By on October 25, 2010

For a vehicle named after a unit of measure, the Chevrolet Volt is a difficult car to pin down. From its drivetrain to its efficiency rating, the Volt defies categorization. From price point to performance, it defies comparison. It’s a rolling contradiction, this car, part electric car and part gas-burner, part high-concept moonshot and part workmanlike commuter. And yet for all its mysteries, contradictions and (yes) compromises, the Volt is also a deceptively simple car to use. Which makes it what exactly?

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Whether posed or on-the-go, the Volt’s styling exudes a sense of quiet anonymity; it’s distinctive compared to anonymous C-segment sedans like the Chevy Cruze it’s based on, but it lacks the Leaf’s sense of eco-occasion. Cues from the bold Volt Concept cut through its windtunnel-defined shape, but they seem tacked-on rather than integral to the overall design. As a result, the American take on Prius design values ends up looking a bit disjointed in three dimensions.

Not that the locals of the Detroit Metro area seem to mind. Kids gawk at the Volt from backseats, and employees at donut shops ask if “that’s one of them Volts.” It never gets mobbed, but the reaction is always some variation of “sweet.”  After years of hype, the Volt may not exactly be a rockstar, but it’s at least a popular indie artist with a crossover single or two.

But complex characters can struggle achieving mainstream appeal, and the Volt is no exception. Underneath its hood lurks a combination of clutches, gears, motors and an engine that, like any other hybrid system, continuously varies its operations based on conditions and input. Unlike any other hybrid, however, the Volt emphasizes all-electric range, and returns “25-50″ miles of it as advertised. Using moderate hypermiling techniques, the Volt will cross 45 miles of board-flat Michigan terrain, but stretching the range further requires antisocial levels of right foot restraint.

And most drivers won’t be tempted to go easy on the Volt’s “gas” pedal. At full throttle, the Volt cruises seamlessly to freeway speeds with quiet competence, giving no reason to doubt its nine second-ish 0-60 time. At lower throttle positions, however, the “instant torque” promise of the Volt’s electric drivetrain has been computer mapped away in favor of better efficiency. “Sport mode” provides more direct access to the torque at lower throttle positions (“Sport” and “Normal” mode pedal maps are identical at over 80% throttle), but GM’s engineers say the mode encourages inefficient driving… even though they prefer it themselves.

But switching into “Sport” isn’t the only change the discerning driver will want to make before taking off in the Volt. Move the chunky gear lever past “Drive” into “Low,” and a regenerative engine-braking effect slows the Volt as soon as you get off the “gas.” Combined with the more precise pedal feel of “Sport” mode, this setting concentrates the driver on matching throttle position with road conditions, and (with a little luck and planning) allows nearly brake pedal-free driving. It’s just too bad that the Volt’s most satisfying and engaging setting requires two separate settings changes from default.

But despite the need for options-menu fiddling and all its underlying complexity, the Volt’s drivetrain largely leaves a good impression of seamless power. Though it lacks the pure instant torque of an non-throttle-mapped EV, it also lacks the two-mode feel of a parallel hybrid. Where a Prius would juggle between a weak gas engine and strong electric torque, the Volt simply eases forward on a non-stop (if unhurried) wave of power. It’s a point-and-shoot experience that lends some credence to the Volt’s pretensions of mass-market accessibility, and when the battery’s music stops, the transition to range-extended mode is admirably unobtrusive. In fact, the only time the Volt’s gas engine really registers is in high-load throttle applications after the jump to gas-generated power. Only then does the 1.4 liter engine rev hard enough to be heard as well as felt through the pedal, but the experience is surprisingly normal until you ease off the throttle and the low-frequency engine noises bounce around a bit before settling back into a wallflower grumble.

In a parked Volt, the steering wheel exhibits GM-typical lightness, allowing for effortless parking lot operation. On the road, the tiller firms up ever so slightly, but never generates a truly feelsome experience. But what the steering lacks in feel, it makes up for with sharpness, translating subtle wheel movements into crisp direction changes. With its 400+ pound battery mounted so low to the road and towards the rear of the vehicle, the Volt’s center of gravity is low and central, giving the car far better handling characteristics than its concept and weight figure would lead one to believe. Eventually it will push forward over its front wheels, revealing its low-rolling-resistance tires as the weak link in the handling equation. Still, at legal speeds, the Volt’s handling is plenty sharp. In the real world, the Volt’s relatively modest power output would be the far more limiting factor.

If quiet competence defines the Volt’s powertrain and handling, the ride is on roughly the same page. Body stiffness is admirable, and road noise is remarkably well-controlled, even when there’s no gas engine noise to drown out the tire thrum. Over rough Michigan roads, the Volt’s 3,781 lb curb weight finally comes into play, as potholes raise the first signs of unseemly juddering. There’s hardly any feedback through the wheel, but the seat of your pants will be sure to let you know when the Volt gets unsettled. Luckily, the shifter’s “Low” position ensures that maintaining composure is as easy as lifting off the throttle.

For most drivers, however, many of these observations might seem nit-picky. The reality is that, if driven in the detached American style, the Volt is incredibly easy to get along with. Its commuter appliance roots and mission are in full evidence, and the sharper “Sport” mode and motor-braking “Low” speed add a few welcome wrinkles for the more engaged driver. It’s unmistakeably a “real car,” and GM’s engineers deserve credit for translating Bob Lutz’s bold vision and its complex Two-Mode Hybrid-derived innards into such a harmonious, approachable whole.

But the Volt is more than just its engineering, and the cabin experience is where the reality of executing such an ambitious program begins to show. Clearly much of the Volt’s $41k pricetag is spent on its unique and surprisingly-refined drivetrain, which left GM’s interior designers and accountants with more than a few challenges. Interior design continues the theme established by the exterior: an unremarkable whole punctuated by seemingly tacked-on design cues that rescue the look from pure mediocrity but still come up short of a coherent design. Acres of soft-ish black plastic is broken up by hard plastic door inserts that sweep into distinctive flat-topped shelf elements which wrap across the dashboard, but none of these elements has a sense of purpose beyond “adding design.” And the door inserts don’t exactly improve the quality impression, especially when outfitted with an available graphics package.

The dramatic center console dominates the stripped down dash, with a glossy hard-plastic design that invites inevitable comparisons to an Apple iPod. Good materials and novel touch-sensitive controls help lift the cockpit’s overall quality impression, although the pop culture reference point is a bit obvious and under-inspired. Worse still, it fails utterly to live up to the promise of its Apple-alike styling when it comes to the user experience. The lack of button definition and intuitive layout mean you spend a lot of time looking for even basic controls like H/VAC, and subtle labeling doesn’t make the search any easier. The lesson is clear: an iPod covered in buttons is no iPod at all.The Volt may have little to no learning curve when it comes to driving, but in-car controls will take some time to adjust to.

The not-quite-an-iPod feel continues with the seven-inch screens that crown the center console and make up the Volt’s instrument panel. Some functions require input from the console’s buttons and wheels, some require touchscreen inputs, meaning more learning curve and more distraction. The division of labor between the traditional instrument panel and the console screen is also confusing, as “drive mode” selection requires pushing a button on the central console, but the options are displayed in the IP. Gear selection is also hampered by its tiny readout located far from the action in the top right corner of the IP. Sure, the Volt’s two screens look fantastic and can display a wealth of information about everything from your driving style and energy usage to navigation and music, but more thought needs to go into the user experience before it’s anywhere near as approachable as the rest of the vehicle’s operations.

Leg, head and hip room are more than sufficient up front, and though the seats lack definition and lumbar support, they didn’t cause outright discomfort (although older backs should spend some time in them before buying). Leather seats and steering wheel bring the Volt a little closer to a price-appropriate quality impression, but cost extra. The manual seat adjustment lever and parts-bin window switches hurt the quality picture the worst.

Backseat accommodations are considerably less plush, as rear legroom is largely a function of the size (and consideration) of the person seated in front of you. Still, four adults can be seated with sufficient leg comfort, although nothing will prevent a six-footer from bumping their head against the Volt’s long rear hatch. Between the poor headroom, more road noise filtering through the hatchback, and the cheap hard plastic console covering what would be the middle seat (which is home to the Volt’s battery), the backseat is one of the Volt’s bigger disappointments. Still, it’s not “avoid at all costs” uncomfortable, and should suffice for the kind of short trips that the Volt tackles most efficiently.

As indicated earlier, getting 40 miles of EV range from a fully-charged Volt in relatively flat terrain was not a momentous challenge. In this respect, the Volt lives up to its most basic promise. In range-extended or “charge sustaining” mode, after the EV range has been used up, indicated average fuel economy readings ranged from about 32 MPG to about 38 MPG. Attempts to get sub-30 MPG mileage on rural roads were thwarted, although a greater disrespect for posted speed limits (and more varied topography) might have made it achievable. Still, 35 MPG should be readily available, and hypermilers might well see more (at least until they’re shot by a road-raging commuter). This isn’t stop-the-presses efficient, and GM emphasizes that its range extender is about freedom more than getting the most for each gallon of gas. Helpfully, Onstar offers a smartphone app and online usage tracking to help time, and optimize charge-ups, even alerting the driver via text message when charging is complete.

