2011 Chevrolet Volt Review
APPEARANCE: The Volt is a moderately small, cleanly-styled, and handsome four-door sedan, with an identifiable Chevrolet identity. Nothing about it screams “EV! look at me!”, and that is no complaint. Fittingly, it’s more upscale-looking than its Cruze platform-mate. Black paint trim beneath the windows is its most unusual styling feature, and a good one.
COMFORT: Car as electronic device? Check out the instrument panel — it has more in common with a smartphone or tablet computer than a traditional car dashboard. There are no analog gauges and few standard-type switches to be seen. The main instrument display in front of the driver and the secondary information display at the top of the center stack are bright, reconfigurable screens. Center stack switches are touch-sensitive and mostly behind the facing material. All are lit for easy use at night. Need help to do something? Help screens abound in the info display — electronic device, right?
That all works very well, and is appropriate for the car. The basic car aspects are also done well, with comfortable, supportive seats — fronts manually-adjustable to save energy — for four as the battery pack size and location preclude a center rear position, manual tilt and telescope adjustment of the steering wheel, and power windows, mirrors, and door locks. Hey, there are some conveniences that must be kept even in a car designed for maximum energy efficiency. The Volt is a hatchback, all the better to load cargo into the rear or get access to the recharging kit. USB and Bluetooth connectivity, XM radio and traffic, and a Bose audio system are standard. Most of the tech and other options expected to be available in a near-luxury car today are offered.
SAFETY: All of the safety features expected in a car at the Volt’s price point are included in that price.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Ride quality is first-rate, with correctly-matched spring and damper rates giving a moderately-firm, compliant ride in the best European manner. Steering, as mentioned, is different, as are throttle and brake response. As is the Volt’s drivetrain, so all of that is appropriate. It works, and well.
PERFORMANCE: I won’t go into the complexities of the Volt’s “Voltec Electric Drive System” here for reasons of length. I covered that in the previous article. The Volt is meant to be used primarily as an electric vehicle (EV), so the battery can only be fully charged by plugging in to the power grid (or, presumably, your own 110 or 220VAC generator, windmill, hydroelectric generator, or personal nuclear reactor). That charge is good for between 30 and 50 miles of purely electric operation, with lower speeds making for longer distances. I got about 35 miles of highway driving off the initial charge, and 12 more from a four-hour partial charge at 110V. After that, the gasoline engine quietly turns on and runs the generator as needed to keep the battery charge level at its optimum. It’s more like a diesel-electric submarine in that respect than a diesel-electric locomotive. It will run in that mode until the fuel tank runs dry, just like a normal gasoline-powered car. Only then would you need a tow truck, and that’s your fault, as in any other car. GM suggests that the charge cable be plugged in whenever the car is parked, to lessen battery drain from the battery climate-control systems that may come on when the temperature gets too hot or cold. An electric motor makes maximum torque as soon as it starts to rotate, so low-speed acceleration is brisk. With a 0-60 time of just under 10 seconds, it’s quick enough for everyday traffic. Steep hills, even at highway speeds, are no worry.
Fuel economy is variable, depending on the type of driving and distance, with low- to medium-speed surface street driving being the most economical and high-speed highways the worst. If you only drive within battery range and can recharge your Volt in between drives, you (theoretically) could go years between gasoline fill-ups. If that does happen, the car’s computers will run the engine occasionally to ensure that it gets adequate exercise, and that the fuel doesn’t go stale. Don’t worry, the computer will ask first.
The window sticker lists all-electric mileage as the equivalent of 93 mpg. Yes, electricity is not free (although a full charge should be under $2) and much of the electricity in this country comes from natural gas or coal. And there is no such thing as “infinite miles per gallon”. Gas-only is listed at 37mpg, similar to similarly-sized hybrid sedans. According to the computer, I got 41 mpg during my mostly-gasoline time with the Volt. A little more digging into the information systems also showed “38.4 mpg since reset” and “52.5 mpg lifetime mileage”. Ymmv, as they say, but it’s still good.
CONCLUSIONS: GM breaks new technological ground with the Chevrolet Volt.
|Base Price||$ 40,280 – 7500 fed tax credit = 32,780|
|Price As Tested||$ 44,680|
|Engine Type||DOHC i6-valve inline 4-cylinder with continuously-variable cam phasing|
|Engine Size||1.4 liters / 85 cu. in.|
|Horsepower||84 @ 4800 rpm|
|Traction motor Horsepower||149 (111 kW)|
|Traction motor Torque||273 lb-ft|
|Torque (lb-ft)||273 @ y rpm|
|Wheelbase / Length||105.7 in. / 177.1 in.|
|Curb Weight||3755 lbs.|
|Pounds Per Horsepower||25.2|
|Fuel Capacity||9.3 gal.|
|Fuel Requirement||87 octane unleaded regular gasoline|
|Tires||P215/55R17 93H Goodyear Assurance|
|Brakes, front/rear||vented disc all around, ABS and regenerative braking standard|
|Suspension, front/rear||independent MacPherson strut / torsion beam axle|
|Drivetrain||front engine and motors, front-wheel drive|
|EPA Fuel Economy – miles per gallon
city / highway / observed
|35 – 90mpg depending on driving|
|0 to 60 mph||9.2 sec|
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
|Premium Trim Package – includes:
leather-appointed seating, premium door trim,
heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel
|Viridian Joule Tricoat paint||$995|
|Rear camera and park assist||$695|
|17″ forged polished alloy wheels||$595|
← Trial Study Shows Mini E Meets Needs ECOtality Charging Stations Electrifying Tennessee →