the driver learns to give the pedal a solid push.

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

While “Fun” and “Hyper” modes reduce or eliminate that lag, respectively, it took a while to learn how to drive the “Earth” mode (which I presume conserves range somewhat). Hot-rodders among the EV family SUV crowd will enjoy the built-in launch control, called “Boost,” invoked through the center touchscreen. Except you can only use it 500 times over the car’s entire life. That doesn’t speak well to Fisker’s confidence in its battery management.

I recharged overnight several times from 10 or 20% of battery capacity to 100%; the onboard charger handles up to 11 kilowatts. My single fast-charging stop thus far was impressive, with 55 kilowatt-hours (167 miles of range) added in 19 minutes, starting at 167 kW and falling to 134 kW. The session at an EVolveNY fast-charging site in Oneonta was swift, seamless, and hassle-free.

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

Fisker Ocean

Now, let's talk range. With enough CATL cells for a 113-kWh battery in a compact-to-midsize five-seat SUV, we expected it to be good. The EPA rating is 360 miles, and on our longest stretch, I averaged 300 to 310 miles through the hilly roads of central New York State. That’s enough for any family, whose bladders will exceed the Ocean’s range—as long as the stop has a DC fast charger.

Omissions And Oddities

Several features we expected on a top-trim version of the Ocean, which stickered in the mid-sixties before its price was slashed to under $40,000, simply weren’t there. Forget hands-off automated driving assistance, which you can even get on a Ford now; adaptive cruise control didn’t exist. My car didn’t have backup beepers, and while the rear-view camera was usable, the upward jog in the beltline created large walls on either side of the load bay. 

Air suspension might not be expected at this price, but I would’ve liked Mercedes-style rear-wheel steering to cope with the high 39.2-foot turning circle; parking usually required a couple of tries.

2023 Fisker Ocean exterior side view California Mode

A 2023 Fisker Ocean in "California Mode."

Then there’s the “California Mode”, which lowered every piece of glass in the car aft of the windshield and retracted the solar moon roof. Yep, even those little third windows on each side and the tailgate window are power-retractable. That’s nice, but really, how often are you gonna park in a place that’s the right temperature and breezy enough to take advantage of the feature? I’d rather have seen the money go to software development and better ADAS.

Fisker Owners Take It From Here

Both of Henrik Fisker's auto ventures have been “asset-light,” meaning rather than acquire or build their own assembly plants—as Tesla, Rivian, and Lucid all did—they hired contract auto manufacturers to assemble the cars. The Karma was built by Valmet in Finland (2010-2012), and the Ocean by Magna Steyr in Austria (2022-2024). Making design and production work together is the hardest part of building a car, and Fisker circumvented it by relying on Magna’s experience.

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

Fisker Ocean Review Photos

That approach makes it difficult to imagine anyone acquiring the remains of the company—whether or not the “Fisker” brand comes with it. It owns no factory and has neither production experience nor a quality-control process for hardware. Fisker owns the IP, but the platform is based on a Magna-developed one. The batteries are sourced from China’s CATL, too. The problem with being “asset-light” is that you don’t really have any assets. 

That plan may have worked if Fisker was a hit, but it’s made the current situation worse. If a brand wanted to acquire Fisker, what would they get? License to a design that’ll be outdated by the time they can integrate it into their lineup? A brand that is arguably damaged in the public eye to boot? That’s it. And you’d have the immense burden of supporting a zombie fleet of EVs with deep software issues. Want the employees? Just hire ‘em.

My take: If owners or prospective buyers expect a white knight to swoop in and fix their existing car, they’re dreaming. Wanxiang retooled the former Fisker Karma, designing an entirely new wiring harness and later swapping the 2.0-liter Pontiac four-cylinder range extender for a 1.5-liter BMW three-pot. To keep Karmas on the road, it provided software updates and more to owners. Perhaps some similar company could acquire the remains of the Ocean and its tooling, but as with the Karma, it would have some work to do to fix its issues and keep it viable.

Fisker Ocean

Fisker Ocean

Again, though: The Karma was a jaw-dropping, one-of-a-kind design. The Ocean isn’t. It’s a decent electric crossover with none of the shock-and-awe, gotta-have-it personality the Karma had.

But it ended up in the hands of some rather resilient owners who are stepping up to experiment with keeping these things alive, including homebrew software work. Some of these folks are really smart and work in tech, and they seem eager to take on the challenge of keeping such an EV alive. 

If the Fisker Ocean has a future, it’s probably going to be in their hands now. 

Correction: An earlier version of this review listed the car as an Ocean One; it is an Ocean Extreme. A paragraph with Ocean prices was also updated with more current information.

John Voelcker covers advanced auto technologies and energy policy as a reporter and analyst, specializing in electric vehicles and the energy ecosystem around them. He edited Green Car Reports for nine years, publishing more than 12,000 articles on hybrids, electric cars, and other low- and zero-emission vehicles. His work appears in print, online, radio, and TV outlets including Car and Driver, The Drive, Forbes Wheels, Charged EVs, Wired, Popular Science, Tech Review, and NPR's "All Things Considered." He splits his time between the Catskill Mountains and New York City, and still has hopes of one day becoming an international man of mystery.

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