The general impression of the Volt, then, is a mixed bag. Especially once carefully explained, the Volt’s drivetrain inspires serious engineer awe, all the more so because its operation is so seamless and simple for even inexperienced drivers. The fact that it salvages know-how from the disastrous Two-Mode Hybrid program makes it all the more appealing: GM used some already-broken eggs for this omelet. Still, it’s clear that the Volt’s revolutionary drivetrain and hefty battery dominated development, leaving such details as design, quality impression, backseat accommodations and user interface for non-driving controls short of money and attention. On the other hand, those who appreciate the Volt’s unique ability to drive 40 miles on electricity with unlimited range thereafter will not be overly vexed by these compromises.

Strangely then, the decision to buy a Volt comes relentlessly back to the two factors we’ve known for some time: the drivetrain and the price. This is, ultimately, an endorsement of the Volt in the sense that it does exactly what it’s supposed to without drama or unreasonable sacrifice (beyond the price point). And since the Volt will no more be purchased for purely economic reasons than will a Nissan Leaf or Toyota Prius, the absolute uniqueness of what it is able to accomplish makes the $41k base price seem considerably more reasonable. After all, for the price of an anonymous Mercedes C350, you can have something that’s increasingly rare in the automotive landscape: a truly unique vehicle with a drivetrain unlike any other, and the option of doing much of your daily driving free from the gas pump. It’s one choice in the growing segment of alt-drivetrain vehicles, and if you have the money and inclination, it’s not one to be dismissed out of hand. Until we learn more about living with the Volt from long-term testing, comparisons with emerging competitors and consumer reporting, however, our sense of this complex car and its role in the marketplace will remain clouded.

General Motors provided airfare, accommodations, meals and entertainment for this review. What entertainment, you ask? Dinner on the final day of testing was held at a go-kart facility, to which attending writers and PR staff were given free access. For what it’s worth, your humble correspondent was able to record the fastest lap amongst the attending journalists, and scored the fourth-fastest lap at the track in the month of October.

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170 Comments on “Review: 2011 Chevrolet Volt...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    For what it’s worth, your humble correspondent was able to record the fastest lap amongst the attending journalists, and scored the fourth-fastest lap at the track in the month of October.

    I didn’t think Niedermeyer’s ever drove like hooligans.  :P

    Those door panels sure look interesting and from Ed’s impressions it sounds like the Volt is more of a “sports car” than the CR-Z.  Curiouser and curiouser.  What an enigma.

    • 0 avatar

      The door panels look unfinished to me. Why is it the white door panels  don’t blend in with the grey skirt?

      That said, I think the most important facet of the VOLT is going to be how we change our lifestyles to adapt to it, or vice versa – how well it adapts to our lifestyles. 
      Will people simply plug it in and ride out? 
      Will they end up using gasoline more than charging?

      The first thing I’m looking for is someone to do what I suggested before and install solar panels into the VOLTS’ glass  as a DIY project so the car can gain small increments of energy while its just sitting still. People have already done this with the Prius.  No the efficiency won’t be high, but I want to see us make more use of the SUN as much as possible.

      I don’t see myself ever buying a Volt, but I will consider a full sized EV once they make one the size and as fun to drive as the cars I own.  If the S400 wasn’t slower than my 550, I’d have gotten that. If Mercedes makes an EV E-class or  S-class, I’m so buying one. 

      As for this car’s entertainment system… if Apple would partner with GM they would easily make a Entertainment system that would blow Microsoft/ford Sync away. Apple’s voice recognition is damn good on my iPhone 4, and it would be even better in a car unit. I have no idea why engineers don’t simply copy the main facets of the iPod like so many others have done, but its not going to be a deal breaker for most people. All the VOLT needs is XM/Navigation and the same HDD system used in the CTS.

      I think the biggest problem with the VOLT however is the unscertainty of geopolitics. We already see how politics causes gas prices to spike. But last week didn’t TTAC have an article about Chinese threatening a halt of mining for the minerals required for the batteries? Does America have the ability to mine for the material required for these batteries? Cause if we do, lets put Americans to work and get that ore!

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff N

      bigtruckseries says:”All the VOLT needs is XM/Navigation and the same HDD system used in the CTS.”  Done. It’s already standard equipment on the Volt.

    • 0 avatar

      Ed (and pretty much everyone else there) killed me. Seems that heading onto a kart track with zero kart / racing experience is an invitation to getting slaughtered. Or at least getting bumped off the track repeatedly.
      The Volt is in most ways better, even much better than expected. I’ll probably be writing my own review (thanks to Ed for getting me included for the evening of the second day).
      I am of course wondering how both reliability and real-world fuel economy will shake out. I observed 28 MPG while driving the car, which included quite a bit of pedal to the floor ISO the claimed low-end torque. The Prius has been extremely reliability. But will the Volt fare likewise. I hope to have some reliability stats by next August.
      To help with TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey:
      http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php
       

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      What is the Chinese-made parts content?  Given GM’s quality-control reputation, that more than anything else makes me skeptical about the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Chinese parts are the root cause of reliability issues? I don’t think so. The Chinese will make parts to whatever level of quality the OEM pays for. If you pay for Boeing quality, you will get it.

      But even if you pay for aerospace-grade quality, you still have final assembly in the US. That affects quality, too…

  • avatar
    Zammy

    “…two factors we’ve known for some time: the drivetrain and the price…”

    The drivetrain sounds like a qualified success (with only the unknown long-term reliability as an open question).

    Try as I might, I just don’t see paying the premium asked for the ability to drive 40 miles without gas. But then again, I never “got” the Prius either, but that vehicle too outsold any prediction I would ever have made. But I’m clearly not the target market for this car.

    The graphics on the interior door panel look cheap too me. For a car that is supposed to carry itself with luxury, they just scream tastelessness. The are optional though I understand. I do think that GM did pull off the “iPod” look successfully, and that look necessitates the extensive use of hard plastics. It is an imposing wall of buttons though.

    I respect the idea that the Volt represents. I predict that in 10-15 years we will see that plug-in hybrids have carved out a sizable niche for themselves. Will the Volt (or the lineal descendants thereof) capture a large portion of that niche, who knows?

    Even though I don’t see myself in one anytime soon I hope GM sells a ton of these, and I look forward to seeing what a second generation Volt can bring.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      it beats the premium people are willing to pay for a third car (i.e. convertible) or an expensive car to begin with. the most expensive car for several $ 100K also only gets you from A to B. As far as toys go, the Volt doesn’t have the worst economics.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Zammy,
       
      The issue is when some geopolitical crisis crops up and gas hits $5 a gallon GM will have this to fall back on.  Their long term viability as a company depends on having competitive cars ready for whatever crisis comes next.  They can’t survive a ’72, ’79, ’07 gas price spike without having this technology available.

  • avatar
    amazon ray

    Interesting review. But I have a feeling you enjoyed driving the go-kart more than the Volt.

  • avatar
    Syke

    I was eagerly awaiting this, especially after having read the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday edition review of the car.  Well, it’s obvious you both drove the same car.  It works.  And anyone who’s going to go all-out regarding price wouldn’t be looking at one in the first place.  He’s still driving that 15-year-old Mazda.

  • avatar
    Tree Trunk

    Interesting review, the Volt sounds like a pleasurable ride and delivers what was promised.
     
    But the big question is still why pony up the 41K to buy this car?
     
    If you are interested in EV the Leaf is a better option and if you want a super economical commuter the Prius is still the winner.
     
    But still hats off to GM for the experiment.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      If you are interested in EV the Leaf is a better option and if you want a super economical commuter the Prius is still the winner.

      All three options work for different people in different situations.   If you have a 10 mile commute you could almost never need to buy gas for a Leaf or Volt.  With the volt you’d have the option for longer trips.  With the Prius you don’t have the option of going months without getting gas.

      Also, keep in mind this is also so GM has something to fall back on when, as they always do, gas prices spike again.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Thanks for the review, Ed. I had to check the byline, however, as it read like a Baruthian penned monograph!

      “But the big question is still why pony up the 41K to buy this car?”

      With only 10,000 being built for this model year, GM will have no problem selling/leasing every single one of them.

      Which leads to the next question: How many will/should GM build for the following year? Is this a car like the Camaro, which will run out of steam once the initial lust has been satisfied, or is it a Prius, which has incrementally increased sales every year since it’s introduction?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      A Prius is not what you buy for the super economical.  It would be more like a Corolla, Cruze, or Civic.  Really, it would be more like Yaris, Versa, Aveo, or Fit.  A Prius isn’t for the super economical because the upfront costs take a while to recoup if ever.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Good review. for the next review (by whomever) I’d like to see some more range/mileage testing in winter/summer with AC/heating. (I understand that in October that is hard to do :-)
     
    - what are maintenance requirements / cost? Csot for tires etc. (if that are odd sizes)
    - what is luggage compartment size?
     
