"America's smallest, newest and most expensive car company" – that's how Bob Lutz describes his new venture VL Automotive. Lutz, a former General Motors Vice Chairman, earned a name for himself as the "father of the Chevy Volt." It's interesting, then, that his latest venture involves taking the electricity out of a plug-in hybrid. Together with industrialist Gilbert Villereal, Lutz has designed the Destino, a restyled Fisker Karma that trades the hybrid powertrain in for something more potent.

Lutz introduced the Destino, VL's first car, at a press conference at the North American International Auto Show earlier this week. Meaning "destiny," the Destino has been designed to fulfill the dreams of those that looked at the beauty and muscularity of the Fisker Karma and thought: "If only it was more powerful and faster."

VL has taken the Fisker Karma, pulled out the plug-in hybrid powertrain and replaced it with a 638-hp, 6.2-liter supercharged LS9 V8 engine from the Corvette ZR1. In order to properly distinguish the car, VL has redesigned the front fascia and headlamps, roof and rear fascia. It also plans to re-tune the suspension and chassis to function smoothly with the new powertrain and lighter build. It hasn't talked much about the transmission, but plans are for an automatic at launch with a manual option to follow.

The new Corvette launched at the same auto show, but the next-generation ZR1 is still a few years out. VL will use the current ZR1 LS9 for the time being.

What's the point of taking a green car and making it not-so-green? VL believes that there's a market of people that love the Karma's styling but would prefer a more powerful gas engine under that big hood.

"In this price class, very few people want an electric drivetrain," Lutz said when discussing the car with reporters in Detroit. "They don't want an expensive car with an electric drivetrain; they want a drivetrain that's appropriate to the car. I think this will fulfill the desires of a lot of people who are looking for an American high-performance four-door sedan of very advanced design."

The Destino is still undergoing prototype testing, so VL hasn't listed any performance numbers just yet. Lutz said that the car will weigh around 3,800 pounds (1,724 kg). Compare that to the 3,333-lb (1,512-kg) Corvette ZR1, which hits 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 3.4 seconds on its way to a 205 mph (330 km/h) top speed, and the 5,300-lb (2,404-kg) Fisker Karma and its 6.3-second 0-60 time, and you can get a feel for how the car will perform. Lutz also expressed confidence that the Destino will be faster than other performance four-doors, namely the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera. With 650-hp on tap, it certainly should be.

VL has made a deal with Fisker to purchase full vehicles minus all the plug-in powertrain hardware. It plans to produce between 250 and 500 Destino models a year in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The first two prototypes that were displayed in Detroit have already been sold, and an official market launch is tentatively planned for June. Final pricing has yet to be set, but VL is quoting a US$180,000 figure.

The idea of a more powerful Fisker seems to be one that will resonate with car lovers, but will they be willing to pay $180,000 for what's essentially a slightly restyled mash-up of two significantly cheaper cars? I, for one, could think of a lot of cars in or under $180,000 that I'd rather own, including the Corvette ZR1 itself.

"We could probably lower the cost quite a bit by going to the LS6, naturally aspirated, it wouldn't have all the expense of a supercharger," Lutz said. "So that would probably permit a lower base price and still offer a very fast car. But there's no decision on that yet."

Source: VL Productions