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2011 Chevy Volt - Is This the Future? - DrivingScene

2011 Chevy Volt – Is This the Future?

Posted on 14 September 2011 by Adam Kaslikowski

Sometimes the future doesn’t so much explode onto the scene as much as it silently creeps into our reality. Quiet evolution has a way of consistently trumping boisterous revolutions. Internal combustion engines have progressed and changed constantly since their introduction into the automobile, and now with the Chevy Volt they have been downsized to a supporting player to the “so-hot-right-now” electric motor. Is the Volt part of this progress of the automobile or a hybrid distraction? Continue reading to find out…

I want to start out by casting aside all the vitriol, rumor, and hype about his vehicle and examine it as I would examine any other Chevy; as a car. It’s got four doors like a car, a gas cap, steering wheel, and power windows too. It doesn’t fly, hover, glow, or do magic tricks – sounds like a car to me.

As a car, the Volt does its job rather well. The interior is on par with other high-end Chevy’s (which is to say fairly good and improving by each generation). Comfortable seats flank the faux transmission tunnel which is actually part of the battery pack. There are near equal parts soft-touch and hard grainy plastics. The white center console overshadows the cheaper parts of the cabin with its sheer modernity. Glistening white like an iPod and populated almost entirely by touch sensitive buttons, the center stack is clearly the centerpiece of the Volt’s interior.

All information is conveyed to the driver by a pair of LCD screens, one above the center stack and one replacing the analog dials traditionally directly in front of the steering wheel. Freed from having to show RPM’s, oil and water pressure, the driver’s display instead shows battery range, gasoline range, and how your driving is affecting the battery – economical, draining, or in the case of using the brakes, charging. The central monitor is in charge of such varied tasks as radio display, further battery information, GPS, and HVAC.

Heading outside, the Volt out-moderns the Prius with its clean lines and aggressive stance. The entire car seems to be leaning forward, ready to pounce. You trade off the dinky 15” rims for a well styled reverse light that more than anything else apes the exhaust of a CTS-V coupe or a Lambo. In keeping with the overall theme of the car, the concept of the exterior is a traditional compact car with some cutting edge features. The wrap-around tail-lights, solid front grill, and charging port adorn a body that could otherwise be the next Chevy Cruze.

The vital statistics are as follows: The Volt has a total of 149hp with 273lb-ft of torque – get used to seeing higher torque than horsepower numbers with electric vehicles. 0-60 is undertaken in 9.2 seconds up to a top speed of only 100mph. Gas mileage numbers get a little confusing with range extender hybrids, but real world drivers are reporting 36mpg after the battery is exhausted. Certainly not great. If you want to avoid getting worse mileage than a diesel Golf, you’ll need to keep within the Volt’s electric-only range of +/- 25 miles.  Do this and you should be seeing your local gas station once every two months. Full range with a topped off battery and gas tank is estimated at 379 miles by the EPA.

So what’s the Volt like to drive? In a word, eerie. Your muscle memory, reflexes, and subconscious are all ready for the same old routine after you slip into the normal seats behind the normal steering wheel. What happens next, though, is anything but normal. Select drive and press the accelerator and it seems like nothing is happening. There’s no sound and no revs (no Tachometer after all…) but wait, the world is moving around you. By George, you’re moving! Once you recalibrate your senses and stop searching for engine noise you are back into familiar territory. The torquey-ness of that electric motor (full torque available from 0 RPMs) gives the Volt some grunt that is unexpected in a compact car. This thing is pretty gutsy up to about 40mph, then the car’s weight begins to make itself known. On the freeway, it seemed to have a little less pull than other compact cars but nothing that made passing an unwise endeavor.

All in all though, were back in normal car territory. Good turning circle, quiet ride, just-okay suspension. Driving a Volt is like driving a Civic or Camry and anyone who has had their license for more than a week will feel right at home. The Volt then is that kind of evolution that improves upon the species in a subtle but profound way. Who knew the future would look this ordinary?

-Adam Kaslikowski

Special thanks to Jerry Seiner Chevrolet