    I kind of dislike the controls too. They could have made better (less distracting and shorter learning period) controls. This seems to be a general trend, not only in EVs.
     

  • avatar

    a complete and absolute waste of time and money. then again what would you expect from the circus that calls itself General Motors? this company is an utter disgrace.

    btw, I’ll read your review later if I’m bored out of my brain. you’re cool Ed, GM sucks, isn’t worth the time, they are a joke, bad one at that.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    This car certainly is a challenge to review. The second gen Volt (assuming there is one) will be easier, once it has more competition to be compared against.

    The rear end is certainly similar to the prius.

  • avatar
    BobJava

    Ed, you’re missing a T from ‘thought’ in this line: “more though needs to go into the user experience.”

    I still don’t really get the car, for the price.  The big selling point, the electric range, is eclipsed by the Nissan Leaf, and the Leaf is a lot cheaper.  If you need the range extender, and need it often, it’s hard to justify purchasing the Volt to begin with, due to the price difference between it and a comparable gas-only car (or Prius).

    Seems like the ideal Volt buyer is someone with money, with a limited and very regular commute, and who lacks a second car for longer trips.  That’s too narrow a segment.  The Prius didn’t just work because people wanted the image; it worked because it was practical.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The Volt certainly sounds like it hits the mark Chevy was aiming for. As far as some of the other criticism such as “parts bin switches”, I don’t have a problem at all with that. I do believe they should have used soft-touch surfaces on the rear hump, just for perceived value if nothing else. Sure wish it had a power seat, though. I can’t wait to check one out.

    I’m the type of driver that doesn’t push too hard where “performance” is concerned – I’m not a kid anymore. If the car can get out of its own way, that’s sufficient for me. The back windows appear to roll down most all the way and that’s good ’cause I don’t use A/C very often. My major concern is the user-friendliness learning curve required in order to take advantage of all the controls for the sound system, HVAC and such.

    Styling? I think I like it – it doesn’t look like a Prius and it’s got lines that I find interesting. I am concerned about rear seat head room, though, as the Volt is supposed to be a people-carrier, not just a driver +1.

    All that being said, Ed, I feel you gave an extremely balanced review. Thank you!

  • avatar

    It sounds like they mostly got this car right.  I’m curious as to whether the thing will sell after the early adopters all get their cars in a year or two, and curious about long-term dependability of this incredibly complex drivetrain.

    I’m struck by the parallel in that with a car like the Camaro or Corvette, much of your money goes to the drivetrain and not into extras like a well-crafted interior.  It sounds like this car is much of the same – an expensive drivetrain wrapped in a premium-ish small car.

  • avatar
    mjz

    This car will be a landmark. Having seen six in person so far, I think it’s good looking too, even with that thick black window molding.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Few will buy, since the lease is a far better deal. If you happen to commute within the Volts all-electric range, it may actually make economic sense to own one (with the lease at least). I did some math and found that I’d save about $1k/yr in gas at today’s prices. I’m a pretty strong critic of GM but I think they need this testbed and mostly – NOT to abandon GM-style it if it has a financially rough 1st generation.

    I’m seriously thinking about getting one. But can’t say for sure until they are available to us common folks to drive.

    And Edward, never mind the food. How were the accomodations?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    While I still think this car was a bad move on GM’s part, I commend the engineers who got it done.  For a while during Carmageddon, I really didn’t think they’d finish the project, nor do I think they should have.
     
    This is a car born from the twisted chaos of pre- and post-Carmageddon green hype, politics, and nascent battery technology.  This complex gamble hurts GM’s bottom line but gives it a halo vehicle to brag about.  This is one car the accountants should have killed.  Who knows, maybe they tried.
     
    Although I don’t like the look of the ‘scientific calculator’ center console, I do like the exterior look, particularly in red or black.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      This is one car the accountants should have killed.

      True. Has everyone forgotten how the car czar Steve Rattner and his gang panned the Volt? What happened with that? Why did the Volt live on?

    • 0 avatar

      Rattner didn’t pan the Volt. He criticized GM for acting as if the Volt would fix the company’s financial problems. Two very different things.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      What I meant was that Steve Rattner and his flunkies thought GM should not make the Volt. As in, “There is no scenario under which the Volt, estimable as it may be, will make any contribution to GM’s fortunes for many years.”

      You are right that Mr. Rattner did not pan the Volt as a car to drive. He drove a Volt prototype in March 2009: The car “looked fine on the outside but had an interior that seemed like an Apple iPod knockoff,” he wrote.

      But Mr. Rattner found that the Volt “drove surprisingly well and accelerated far better than I’d expected. It was noiseless and smooth and did not noticeably shift gears.” He described the experience as “fun but irrelevant to GM’s near-term survival.”

  • avatar
    rohman

    The question is: Will it aid the imminent IPO and/or bailout in two years?

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I don’t know if anyone at TTAC has had any experiences with MyFordTouch yet, but I’m wondering how the Volt’s user interface compares. For instance, I assume the Volt doesn’t support voice commands, which would preclude the need to button-sift…

    Meanwhile, I don’t know how Bob Lutz or anyone else who worked on the Volt looked at that rear center console and thought “Well, that’s acceptable-looking for a $40,000 car.”

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I am pretty sure the Volt does support some voice commands.  I am not sure how many it supports, but a Chevy Traverse supports some voice commands today.

    • 0 avatar

      A writer for my site has experienced both.  He had this to say:  “Similar in functional concept to the keys on the MyFord Touch system, the Volt’s actuators took a firm “touch” to work; I thought that the appearance and functionality of the Volt’s controls was not quite as refined as those in the Lincoln MKX whose myFord Touch system I recently used.”

      So basically to him, the Ford one worked a little better.

  • avatar
    peoplewatching04

    This might be totally irrelevant in terms of sales- but isn’t it somewhat significant that this car (and the Leaf, for that matter) cannot be purchased by anyone who parks their car on the street or in a monthly garage? 

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      What percentage of new car buyers is that?  I’d guess 10% at the very most.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      It depends on where you live. In the Boston area, that number gets much higher the closer you get to the city. I wouldn’t venture a guess. You really need hard numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      In Seattle Nissan is paying to have over 2,000 street level charging stations installed through the city, including giving owners access to the chargers (pay a fee to the city for the electricity) even if you park on the street.  I stayed at a hotel recently in Vancouver, Washington and to my surprise there was an electric car charging station in the garage.  Welcome to the future.  I do find it ironic that Nissan is paying for those charge stations that Toyota, GM, Fiat, Ford, etc. etc. etc. will benefit from.
       
      The state of Washington also wants to create an “electric highway” along the entire I-5 corridor providing rapid chargers at key locations and rest stops so someone could cross the state and never use a drop of gas.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      The charging stations won’t work as well in Boston. We have snow and in a snowy winter, you probably wouldn’t see the charging station until spring. Especially when the snow turns rock hard. Then, when spring comes, you’d find that it had been destroyed by a snow plow during the winter. You’d also need thousands of these stations in just the Boston area alone. Not to mention the transformer upgrades needed. Then, before you know it, in order to recover the cost of the new infrastructure, you’re paying more to charge your car than it costs to run it on electricity. Yep, welcome to the future where there’s no free ride.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      mcs –
      You didn’t even mention the worst problem – parking.  A charging station requires a space for the car to be in while it charges.  As someone who lived in downtown Boston (Beacon Hill) for 8 years, I can attest to the fact that there are no “extra” parking spaces.  Anywhere. Ever.

  • avatar
    jaje

    So when will someone fit solar panels to the top of the car to aid recharging and help extend its range during daylight driving?

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Solar panels on a roof aren’t nearly big enough to do that. The solar panels on the Prius roof create enough energy to run a small fan to help keep the interior cool; that’s about it.

    • 0 avatar
      JT

      And the solar cells in the optional rear wing-let on the Leaf only provides a minor snack to the 12v battery, not the high-voltage propulsion batteries.
       

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      If you could squeeze 2 square meters of space, at 20% efficiency you would get about 1.60 KWh per day out of them.  (That’s an annual average.  More in the summer, less in the winter.  More in the southwest, less in the north.)
      That’s about one-seventh the useful range of the Volt’s battery (it doesn’t let you fully charge or fully discharge to extend its life.)  That could get you about seven miles.  It just might save you some battery wear if you can get  the panels to provide power directly to the motor when you are in motion, but that may not be as straightforward as TV suggests.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    Should a company coming out of bankruptcy be spending all this money and effort on a high-risk, low-reward, long-term project like the Volt? Even if it is a big success, it will just be a blip on GM’s financial radar screen.
     
