I don’t recycle or care about going green. I love cars with big horsepower as well as the smell of smoking rubber. Most of my weekends are spent watching motorsports non-stop. On the rare weekends that there’s no racing to watch, I’ll be out driving in my own car with no destination in mind. Even though gas is $4 a gallon, I still think it’s a good deal.I should hate the Chevy Volt.
But I don’t. In the span of one week, the Volt converted me from a sceptic to a believer.
It’s that good.
Since it has been on sale, the Volt has been both demonized and praised by vastly different groups of people. And lately, it has faced a string of bad press.
All of these issues raised the stock of the Volt haters, who said it isn’t a good car, wasn’t worth our money, and that Detroit has no business making cars anymore. They’re totally wrong, and chances are they haven’t even driven one.Chevy recently let me get my hands on a Volt for a week. I showed the car to friends and family, drove it to work, and even took it to a car show. I ran it on electric only, with the gas engine, and charged it nearly every night.
My test car had a sticker price around $42,000 but the tax credit made the final cost closer to $35,000. Over the week, I averaged about 60 MPG, which is less than average, but there is a good reason why.
I never thought I'd say this, but the Volt is a blast to drive. Just not in the way you think.
Achieving maximum efficiency is tough, and every mile will test just how good you are at saving fuel. At the beginning, I was terrible and was getting around 20 or so miles on battery power. But by the end of the week, I achieved 93 per cent efficiency from the battery.
I made the entire 35 mile drive from my home in NJ to NYC on battery power alone and had some mileage to spare.
Getting the best fuel mileage became a game, and it was actually a lot of fun to see how well I could do.
This may sound even stranger, but if you master driving a Volt at maximum efficiency, you are also learning the fundamentals behind driving very quickly. The Volt is a momentum car, and it rewards smooth inputs.
The less you do, the more efficient you become. This car teaches you to minimize the amount of braking and steering angle to keep from having to press the accelerator all the way down.
Translate this to a racing situation, and you'll be able to enter and exit corners quicker than ever before without scrubbing off any speed.
As I mentioned, I only achieved 60 MPG over the course of the week. This is why.
When I got home with the car on Friday night, I was down to zero charge in the batteries. I unpacked the charging cord and went looking for an outlet. The building I live in is a converted school, so I figured there had to be an outlet somewhere nearby.
I was very wrong. There was a grand total of zero outlets outside my building.
Since I couldn't charge it, I had to rely on the gas engine to keep power going to the batteries; this reduced my economy. On Saturday night, I finally found a solution: I borrowed a 100-foot extension cord and ran it from my apartment to the parking lot.
While it wasn't the most elegant solution, it got the car fully charged by the morning. This also made me realise that perhaps the Volt isn't ideally suited for apartment dwellers without a garage, like myself.
Chevy has a handsome car on its hands with the Volt.
For one, the design of the Volt is meant to be aerodynamic and efficient. A sloping windshield, low roofline, and long hatchback achieve the desired results.
But it also makes the Volt look low, wide, and squat. It really is a very good-looking car.
There are elements I'm not as crazy about. In the name of aerodynamics, it has a deep front air dam. It's so low to the ground that it scrapes over nearly every bump.
There is also a lot of black gloss trim under the windows. I'm not sure why it's there, and it doesn't really add anything to the design at all. Maybe as part of a refresh it can be made body colour.
But overall, I think it looks great as a package.
Inside, the Volt is actually quite well-appointed and it feels really futuristic.
The gauges are different than anything I have driven before. A full LCD screen sits in front of you with meters to tell you battery charge as well as how efficiently you are driving. The centre screen has all the infotainment options, navigation, and another screen that gets very in-depth on just how efficiently you are driving.
The centre console is all touch sensitive. It looks great, but it also reflects the sunlight and feels a bit cheap. But everything else about the interior, including the Bose stereo, feels like it is perfectly at home in a car that costs over $40,000.
Every great car has its drawbacks.
For one, the Volt takes a long time to charge: On a household socket, it took about 10 hours from empty to a full charge.
Granted, you can buy a bespoke charging station to cut that in half, but that is another expense you have to make up front just to use the car.
Also, the pillars on either side of the windshield were some of the largest I've ever seen in a car. Combine this with the sloping windshield and low roofline, and it was actually tough to see around corners. While the pillars are thick for rollover protection, it can't be good to run into something because you didn't see it.
Pretty much everything. The best part is having 273 pound-feet of torque available right off the line. Push the sport button and push down the gas (well, I guess accelerator) and it surges away in a silent woosh.
It isn't fast by any stretch, but it is a very cool sensation.
But what I really love about the Volt is that it rewards you when you pay attention to how you're driving. The more care you take with how you drive, the better mileage you'll get. And if you're paying attention to how you drive, there is less of a chance that you'll be talking on the phone or texting.
This is a car that sets priorities for the driver.
On top of that, I think the powertrain is just cool. A gas motor that charges the batteries only when needed (and occasionally drives the wheels)? Such a great idea.
I firmly believe that the Volt is the future of mass motoring. This is the car to drive during the week to work or to run errands.
Then on the weekends, you can pull out that Camaro, Lamborghini, MG, or other car to go for a fun drive. This car is a step to start saving the fuel supply. It makes me think that a green future of motoring might not be so bad.
Yes, for the size it is expensive. But like an iPod, the price for good technology will come down over time and it will also gain capabilities. When the iPod came out, there was just one available. It held 1,000 songs and cost $400.
Now, you can get an iPod Classic that holds 40,000 songs for just $249. And there are numerous sizes and amounts of storage to fit every need.
I expect the same thing to happen for the Volt in the coming years. Price will come down, range will go up, and there may even be different body styles offered.
As an everyday car, the Volt is pretty much peerless. It gets you from Point A to Point B by using nearly no fuel. And, unlike a full electric, the Volt doesn't limit the distance you can travel before charging.
When I picked up this car, I was far from a fan. A post of mine from a few months ago argued against every aspect of electric cars and the Volt. While I still think the Volt has a little work to do to gain general acceptance, I think Chevy is also giving us a glimpse of future commuter cars today.
I must say, I like what I see.
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