Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A second jolt of the Volt!!

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier
  • ENGINE: 1.5-liter range extender plus Li-ion battery
  • TRANSMISSION: Voltec electric drive unit 
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 101 hp (gas engine) at 5,600 rpm/294 lb.-ft. torque 
  • WHEELBASE: 106.1 in.  
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 180.4 x 71.2 x 56.4 in.  
  • TIRES: P215/50R17 
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 10.6 cu. ft. 
  • ECONOMY: 106 mpge/42 mpg gasoline   
  • FUEL TANK: 8.9 gal. 
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,548 lbs. 
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Toyota Prius Plug-In, Ford C-Max Energi, Nissan Leaf 
  • STICKER: $40,325 (includes $875 delivery, $1,880 options) 
  • BOTTOM LINE: The Chevrolet Volt is a very nice compact car, with the added advantage that it can be run as a pure electric for short stints, yet still has a “range extender” gasoline engine when the battery runs out.

            I had driven the Chevrolet Volt previously, but messed up by trying to charge the electric side of the car using an extension cord. The Volt seamlessly switched from all-electric power to the 1.5-liter “range extender” gasoline engine and I used gas.
            This time, I charged the batteries the “right” way, by driving it up on my lawn and using the provided charge cord and inserting it directly into my house’s 115-volt outlet. 
            Therefore, in normal daily driving (this was a week that included no extensive trips) I used zero gallons of gasoline.
            To me, this is the charm of the Volt, and other pure electric vehicles. For normal short trips no gasoline is used. Now, there is a charge of some sort due to the use of my house’s electricity, and to be honest, I did not calculate it. In any case, it’s cheaper than gasoline.
            Volt’s silent operation is at times disconcerting. I had to remind myself that when I crept up behind people, they couldn’t hear me, so I was a nice guy and didn’t try to scare them. There is some tire/road noise that creeps into the vehicle that could probably be eliminated with additional soundproofing.
            The Volt is a very nice compact car. It offers decent acceleration thanks to the electric motor, which is pure torque. Handling is good. We took the Volt on our favorite winding mountain road and it was fun zipping through the curves. 
            My only complaint is that, as a compact, I had to fold the rear seat backs to get my golf clubs in the trunk. Cargo capacity is 10.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up, but expends to more than double that with the rear seat backs folded.
            I like the interior design. It is reminiscent of the Impala and was probably penned by the same designer. 
            Normally, my prime annoyance with hybrids and “techy” vehicles is that the gauge packages are confusing and give too much information.  With the Volt, however, the central information panel is clear and informative.
            There is a central digital speedometer in the center. To the left is the battery usage wrapping the speedometer in green; to the right the gas, wrapping its half in blue. As you accelerate, the “battery” symbol shows yellow. It turns to green under braking, showing you are regenerating. The wrapping green works just like a gas gauge, giving a graphic idea of how much battery power remains. There’s also a digital gauge at the bottom showing how many miles are left.  We had a maximum of 53 miles range on a full charge. A similar fuel range cause is at the bottom right that shows many hundreds of miles available. Chevy says more than 400 miles total. It is very easy to read and understand quickly without taking your eyes off the road for too long.
            While the front seats are comfortable the rear seat legroom is tight, as in most compacts. There are two permanent cup holders and a center console in the rear, restricting seating to two passengers. All seats are heated.
            The infotainment screen is fairly standard GM. The HVAC did a great job in hot weather. There are two knobs for HVAC control - fan speed and temperature - while a bunch of switches control air flow. 
            At the base of the center stack is a deep cubby with 12-volt, two USB and an AUX outlet. In addition, there is a nice deep center console/arm rest. 
            On the center console itself is a drive mode switch that allows the driver to switch among Normal (electric to fuel), Sport, Mountain and Hold. We kept it in Normal. 
            Volt has the standard assortment of safety additions, including blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and forward crash warning if you wait too long to brake.
            I had fun with the Chevrolet Volt this time. I admit that some of the “less-than-fun” of my previous drive was due to my carelessness in using the power. This time I was more careful, and being an ex-engineer, I enjoyed driving in pure electric mode and the challenges I faced.

(c) 2016 The Auto Page Syndicate

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