    By coincidence, just as Chevy is giving birth to the Volt, Toyota is running commercials celebrating the Prius’s 10th birthday. It’s been a long, hard road for the Prius. The Volt will be lucky to be even that successful.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Daanii2,

      But chasing the bottom line is what got them so dependent on trucks and SUVs.  They need something in the wings so they can survive the next gas price spike.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      You are so right.  GM shouldn’t be spending money on R&D, they should be spending it on high margin profitable vehicles.  The Suburban, the Tahoe, the Avalanche, the Yukon, the Escalade.  The rest can be decontented down to the lowest common denominator.  That should work out great for making lots of money…
       
      Wait a minute…

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      I’m not saying that GM should focus on trucks and SUVs. That’s foolish. But focusing on the Volt is just as foolish. Even if it is a success, it won’t make any money for GM. That’s the problem.
       
      GM needs a vision for the future. How can it make money? Build trucks and SUVs? Build the Volt? No and no. Then what? That’s the question.
       
      In my opinion, the answer was in the AUTOnomy and Hy-wire approach. Not with the fuel cell. But with that skateboard chassis approach. That not only changed the architecture of the car. It changed the economics of the car industry.
       
      The Volt? Same old same old.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      Daanii2 – did you read the same story I read?  Same old same old?  Seems like the Volt is anything but in a lot of ways according to Ed and his experience.  The parts that are same old same old seem to be what is key for the car to be successful anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      What is “same old same old” about the Volt is the business model. Pour a billion dollars or more into a project. Wine and dine everyone at the product launch. Sell the product at a loss and try to make up for that on volume. That’s not smart business.
       
      Even his highness the car czar Steve Rattner criticized the Volt. He was right. It’s high risk, and low reward. I’ll agree that GM did a good job on the Volt. It’s well engineered, and that’s nice. But is this what GM should be doing? I think not. The Volt is the kind of business decision that put GM in bankruptcy.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      How much of the money was spent before bankruptcy?  Would it make much sense to let the money go to waste?  Besides, if this generation makes money, then the answer is yes.  If the 2nd generation is better and sells more main stream, absolutely.  It is all a guess right now, but your opinion is based on emotion and not facts.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      My question: Should GM be doing the Volt?
      Your answer: If this generation makes money, then the answer is yes.
       
      That’s my point. In a well-run business, the people in charge figure out how they are going to make money. It doesn’t matter what the business is. Bowling balls. Computer software. Cars.
       
      To make money, you need to get more money from your customers as revenue than you spend in expenses. How is GM going to do that with the Volt? How is this generation of the Volt going to make any money?
       
      Obviously GM people have thought about that question. And they are not going to tell us what they think — that’s trade secrets they need to keep secret.
       
      But I think they have no chance of making any money from the Volt until long after it will matter. That’s my criticism.
       
      Do I have any facts to back up my opinion? No. We’re talking about the future here. No one has facts about the future.
       
      But I can draw on a 25-year career, in Tokyo and Silicon Valley, working with high-tech companies. Many times I have seen a troubled company like GM rear back and throw a Hail Mary pass like the Volt is.
       
      I’ve never seen that work. I don’t think it’s going to work here. On the merits of the Volt as a car I have nothing to say. As a business move, making the Volt makes no sense to me.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      <<But I can draw on a 25-year career, in Tokyo and Silicon Valley, working with high-tech companies. Many times I have seen a troubled company like GM rear back and throw a Hail Mary pass like the Volt is.

      I’ve never seen that work. I don’t think it’s going to work here. On the merits of the Volt as a car I have nothing to say. As a business move, making the Volt makes no sense to me.>>
       
      Totally off-topic but since you brought it up.
       
      Apple
       
      1998
       
      iMac.
       
      Hail Mary.
       
      SCORE!!!  Enough said.

  • avatar

    It sounds like the Volt was a good first shot, but that it has nowhere to go but up in the next generation model.
    Sounds good, IMHO. GM truly has nowhere to go but up, here’s hoping for the best.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The lack of button definition and intuitive layout mean you spend a lot of time looking for even basic controls like H/VAC, and subtle labeling doesn’t make the search any easier. The lesson is clear: an iPod covered in buttons is no iPod at all

    This was the only real criticism I had about the car from what we’ve seen of the latter-stage concepts: that a quarter-century of ergonomics has been chucked out the window.

    To be fair to GM, Ford has done the same thing with MyTouch.  To be critical, they got it right in the Malibu.

  • avatar
    Steinweg

    For a long time I believed in this project, the range-extended series hybrid sounded like a much better system than the parallel hybrid that Toyota’s popularized. But in the end it seems very underwhelming. I can kind of care less about the styling given the criticality of aerodynamics to this venture, but it does make the Prius look good. I never understood the over-applied eye-liner on the side glass.
    The interior is the biggest disappointment though, and I think you’re sadly right that GM wanted some iPod polish to rub off on its new toy. But they had no idea what the iPod is about if they think it amounts to smooth plastic finishes and button-less buttons. The effect is more Aston Martin Lagonda than desirable car and, infuriatingly, the Prius is again made to look the better.
    The price is what really puts this car out to pasture before it’s even hit the road. To be worth that much more than a Prius, let alone a Leaf, this many years after the Prius has been around, the Volt would have to be a quantum leap of some kind. The additional functionality of range-extended driving at some incalculable rate of fuel consumption isn’t going to make up that gap. We expected too much of GM on this one – GM encouraged us to, during their bail-out pleadings. They’ve just barely learned to make quality normal cars and to out-do the entire industry is asking a bit much.

    • 0 avatar
      Tree Trunk

      How doe the price break down?
       
      The Volt looks similar to the Prius for size, hybrid system, fancy rather annoying multifunction touch screen etc, but costs roughly 16K more at 41K v 25K.

      Is this all for the larger battery or what else is covered in the price difference.
       
      Surly GM can´t be planing to pay off their Moon program investment making up for years of neglect in investment in alternative vehicles with one model.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      A Coda EV is $45k, costing more than the Volt, but you actually get less.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    The review cover the major points of interest for me.  The controls on the dash look like a button pusher’s paradise.  If I was in the market for this type of car, I’d pick the Prius – because it’s proven itself and I don’t have to hassle with plugging it in to the grid.

  • avatar

    Good review, Ed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this get picked up elsewhere.

    The word that sticks out from reading some of the comments is “testbed.” This is very much a GM interpretation of technology that Toyota pioneered a decade ago, with the greater emphasis on electric-only driving. Trouble is, what Toyota has accomplished for 10+ years is completely new territory for GM, previous half-hearted attempts at “hybrids” not withstanding. 

    I don’t trust GM’s ability to pull this one off without significant issues down the road. I’ll wait to see a few Volts go 2+ years without battery fires et al before I think of setting foot in one, thank you.

    Longevity concerns notwithstanding, the Volt seems to be a noble effort. It is also a very narrow-market car, that makes sense to a very small percentage of buyers. The same can be said for the Corvette, though the Volt certainly doesn’t have an aspirational quality to speak of.

    Realistically, once the initial horde of greenie-buyers fades… who’s left to sustain a market? Government fleets?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Realistically, once the initial horde of greenie-buyers fades… who’s left to sustain a market? Government fleets?

      Two possibilities, both of which Toyota has proven:
      * One is that the drivetrain technology is useful in other vehicles in GM’s lineup, especially as the cost drops.  Imagine a Lambda that goes 20 miles as a boon for soccer moms?  Or a Malibu or Equinox?
      * The other is licensing: there are a number of marques out there with weak or non-existent EV/Hybrid platforms.  GM could make a tidy sum licensing this to Daimler, Fiat, Honda (!!!!) or a number of Chinese makes.

    • 0 avatar

      The other is licensing: there are a number of marques out there with weak or non-existent EV/Hybrid platforms.  GM could make a tidy sum licensing this to Daimler, Fiat, Honda (!!!!) or a number of Chinese makes.

      That’s a great point, and one I had not considered.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      GM is poised to push their Hybrid / ER EV tech across more and more of their line over the next decade.

      With the pending CAFE push, they’ll have to.

      I’m not sure GM would sell the tech to any of their major competitors. The whole point of the Volt is that it feels like a “normal” car – something that’s eluded other manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @psar:
      As I recall, the Cadillac Converj was killed because the price would have approached $60k with an electric range of only around 20 miles, which was considered an unviable combination for the brand.  An Equinox version would have the same problems because of weight.
      Rebadging this as a Malibu just dilutes the Chevy brand, IMO.  I don’t see soccer moms digging the plug-in requirement, so most of their cars would be running around in extended-range mode.
       
      But your idea on licensing might work for an automaker with lower production costs than GM, since it’s expected to be a money-loser for GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      gslippy,
      The Converj EV miles are rumors, but there are more important reasons it wasn’t built.  There isn’t a hybrid luxury vehicle that is successful on sales.  GM already wants to limit volume.  Designing a second car on the same platform with intended low volume would just waste more money right now.  A second generation with less development cost and when GM is ready to expand to more volume would make sense then.
      Soccer moms are going to want to save money.  Plugging in a car isn’t going to be a big deal when it saves money.  That is one of the reasons that the plug is by the drivers door on the front of the car.  Easy to remember to unplug it and plug it in.
       
