By PETER COUTURE and LYRA SOLOCHEK | tb-two*
You won’t be able to drive to prom in a Volt, though wouldn’t that be cool? The Chevy hybrid is expected to arrive in Florida by year’s end. Purists can argue that the Volt isn’t a pure electric, but with a charging infrastructure still limited, the Volt seems like a good alternative. The Times’ Daily Driver columnists had an opportunity to test-drive a Volt for a week recently. Here’s what they thought:
Appearance: The Volt strikes a good balance between aesthetics and aerodynamics. Unlike other hybrids, the four-door Volt manages to look hip, resembling the new Chevy Cruze with which it shares platforms. Up front, the Volt has upswept headlights and a closed grille that reduces drag and improves efficiency. The glossy black trim under the side windows matches the rear angular hatch.
Performance: The front-wheel-drive four-seater has a 35-mile-plus range on battery power alone and can go more than 300 miles when its 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gas generator kicks in to power its electric motors. For many commuters, all you’ll need is battery power. You can drive it to school or work, run errands and then plug it in to charge when you get home (about 10 hours with a standard 120-volt outlet and about four with a 240-volt outlet). You can even program the car to charge during nonpeak hours when rates are cheaper. You won’t have any problems merging into or keeping up with highway traffic with its high-torque electric motor. And when the battery charge is depleted, the Volt seamlessly shifts to its gas generator. The Volt also uses regenerative braking, which takes getting used to but it isn’t as touchy as other electric or hybrid cars we’ve driven. Overall, the Volt is quiet. Peter noticed some engine noise when the gas motor was being used and the car was under hard acceleration. The handling is nimble for the 3,781-pounder. The Volt has three driving modes: normal (most efficient), sport and mountain (for more reserve power for going uphill). The charger is easy to connect, but Lyra found wrapping and unwrapping the cord to be cumbersome. Couldn’t they have used retractable cords?
Interior: Most prominent are the two crisp LCD screens — one to monitor your driving, the other primarily for climate, navigation and media. We liked the detailed driver gauge, which shows your speed with a digital readout, how much range you have left — in battery or gas mode — and how efficiently you are driving. The smooth-finish futuristic center console has smooth backlit touch-sensitive “buttons.” The seats are comfortable, if a bit on the firm side, and adjust manually.
The bottom line: You’ll pay a premium price for being an early adopter as the Volt isn’t cheap ($43,390 as tested), even with the tax credit. But the technology is impressive and the driving experience enjoyable, and many drivers can skip the pump.