2011 Chevrolet Volt Road Test Review

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Without question, the most remarkable thing about driving the Chevrolet Volt is how unremarkable the driving experience is. Sure, a dramatic fanfare emits from the Chevrolet's audio system every time you press the blue power button, and yes the instrument panel looks like a cross between a video game and somebody's idea of a futuristic concept car's readouts. But rolling down the street, it feels like you're just driving a car. And frankly, that's a very good thing.

Freed from the concerns of draining the battery pack-which I did after about 50 kilometers (30 miles) with my uncompromising right foot-I drove the Volt through city streets, on freeways and among the winding twists and turns of the hills of northern California's western Marin county with absolutely no concern. Long story short, with the Chevrolet Volt, range anxiety is a concept whose time has passed. By now, I'm sure you've heard all about the Volt's powertrain, so I'll keep the description brief here. Basically, the Volt is an electric car that uses a 1.4-litre gasoline engine as a generator to provide electricity once the battery pack is depleted. GM claims a range of 40 to 80 kilometers (25 to 50 miles) for the battery pack alone and an overall range of 350 miles (523 km) using both the engine and the battery pack.

Over the course of my day with the Volt I drove 110 miles (177 km). I traveled 31 (50 km) of them on electricity and 79 (127 km) on gasoline, burning just over two gallons of gas for the day. At the going rate of $3.35 for a gallon of regular here in northern California, that means I drove 110 miles for $6.70, and got just under 55 miles per gallon (4.3 L/100km). Now, even if I were babying the Volt, trying to squeeze every mile per gallon out of it by accelerating gently away from every traffic signal and driving at mild cruising speeds on the highway-doing everything I could to maximize efficiency-that would be an impressive number.

But that's not what I did.

I accelerated onto the freeways with exuberance, unhesitatingly claiming my God-given position in the far left lane, easily keeping up with the flow of traffic. On the winding country lanes, I maintained the most brisk pace the Volt would allow, running it in the sport mode. I passed slower drivers, used low range to simulate engine braking going into turns, and accelerated briskly off of turns. With maximum torque available right off the bat, passing poses no challenge to the Chevrolet at all. Additionally, I ran the climate control system at 22 degrees C on a 10-degree day, used the seat heaters in the morning, paired my phone to the Bluetooth hands free system, and enjoyed the Bose audio system all day long. For the first half of the day I had one passenger in the car, for the second half of the day the Volt transported three souls.

By the way, in the twisty sections of the drive, the Volt proved itself to be more than a willing partner at driving quickly. It turns in nicely, displays adequate grip and rockets off the apex with a great deal of verve. If you push it too hard, the low rolling resistance tires will howl a bit as the front wheel drive Volt pushes, but keep it in its sweet spot and you'll have a lot of fun driving a Volt. In other words, in addition to its economical attributes, the Chevrolet Volt is actually fun to drive too. Now don't misunderstand me, the Volt isn't a sports sedan, the overly aggressive traction control proves that right away. But dynamically, it's no snooze-mobile either. That I did all that and still came home averaging 4.3 L/100km overall-not just on the highway-is nothing short of phenomenal. Driven more conservatively, I'm certain the Volt could do at least 20 percent better over the same variety of roads.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Hybrid, HEV, Chevrolet, 2011, Volt, $40,000 - $49,999, Electric,

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