      Also, he isn’t saying to rebadge the Volt as a Malibu, he is saying use the technology in the Malibu, like the Prius and Camry.  Toyota uses the Prius technology in the Highlander, GM could do something similar with the Equinox or some of the Lambdas.  It is very possible to do, but it might not happen in the first generation of Volt technology, that is my guess.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @Steven02:

      I shouldn’t have used the term ‘rebadge’, but repackaging the Voltec in a Malibu is essentially the same thing.  How many mid-sized cars does GM need?  Toyota’s Prius technology has been used in vehicles unlike the Prius, which keeps things interesting.  However, I don’t see the Voltec system capable of any ROI when transferred to a larger vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Converj only 20 miles? How is that possible when the Volt gets 40? I don’t see how they could half mileage without doubling aerodynamic drag.
       
      ps. Don’t forget that faster acceleration is more efficient all else equal and electronics use little compared with
       
       
      Gslippy:
      it is not a rebadge just as putting a Camaro engine into a Cruze isn’t a rebadge

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @charly:
      The Converj would have been too heavy, and I think GM wanted it to perform better/faster than the Volt:
      http://gm-volt.com/2010/03/02/report-gm-drops-voltec-for-cadillac-kills-converj-program/
       
      See my recant of the word ‘rebadge’ above.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Did anyone thought about exposure to the strong electro-magnetic field in this type of car?
    I wouldn’t want my child to ride in it.

    • 0 avatar
      thirty-three

      The EM field will be similar to that from the wiring in your house.  i.e. insignificant.  The strongest EM field will be in the electric motor, which has a metal housing.  The metal housing will block nearly all of the EM field.

      Strong EM fields screw around with radios, so the field inside the car must be very small otherwise it will interfere with the stereo system, OnStar, and cell phones.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      Don’t worry, tinfoil hats are standard.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Did anyone thought about exposure to the strong electro-magnetic field in this type of car?
      I wouldn’t want my child to ride in it.

       
      PeriSoft?  Is that you?  (I know you can take a good-natured ribbing.)

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      Magnetic fields cause cancer.  But if you run the motor backwards, the reverse magnetic fields cure cancer.   Since GM already put the engine in backwards, this car should cure cancer in lab rats and soccer moms.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      PeriSoft?  Is that you?  (I know you can take a good-natured ribbing.)
       
      Hey, I’m not insulted by the safety bit – I’m insulted by your thinking I’d be crazy enough to think EM fields are more dangerous than light, heat, and any other various bit of spectrum! Yeesh! :)
       
      I will admit to a certain intensity regarding things that I think affect my son. The funny thing is that while I refuse to compromise on vehicle safety – something I have more or less direct control over – I would entirely support public policy that kept freedom and privacy paramount even at an increased risk of terrorist attacks. As I’ve pointed out before, there are some things worth the danger, and some things not. Saving a few grand on a car isn’t; not having my country slip into an Orwellian mass panic is. And I suspect that a few points better side impact rating has a far greater effect on my kid’s safety than all the panicked terrorism legislation passed in the last 10 years put together…
       
      And I’m also flattered that I’ve ranted enough to become a TTAC-hold name. Hey, Niedermeyer! I want a column, stat!

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      But Peri, don’t you drive a 9-5?  No side curtain airbags and only an “Acceptable” (IIHS) and four star (out of five) from NHTSA for rear seat side impact.  Not dogging you, just curious.  I was ready to buy my third 9-5 with the arrival of my two little chickens, but didn’t like that fact that Saab didn’t see fit to upgrade the safety gear.  We bit down hard and bought a Taurus X.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Honestly Peri, it was only the line “I wouldn’t want my child to ride in it.” that made me think of you.
       
      I’m glad you’re a supporter of personal freedom as am I.  (Column?  Try writing a Ur-Turn first, I’ve been turning ideas over in my mind but haven’t found anything suitable.)

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’m looking forward to driving a Volt when they arrive at Denver dealerships. The Tesla I test drove last month was entertaining, but not $145,000 entertaining. Not that the Tesla and Volt have much in common. My $41k would buy a new VW TDI or better yet, a gently used E320 CDI.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    …for the price of an anonymous Mercedes E320, you can have something that’s increasingly rare in the automotive landscape: a truly unique vehicle with a drivetrain unlike any other, and the option of doing much of your daily driving free from the gas pump.

    This is not entirely fair: the E320 (we’re talking the most recent diesel?)  is very much a conventional car, not at all anonymous, and you still visit the pump pretty often, potentially.

    Plus you get Mercedes “service”.

    It will be interesting to see how this car ages.  I worry about the LiIon battery pack vis a vis the Prius’ NiMH one, and the potential for teething pains, but the E320 is a known quantity that will cost you a good deal when things start to go.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      I worry about the LiIon battery pack vis a vis the Prius’ NiMH one.

      I too worry about lithium ion batteries. Some of the Tesla Roadsters have been on the road for two years now. I’d love to know how much capacity their batteries have left.

      Some claim that their lithium ion batteries will still have 80% of their capacity after 10 years. Unbelievable, in my opinion.

  • avatar

    Leave it to Buickman to sum it all up.

    John

    • 0 avatar

      bottom line, this Volt thing sucks, is a loser just like Saturn. give me a full size Roadmaster Sedan and the customers will pay the guzzler tax. want an IPO that has a chance? build something that will sell, period, end of story.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Strong words from a guy who didn’t bother to read the article. Isn’t there a Streetfire.net message board you should be posting on?

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    I don’t know if the grass surface you parked on is responsible for this, but that front valence is way too low…it would bottom out on the entrance to my driveways.
     
    Also, that side-shot of the silver/gray Volt looks like a Taurus that was left in the dryer a little too long.
     
    Overall though, big thanks for this write-up.

  • avatar

    One word: ringer. Anyone who believes that Volt number 1345 will be as well sorted as the press car is experiencing the triumph of hope over experience. The Volt was a marriage made in hell, between egomaniacal car execs and pandering PC pols. Still, hats off to the engineers for making it all work. Now, what IS the cost per mile on this thing, not including purchase price, depreciation or replacement batteries?

    • 0 avatar
      nonce

      After years of complaining that they wanted a test drive in a Volt, TTAC got one, and now we get “ringer.”
       

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Here: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/voltonomics-101-your-costs-will-vary-figure-them-out-yourself-here/

    • 0 avatar

      I did drive at least three separate Volts. If my results are based on specially-prepped cars, the entire fleet was prepped to identical spec. That’s not out of the realm of possibility, but I’m also not sure how an un-prepped car would manifest major experiential differences.
      Regardless, my ultimate conclusion is that we need to know a lot more about this car’s real-life and its competition before making a final call on it’s real value. I hope the review gets the point across that driving the car did little to make it easier to evaluate its chances of commercial success or recommendability. It’s the ultimate “depends on your circumstances” car, and we still know nothing about its long-term reliability, costs or resale value.
       

    • 0 avatar

      Robert,
       
      GM didn’t hide the fact that these were validation cars. Built on the production line, but not exactly production cars. As for being well sorted or not, I think that’s a factor of the drivetrain design and the electronic controls, so there shouldn’t be much variability there.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Now, what IS the cost per mile on this thing, not including purchase price, depreciation or replacement batteries?
       
      More than any other ‘economy’ car.  True Believers won’t care.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      @nonce – you nailed it.  TTAC writes a favorable review and now readers are crying foul.  Ya, GM gave Ed THREE ringers to drive.  Ed’s envelope of dead Presidents is waiting at Union Station, third bathroom stall from the left, behind the pipes.

    • 0 avatar
      relton

      Nice to see RF is still around.

      ALL press cars are ringers. I worked in several shops that “made” press cars, and I wrote an article for TTAC about it a while back.

      If you want the true scoop, wait for Consumers Reports. They buy their test cars at dealers like normal people.

      Bob

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Robert – are there any cars that you actually like? Just curious. Based on your old reviews, I find it difficult to believe you could even find something you can stand being in long enough to drive yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Actually Robert wasn’t TOO hard on a Saturn Aura.  But that’s about it.  (I wouldn’t mind a Aura 3.6 with VVT.)

  • avatar

    Not GM bashing, but I’ve never been so tired of a car before it ever came to market as I am this one.

  • avatar
    martin schwoerer

    Sweet review. Informative and interesting to read. Thanks, Ed!

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Most thorough review of the Volt I’ve read yet, and very balanced.  Great work Ed!

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Nice review there Ed, even I was reading with a calm, rational, dignified voice playing in my head. :-)
     
    That said, this car is definitely not for me as it appears too bread and butter in style and drives like one too as I prefer a little more feedback with my driving experience, you know, driving dynamics.
     
