I Drove The Chevy Volt... And It Didn't Suck!

General Motors (GM) invited CNN’s Peter Valdes-Dapena to drive a “mule” powered by the Chevy Volt’s hybrid gas-electric engine and power train (the body of the car was actually a Chevy Cruze.  The Volt body hasn’t been built yet).  Here’s what he thought:

Under full electric power, which is how most owners will experience it most of the time, the Volt proved surprisingly potent.

Even though it was an electric car, and I knew it was an electric car when I got in, the silence was still surprising.

When Volt owners get in their cars in the morning, the gasoline engine will not rumble to life. The car will be totally quiet and vibration-free as the shift lever is pulled down to drive, just as it was on the cold Michigan morning I tested this car.

As I pulled away from the side of the test loop and pushed on the “gas” pedal, I felt the car pulling up to speed strongly. The car’s actual zero-to-60 acceleration time will be a little over eight seconds, which is about average for a modern car. Up to about 30 mph, the Volt’s electric motor gives quicker-than-ordinary response, which is why the car feels particularly muscular.

The Volt doesn’t have a transmission, in any ordinary sense. It doesn’t have “gears” – like “first gear,” “second gear,” “third gear” – because it doesn’t need them. Electric motors deliver full torque even at their lowest speeds so there’s no need to change gear ratios to keep the engine in a “sweet spot” for performance.

The Volt’s electric motor is sized to provide performance comparable to a 250-horsepower V6, said Posawatz, and that seemed about right…

The first time I drove the front wheel drive test vehicle into a turn, the weight came as a surprise. It felt almost like the small Cruze had turned into something more like a Cadillac the moment I turned the steering wheel.

A lot can be done with suspension tuning, though, GM’s Posowatz assured me. The benefit of the battery pack is that it puts the weight low in the car. That will give the Volt a lower centre of gravity, which will help it feel more stable in turns.

It will still be heavier than other cars its size, though. Nothing’s going to change that. But better-tuned suspension and different wheels and tires should help.

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