First driving impression… Wow!

May 14th, 2012 Posted in Getting Started with Volt, The Volt Experience

2013 Chevrolet VoltOk so, after talking about it a lot and considering a variety of “green” options for a new car, we finally decided to go and put our butts in the seat of a Chevy Volt. It would be myself, by wife and my two boys (ages 6 & 8yrs). We all had our own reasons for the test drive experience so it would be interesting to see how it would all play out in the end.

For me, I wanted to see if what I was reading online was true. I’ve seen some say it is a car worthy of a “higher end” marque in the GM lineup. Comments suggest it handles well and feels solid for the driver. For my wife, she’s thinking light weight tin box economy car. Her questions going in are along the lines of “How delicate is the car? Will its battery lose a charge just sitting for a couple of days? Will daily driver use be too hard on the car?”. And for the boys? They just want to know if it’s cool and fun to ride around in.

First off, getting in the car and rolling off for a test drive did require a brief tutorial from the dealer’s EV specialist. Not overwhelming mind you, but it is different than turning the key on the average car and dropping it in gear. Plus, there is just a lot of tech in this car that you would want at least a quick understanding of. So after a quick run-through we were on our way.

First at the wheel would be my wife since this vehicle would be mostly to ease our costs with her daily commute to work, roughly 60 miles round trip. We almost silently back out of the parking space and head for the streets. Pulling out onto a busy thoroughfare, our first impression came quick. In order to grab a space in traffic and get into the flow she put her foot into the throttle firmly. Then she said, “Whoa!”. The Volt had all the pickup she needed and then some from the standing start.

Looking over the Volt’s performance specs it makes sense. The Volt offers 149hp from its electric drive unit and 273 lb.-ft. of torque, all available from the standing start. That’s solid off the line performance and its MORE torque than the Mazda Miata and the BMW Z4! Sporty company. Not to get carried away here, this is no “muscle car” by any stretch of the imagination. But if you’re coming to the party thinking this is going to be an anemic economy car experience you will be surprised indeed.

Moving on down the road the car feels well planted and comfortable. Braking was solid and smooth. We took the car on some winding two lane roads and hit the throttle deep at a variety of different running speeds. The acceleration was strong and left us confident that making passes at speed would not be something to fear. It handled predictably on the winding roadway and equally well under braking.

The boys were captivated by the video animation in the dash which gives you a running assessment of how your driving is for efficiency. When coasting/braking it shows “energy” being recaptured into the battery via the regenerative braking system. They loved that! In contrast they were equally troubled to see the visual showing the available battery power drop after we had driven the car a bit.

The only negative we came away with from our test drive would be with visibility. The A-pillars seemed pretty thick compared to what we’re used to. Similarly the C-pillars at the back seemed thick. Visibility looking out via the rear-view mirror feels slightly tight due to those C-pillars and it also felt like the rear spoiler always cuts across the center of your view. The aggressive rake of the windshield (which I am sure is done purposefully to reduce drag and increase efficiency) pushes those thick A-pillars forward in a way that seems to cut into your line of sight too.

Looking at other manufacturers offerings of “green” vehicles you can see similar body design choices so I think visibility in most is probably similar. These aren’t your average gas hungry sedans and the slippery hatchback style body seems typical.

After the test drive we were all impressed with the car and very interested. My wife was really surprised that it wasn’t a tin can econo-box. I was pleased with the overall feel and performance and the boys? They were glad they each had a cup holder. We sort of liked the back seat layout which has the center console continue right through between both seats. A little separation between siblings in the back seat is not a bad thing. Really, it isn’t. The cars battery system is stored in that long central console I believe.

So next is to work through the money side of things and see if this is a car that makes sense for us.

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