    But really, in the end, most people would do as well or better in saving gas by living where they don’t have to drive to everything and take the bus into work and back and simply relegate the car (a regular small gas/diesel hatch/wagon with good mileage) to weekend use mostly for multiple and/or long distance errands to places like Costco or IKEA and need to carry stuff home, things like that and not use the car during the week as much would save you as much if not more than buying the Volt at that price, the Prius makes more sense to me as a hybrid more than the Volt but that’s just me.
     
    That said, it DOES look like GM largely did this car right, a rarity for GM and I do have some concern with the ergonomics and the learning curve of the HVAC/audio etc controls, sounds like they needed to think those items through a bit more.
     
    Overall, a balanced and informative review of a car we’ve all had our doubts about – until now.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    FORD’S UNGAINLY CONTRAPTION A SOCIAL MENACE AND UNLIKELY TO PROSPER
    by Ephriam Farrier
    Your humble servant has recently been afforded an opportunity to sample and describe the merits of Mr Henry Ford’s latest creation. I must say, without fear of contradiction, that these newfangled “auto-mobiles” are not living up to the outlandish claims of their purveyors. In addition to other puzzles, one wonders where is the so-called “driver” is supposed to get “gasoline,” when every home of substance in America has a stable and a haymow, but none has tanks to store this mysterious and dangerous fluid? The local horseless carriage agency claims its so-called “mechanics” can effect any necessary repairs, but their training is far inferior to that of even the humblest veterinarian. The rubber tires are compounded of exotic materials from southeast Asia, rather than widely-available iron. Storing such a vehicle in the stable — let alone the house — will constitute a fire hazard that not many will be willing to essay.
    The view from of the operator is far inferior to that of a man mounted on a horse, and careening down streets at heretofore unknown speeds of 15-20 miles per hour may have deleterious effects on the driver, his hapless passengers and will surely frighten horses, women and children. Rather than simply slacking the reins or calling “gee” or “haw” the automobile operator must master a complex system of pedals, levers, a “steering wheel” akin to the helm of a yacht, and if rain obscures the windshield, the operator or “passenger” must move a small lever to clear the glass. Can the ordinary Yankee yeoman farmer or workman be trusted to safely control these vehicles, let alone pay the princely sums required for their maintenance? We fear not.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Underneath its hood lurks a combination of clutches, gears, motors and an engine that……… Well when one considers that GM has chronic difficulty producing a mass market ‘simple’ car with the reliability and longevity of a Corolla, what’s the chances of it doing it with a complex drivetrain? I would say it’s slim to none. How long will it be before the Volt starts shedding parts on the highway like every other GM car? No thanks, too expensive, too complicated, not exactly a poster child for fuel economy and designed and made by GM.
    Any more questions?

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    The optimist in me hopes that those car buyers who were looking at the Leaf or the Prius will look at the Volt and see a combination of the best parts of those cars. The optimist in me also hopes that as it appears GM have got the most important bit right first time (the drivetrain), that later incarnations of the Volt will have a better spec interior.
    However the pessimist in me just sees a gigantic waste of money and a car which isn’t quite up to scratch, which won’t be built in big enough numbers and which GM will likely sh*tcan if they think it’s not selling well enough.

    Time will tell. However this time I hope the optimist is right.

    • 0 avatar
      Tree Trunk

      You don´t always get what was planed like the breeder of the Catog who got a new beast with the loyalty of the cat and the cleanliness of the dog.

      Less than half of the range of the Leaf and not much more than half the MPG of the Prius, is not a great combination. The low MPG on the engine alone is particularly a surprise.

      Still hope this one finds a niche market and the second or third generation will be really great.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      I think the drive train of the Volt is much better than the Leaf, which can get very poor mileage at speeds the Volt can handle and get its high EV miles in.  The Volt won’t leave you stranded if you go too far for the EV.
       
      The CS mileage is less important than the mileage on the Prius.  The car is meant to be driven as an EV with minimal CS mode.  Cost comparison really depends on ddriving habits.

  • avatar
    Nick

    Sounds like the driving experience would be tolerable to the majority of the time to the majority of drivers (let’s face it, most people are forced into rather boring drives).
    Looks okay to me from the front and side.  The doors seems nice and big which is a bonus.  It’s butt is butt ugly.
    The interior…OMG so much black, and those door inserts are HIDEOUS.
    All in all, a reasonable alternative in the $25-30k category.  Oh.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Ed, Nice, even handed review.  Thanks.  I’m very much looking forward to the real world shoot out between the Volt and LEAF.
     
    One of my friends is working on the LEAF marketing effort…. here’s an article discussing the full 116.1 mile range:
     
    http://www.plugincars.com/nissan-leaf-116-mile-range.html

  • avatar
    lawmonkey

    Profile and tail look good to me, face is okay.  Happy to read that the powertrain starts in a good place, even if everyone is rightly concerned about the durability of such a complex piece of engineering.  I think the interior’s strangeness will overcome some of its material quality issues (which is part of the reason I don’t mind my Civic’s rock hard spaceship dash).
     
    I agree with the posters that finding a place to plug in will be the key issue – I can’t think of a large intersection of people who enjoy trying cutting edge / untested technology AND own a private garage.  Even with public charging stations, I would worry about having to fight for the available ones.  It doesn’t make much sense to pay extra for the electric bit if the charger is only open to you one or two days a week.

  • avatar

    Dinner on the final day of testing was held at a go-kart facility, to which attending writers and PR staff were given free access. For what it’s worth, your humble correspondent was able to record the fastest lap amongst the attending journalists, and scored the fourth-fastest lap at the track in the month of October.

    This humble correspondent warned his colleagues that he’d get motion sickness if he went karting. Michael and Ed talked me into doing some laps. As I came around the hairpin at the end of lap 3, I felt my stomach heave and I pulled over to the pits. Thanks to Mike for pulling over on the way home, I’m pretty sure that I missed the kick panel on the door. Still, I wasn’t the slowest guy on the track.
    Michael and Ed had very serious looks on their faces behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    BlackDynamite

    Sounds like a lot of hedging by Truth
    They clearly were somewhat disappointed the more they delved into a relationship with the car
    I don’t know where they get a E320 fro $41k.  Good luck finding one of those!
    The REAL question we need answered is, considering this is GM’s first shot at this, is this a significantly better value than a Prius?  Or is it just a one-trick pony, followed by an ordinary 4 cylinder sedan that only seats 4, not exactly comfortably?
    Rusty

  • avatar
    ajla

    That center stack is awful and the television screen IP seems like it should be larger considering all the information it is displaying.

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    From the reviews, it appears GM spent a *lot* of money refining the “feel” of EV power delivery and transition.

    In many ways, it’s like how BMW spends a lot of money refining the driving experience.

    These are non-numerical “soft” factors that, done well, define identity and drive profit down the road.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    I think what everyone really wants to know is:  did you get to meet Dan Neil? Here’s what he said:

    These are sour times. But for the moment, we should suspend our rancor and savor a little American pride. A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet. And they did it in 29 months while the company they worked for was falling apart around them. That was downright heroic. Somebody ought to make a movie

    http://online.wsj.com/article/….ifestyle_6

    • 0 avatar

      “Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches”
      Pretty accurate
       
      “just out-engineered every other car company on the planet”
      Pretty exaggerated
       
      “they did it in 29 months”
      It was longer than that
       
      “That was downright heroic”
      Hand out $50b to Honda, Volvo, Tata or any other car company and they will be pretty heroic.
       
       

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    Can you add something about chargers and charging?  Seems kind of crucial to be left out.

  • avatar
    Adub

    I don’t see anything in this review to make me consider the car. So what if GM sells all 10,000 of them? For the money spent on developing the Volt, GM could have released two new mainstream models that would have sold better and added more money to the bottom line.

    Ed shot himself in the foot when he compared it to a C350. Compare the interiors of the two, remember how much of your life will be spent in it, and then make your decision. I know which one I’d take…

    • 0 avatar

      Good observation. Volt’s interior, both materials and styling, looks like that of a $20,000 car segment. The Volt I drove had a white center stack like the one shown in the picture above. I couldn’t believe the orange peel that white paint presented.
      The cheap plastic center console between the rear seats will probably be changed soon, I heard and read a lot of criticism mentioning that part.

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    Please satisfy Buickman and bring back the damn Electra 225! Thats what GM needs! Or at least put portholes on the Volt fenders?

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      If Buick built a worthy successor to the Electra 225 (with the sort of effort put into it that they put into the Escalade) my kids would be picked up from school in it by 2015.  (Sorry I’m a used car buyer.)

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Dan, I suspect that GM got the idea to build the Escalade after hearing quite a few people refer to their Suburbans as tall Cadillacs. So get yourself a ‘Slade, Denali, or Suburban, lower it four inches or so – you don’t need to slam it – and you’ve got your Electra 225.

