Chevy Volt Test Drive
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Chevy Volt Test Drive
by Noel Adams
30 September, 2010
The 2010 Alternative Fuel Vehicle Expo in Santa Monica gave me a good opportunity to test drive the 2011 Chevy Volt. I did have to wait for a while to get into the car but the wait was worth the effort.
The car was black in color with a black and green interior. The car was easy to get in and out of which is quite important when you get to my age. The seats, which were black with a nice lime green stripe, were not as comfortable as I have come to expect from GM vehicles. I didn't have much of a chance to make adjustments but in just a few seconds I was already as comfortable as I am in my Prius. I was surprised that seat adjustment was manual though, I would have expected power seats in this car.
I pressed on the brake pedal, pushed the Power button, and the car sprang into life. The instrument panel is a large LCD screen. On the left side is the battery SOC indicator which is a large box with green bars indicating how much charge is left. Since I was the first person to drive the car this morning the battery indicator was reading full. Next to the SOC indicator was a number that represents the estimated battery only range, in this case 38 miles.
The shifter, which sits on the center console, looks and works like a conventional gear shift. Pull it back one click and you are in reverse, a second click gives you neutral, and a third click puts you in drive. The gear you are in is displayed on the LCD screen.
Once I had the car in drive I pressed the accelerator, pulled out of the parking spot, and headed for the exit. I hadn't driven it more than a few yards when I found a truck blocking my way. I tried to drive around it but it was blocking both sides of the roadway. In the end I had to back up a few yards then thread my way through the various stands to get to the exit. When I put the car into reverse the LCD became a video monitor for the back-up camera giving me an excellent view behind the car.
Threading through the various stands gave me an excellent chance to see how the car maneuvered at low speed. The power steering here was great. The wheel is easy to turn but still felt firm and responsive making it easy to get through tight spaces.
Once out of the parking lot I drove along Main street in downtown Santa Monica. The traffic is typically flowing along at around 35mph. Speed is, of course, indicated on the LCD in nice big numbers that were very easy to see. I had the Volt in standard mode and in that mode the car accelerated nicely with the traffic flow. The ride was very smooth and there was hardly any road noise which made the ride very quite. I drove the same stretch of road in my Prius a bit later and the Volt definitely had the better ride quality.
I asked the rep from GM who was riding with me about the idea for a button to force on the ICE for those times that you might want to conserve battery power until you get to your destination. It turns out that the Volt has a feature that does exactly that. If you switch the car from Normal or Sport mode into Mountain mode the ICE will come on to keep your batteries topped up. Mountain mode is designed for when you are climbing long steep hills that would deplete the battery pack very quickly but it will also work when you wnat to drive a long way on the freeway and still have battery power when you arrive at your destination.The ICE does still shut down at stop signs but runs when the car is in motion. I tried Mountain mode but the ICE was so quiet that I couldn't really tell if it was running or not but the GM rep assured me that it was.
I did a right turn onto Colorado and then another right turn onto 4th street. As I waited at the stop sign to turn right into Pico I put the car back into standard mode. From Pico and 4th it is a pretty steep incline down to Main street so I was able to see how the regenerative braking handled the drop. Regen on the Volt seems similar to that on the Prius, very mild when you just take your foot of the accelerator and coming on harder when you press on the brakes. This is the way I personally like my regenerative braking to work although I know others who prefer the more aggressive braking that you get from AC Propulsion's cars.
I really think that this car is going to be a winner. I would have preferred a bit more comfort in the seats but I still think that it would be more comfortable than the Prius on a long run, although not as comfortable as my old Chevy Caviler which is the yardstick I like to use for a comfortable ride. Other than that the car seems to be very well set up, drives well, and is nice and quite. I didn't try it in Sports mode so I didn't get that EV smile but I would consider buying one if it were in my price range.
Now for the fine print - remember always read the fine print
The information contained in this web site is based on information I have received about the availability of vehicles both new and used. I attempt to keep the information here as current as possible but I would appreciate being notified of any inaccuracies you may find. The appearance of a vehicle on this site does not imply any endorsement of that vehicle, or any implication that the vehicle will be suitable for your needs. As always you should investigate the vehicle and the seller before shelling out your hard earned money.