  • avatar

    I drove the Volt a week ago and I got mixed feelings. I have to agree with Ed, his review is correct and competent, bringing up positive qualities but also issues of the Volt.
    The styling of the Volt looks modern and competitive but, like many other GM vehicles, doesn’t look fresh. The interior shows this issue better than the exterior. It seems like an old designer, close to retirement, created the styling targeted to some very young audience. The iPod influence is purely uninspired. How many years ago the iPod came out? Too many. GM shows again that is a trend follower, and many times a Johnny comes lately, instead of a trend setter.
    When it comes to mechanics, Ed, you are right to the point: very complex. One engine, two electric motors, three clutches, three coolant tanks, radiators, etc. What could go wrong there, especially known the reliability of GM products? Nissan’s solution for the Leaf is more simple. No engine, no tanks, cooling is by air. Maintenance also makes a big difference between these two cars.
    The price makes the Volt totally uncompetitive to buy vis-a-vis of Leaf or Prius, but it’s very competitive if leased, monthly payments for the lease being close to that of the Leaf.  Is GM taking a big hit on leasing or, further down the road, the tax payers?
    As Ed said, there are many more things we need to know about this car. Like the aprox. $2,000 cost of installing a power plug in the garage for it. I would like to see a break-down of plug and installation costs, where all the $2,000 go.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      And people thought the Prius was complex….
       
      When diagnosing, I have a feeling that my OBD-II scanner would laugh at me and tell me to see the dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The Leaf charger is the same price.  I believe the charger cost around $500 and the installation is $1500.
      But the Leaf has a significant disadvantage on cooling.  While air is simpler to cool the car, it isn’t better.  So far out of Nissan, Ford (with its EV Focus), GM and Tesla, only Nissan doesn’t have an active cooling system.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @Steven02:

      Nissan’s ‘simpler’ air cooling would be less complex, but harder to engineer.  I would much rather have the Leaf system than the Volt’s.  By the way, the Leaf’s air cooling could still be active, just not liquid-based.

  • avatar
    Jeff N

    The mileage can’t compete with the Prius but it’s really not that bad. According to the EPA numbers for combined city/highway at fueleconomy.gov, if the Volt were rated at 35 MPG  it would take 5th place among the most efficient gasoline cars sold in the U.S. (using the 2010-2011 model year search) out of over 100 substantially differentiated subcompact through midsize models. 50 Toyota Prius hybrid  41 Honda Civic hybrid 41 Honda Insight hybrid 39 Ford Fusion hybrid 37 Honda CR-Z hybrid 35 Chevy Volt 35 Lexus HS 250h

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Don’t forget, that’s on premium, which costs 10+% more, so the equivalent mileage is about 32 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff N

      I’m comparing against EPA numbers and the Volt may well score 38-39 on the U.S. combined test cycle. We’ll just have to wait another 2-4 weeks to find out. Also, I’ve never seen any automotive article adjust EPA mileage results based on Gasoline grade. Doing that does make sense at some level but it’s unfair if it’s only done for stories on the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Yes, but you should rarely engage the gas engine anyway.
       
      Complaining about genset-mode mileage is like complaining that the Corolla can’t tow very much versus the class leaders.  It’s true, but it’s not germane.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Psar is right.  The car is to be used as an EV primarily.  CS mode isn’t meant to be driven much at all, but to be used to get you home if you needed to drive more than the EV range or if you need to take a long planned trip.  Long trips aren’t very common for most people.  CS mileage is pretty insignificant.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @psar:

      Can’t agree.  If a driver is making significant use of the extended-range capability, the Volt’s unimpressive highway mileage means it isn’t the right car.  On the other hand, if you are only making use of the short-range battery, you aren’t driving enough miles to justify the expense of buying one.

      The Volt only makes sense for those who do a certain mix of both types of driving, and don’t mind paying more for the latest gadget.

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      You can already sense a trend of blaming the customer should they have the gall to actually use the Volt for their normal driving patterns.
       
      The user must adjust to the tool or be chastised for ‘not understanding the unique requirements and functionalities’ of this product.
       
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      GM spends tens of thousands of hours programming vehicles to game the EPA testing regime.
       
      Not to deliver mileage in the real world, but to put a number on the sticker for the clueless. If one does not know that basic fact, one has no credibility writing about GM product.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Um, *EVERY* AT is programmed for the EPA cycle.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @PN: I don’t buy your “premium fuel” premium, it’s just a specification for the power unit.
       
      My car takes regular fuel, and in my part of Western Michigan if I pay $2.60/gallon and I get 30 MPG from my car, that’s what I get. If I go home to Northeast Ohio, and pay $2.40/gallon, I’m STILL getting 30 MPG from my car. Or are you saying I should get more than 30 MPG from my car because I paid less for the fuel?
       
      it is what it is.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Sounds like GM did a credible job with the Volt. And, yet, I’m not sure there’s anything here that much better than a Fusion Hybrid (which can be had for a whole lot less coin). The 40miles/day on electric alone is a nice gimmick, but it’s not $41k worth of gimmick.

    Then there’s no hatch. The original Prius was a small, four-door sedan, too, and sales were lackluster until the much more useful 2nd-gen hatchback version showed up in 2004. Suddenly, the newly designed Prius made a lot more sense.

    And no solar sunroof, either. It’s a shame GM went so gonzo with the drivetrain and didn’t reach a little further with the basic design features of the car. Combined with GM’s poor quality reputation, I don’t think I’d put down any money on the Volt succeeding (as much as I hope it does).

  • avatar
    NOPR

    Ed, were you at kart to kart?

  • avatar
    GeeDashOff

    This is one of the first GM cars I would seriously consider buying. My commute is 11 miles that can take up to an hour in traffic. My parents live about 30 miles away. Those 2 trips make up 90% of my driving during the month. With the Volt as a second car I could conceivably use close to 0 gas for a very long time. Its expensive, but this is the first generation, the high cost is the early adopter price.
    Compared to other EV only cars I’d feel more comfortable with the extended range mode on the Volt, even if the initial cost is higher. If I had to use it only once of twice a year, it would still be worth it.
    My big problem is I have no where to plug it in. Before I buy one I either need a house or for charging stations to become popular.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    “It’s a rolling contradiction, this car, part electric car and part gas-burner, part high-concept moonshot and part workmanlike commuter.”
     
    [Great line, btw]
     
    I must ask, why is it a rolling contradiction any more than a Toyota Prius is? The Japanese were fortunate enough to strike first in the Hybrid Wars, thereby allowing them to define the genre — but was it so likely that the Toyota-style hybrid (essentially the hybrid today as we know it) would be invented first, casting aside all future challengers to their system? Had the Volt come out before the Prius, would the Volt be the default hybrid system today?
     
    On another note, it is clear that GM really poured its heart and soul into this car. Imagine if they had the same attention to detail, focus, and engineering across the rest of their line… how incredible a car company they would still be. From a size standpoint, this essentially SHOULD BE the next generation Cobalt, but GM had to go along a hybrid. Imagine what a competitor it would be with a standard ICE next to a Honda Civic.
     
    Yes, the cost is a problem. This really needs to be in the mid-$25 range to compete head to head with the Prius, and as long as you can get massive tax breaks for it, many will never consider it a true Prius competitor because GM continues to suck the government teet.
     
    Great article once again, Ed. Thorough, honest, and to-the-point.
     
     

  • avatar

    this car is no more thasmoke and mirrors. quite a riot how many are gettinig sucked into even paying any attention. sad really. aa they say on SNL…Really? Really! Really folks, get a life and disregard this foolish compilation of metallic madness.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Ed, If I new you were in town I would have bought you a beer. I live a couple miles from the Royal Park were that event took place. I saw them load the cars back up into the truck on Saturday evening as I drove by, and was wondering what kind of event GM was doing with that many Volts in one place.

  • avatar
    jbltg

    Thanks for an excellent article.  You do have to give GM credit for pulling this off in their current condition.  This car has it over all other green alternatives due to the extended range, and like all first efforts is imperfect and hopefully will improve in the next version.  I think that the mileage achieved, as with all other vehicles, will be what the individual driver makes of it.  Here in LA, I could easily use gas very rarely since I work from home and have my appointments mostly out so there is no regular commute but the extended range is great for piece of mind, or a run to Palm Springs.  And it could be charged from rooftop solar panels…if I ever feel wealthy enough again to have those installed!  Good place for a better federal tax credit.

    I could care less about all the extraneous electronic stuff loaded into cars these days that have absolutely nothing to do with driving and would rather not be forced to pay for them and I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion.  Good stereo is a must and maybe Bluetooth.

    Volt interior is just awful.  Sick of seeing dreary black in so many cars today and the instrument pod in front of the driver looks like a child made it up.  I don’t think many will want those odd wallpaper door panels.  GM has staff that can do this right judging by the Malibu and even some trim levels of the Aveo!  The Cruze interior is far better and they may as well have adapted that and saved a lot of time, effort and money.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Several things come to mind after reading the article and the subsequent posts. 

    1.  Fuel economy.  Yes, 30-35 mpg does not get ones interest.  Again, one has to factor their driving habits.  If your commute is 70 miles.  You go 40 on Electric and 30 on gas.  Re-charge at home.  Mathmatically, that users MPG falls in the range of 65-70mpg per day.  That is appealing.

    2.  To the folks who claim this is wasted technology.  So were power windows, FM radio, Fuel Injection, Cassette decks and a whole host of standard items found today on the modern automobile.  All of the above were non starters to my old man who was in the car business a very long time and quite successful inspite of his inability to accept innovation.

    3.  The comment was made that this is the definition of the vehicle that must fit your circumstances or some such drival.  Well, aren’t all cars just that?  Buy a Sequoia expect Sequoia fuel economy but enjoy the view, cargo room, towing ability, people hauling etc.  How many people really take a road trip in their prius with two kids and the dog for 1k miles or more?  Not many.  They take the Tahoe/minivan/burban/fill in the blank BAV.

    Lastly, have some national pride for Pete’s sake.  This is a great innovation by an American Company and it seems that most would prefer to pee in GM’s wheeties about what sucks about it.  
    If you don’t like it, don’t buy one.  Enjoy your leaf or tree, or electra 225 and lord knows the Lexus 250hs’ are piling up and some good deals can be had on one.

    Cheers!
     

    • 0 avatar

      “This is a great innovation by an American Company and it seems that most would prefer to pee in GM’s wheeties about what sucks about it.”

      Not to put too fine a point on this, but isn’t the Volt derived from the South Korean-developed Daewoo Cruze?

      And where did all those fancy electronics come from? Somehow, I highly doubt Detroit.

      Proud and strong UAWers may have pressed the buttons on the (Japanese?) machines that welded this thing together… but that and the Bowtie are about all that’s really “American” about this…

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    From what I’ve read GM flew over a hundred car journalists to Detroit over the past two or three weeks for three days of driving and tours, with airfare (I assume coach), hotel and food at GM’s expense.
     
    Is that usual in the car industry? Any of the foreign carmakers (Toyota, for example) ever fly car journalists over to Japan? Seems I’ve heard rumors of that, but cannot find anything about that now.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not unusual. Yes, journalists are flown to Europe, Asia and even more exotic places for press events. I heard of someone who recently got flown to Paris and the ‘Ring with 4 and 5 star accommodations all the way, courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. I’m pretty low on the pecking order. Bridgestone put me up at the Sheraton for the Chicago auto show and arranged for me to have a Mazda to drive there and back. They also gave me some martini glasses with the Bridgestone logo that I’ll never use so I think I tossed them because they were just getting in the way.
       
      Are there perks? Yeah. But for the most part they are there to make it easier for us to have timely access to cars and people so we can tell you about it. Sometimes you get some cool stuff you can give to your friends, like the Camaro convertible press kit I gave to a customer in the local Camaro club. Still, it’s mostly about being able to get you the news and commentary that TTAC is known for.
       
      Perhaps my opinion can be bought for some free travel, food and swag, but even if there are perks, TTAC is still my boss. I suppose that if a car company was really stuffing cash in my pockets I’d have an ethical dilemma, but as long as Ed and the corporate overlords are the ones paying me, you can trust that I’ll be serving your interests, not the car companies’.
       
      I eat a kosher diet and even besides the shrimp doodads and nice looking ribs, even the salads looked iffy, so I just had a Coke (good idea since my inner ear and go karts are not BFFs), and Mike skipped the swine and prawns, so it’s not like we were chowing down and pigging out. Yeah, it was a nice hotel, but Ed had to get up at 4:30 for his outbound flight.

  • avatar
    MattPete


    Meh, my wife drives to McLean VA everyday in stop-and-go traffic.  I’d guess that it can’t be more than 10 miles, but it takes 30-45 minutes (30 on a good day, 45 on an average day, don’t ask on a bad day).  I could see her filling the tank only a few times a year.  Unlike the Leaf, it allows her to make errands on the way home, or make longer trips (trip to Baltimore, presentation in DC, etc.).
     
     
    Personally I dig the looks, but I’m [potentially] bummed by the human factors. I recently drove my retired parents BMW 5-series with iDrive, and the interface is a disaster.  I hope that the Chevy’s interface is better than the BMW’s.

  • avatar

    The early word of mouth on the Volt will be amazing. All the early adopters know the car’s limitations, most likely live less than 20 miles from work and will be reporting insanely low avg fuel costs.
     
     
    Also, I think that all across Detroit, in Auburn Hills and Dearborn, there’s some cheering going on for the Volt. Even most GM critics and critics of the Volt program have acknowledged that the Volt works, works seamlessly, and works well and that the development has been buttoned up to a faretheewell. Whether or not a business case could be made to Steve Rattner, I think that at some point GM’s engineers and designers had something to prove. Building a competitive Malibu is one thing, or a hairy chested ZR-1 yet another, but I think that GM’s team really wanted to show that they were capable of both innovation and proper development of that innovation.
     
    Also, regardless of how many of the planned 50-75K Volts GM will build in the next two years will be sold, as GM & Chevy roll this out, the amount of free publicity will be huge. As long as the Volt doesn’t fall on its face sales wise, it will act as a halo car for Chevy and GM. I suspect that the first day that the Volt will go on retail sale that all the broadcast and cable news shows will lead with the story.
     
    BTW, one thing that the Volt engineer told Ed, Mike and me is that it’s a relative hop skip and jump to set up future Volts to act as an emergency generator for your home.

  • avatar
    redrum

    The Volt’s center stack reminds me of a piece of new medical equipment — built to be durable (maybe) and kinda seems cool because it’s new tech, but it’s destined to look dated and cheesy in a few years, leaving bystanders to say “you paid how much for THAT?”. But maybe it looks better in person.
     
    No one’s going to be able to judge the Volt’s success for years (I’m not even sure what GM’s goals are for it).  Today is kind of like NFL draft day, and the draftniks have given GM a solid grade.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Is that a single backup light below the rear license plate? I guess that means no trailer hitch.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Well, it can be said that the Space Shuttle program was a total boondoggle on paper, but I’ll bet those that witnessed a launch, or followed the missions felt a little bit of that lost emotion: American Pride.
    I’d say that the Volt is at least enough of an achievement to qualify for a bit of that emotion. Now GM has to get to work on their mainstream lineup, and fast.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Very nice review…it will be interesting to see how this car fares in the market. I can see the techno types and Hollywood greenies embracing it, which will give it some buzz and cachet. Whether Mr. and Ms. Average American will embrace a $41,000 car that works best when used primarily as a commuter remains to be seen.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I appreciate your thoughtful, sober review.  And, while I like Dan Neill’s stuff in the WSJ; a good portion of his review content was irrelevant it seemed to me.
    The lease deal seems pretty attractive.  Basically, it shifts to GM the risk of the residual value of the vehicle at the end of the lease term.  If the vehicle is popular and reliable, it will have a high residual value.  If not, it won’t.
    The car seems to make sense for two kinds of people: early adopters who want to be seen as “green,” and people who take the trouble to carefully scrutinize their driving habits and make the calculation as to whether this car fits them.  The buyer for whom this car makes sense is a buyer whose daily drive is within the Volt’s EV range and who can have a charging station at home.  The Volt’s relatively poor fuel economy in gasoline mode won’t matter because that’s not how it will be used.
    If you look at the Volt as a hedge against fuel price increases, it’s pretty good.  Increased demand for petroleum from China and India will likely drive prices up in the medium term, although the long-term is harder to predict because of the supply response to the increased demand.  By contrast, in North America at least, electricity prices should be pretty stable.  Huge increases in natural gas supply have driven the price of that way down, and natural gas is the greenest fuel to drive generators.  (I don’t count wind, falling water, the sun, or splitting atoms as “fuel.”)  Moreover, if charging stations in public places become more widespread, then that adds to the EV range of the Volt — all good.
    As others have said, this car is clearly about the unique powertrain, just as the first generation Prius was about the unique powertrain.  The second generation Volt will, no doubt, focus on these other values, assuming the power train works well in use.
    Obviously, the ownership experience has to be good for the car to succeed . . . but that’s an implementation issue.  In terms of marketing the car, I think GM and its dealers have to be careful and, quite frankly, “qualify” the buyer.  For the right buyer — assuming the car is reliable, etc. — this car could produce a high level of satisfaction, which would have spillover benefits for GM, just as the halo around the Prius has had spillover benefits to Toyota.  However, if too many of these are sold to the wrong buyers, they will be disappointed and their views will hurt the company.
    In my mind, the right buyer is a person who keeps a car for a long time, if he/she likes it and it is reliable (for me, that works out to between 8 and 10 years) and a person whose intended use pattern for the Volt requires minimal use of the gasoline engine.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    B&B, please correct me if I got the history wrong.  As I remember it, the Volt was originally to be based on a unique drive-by-wire platform pioneered two concept cars, the Hy-Wire and the Sequel. This platform used a T-shaped battery platform that could be topped by a range of body shells.  The platform could be used for pure electric or hybrids.  GM’s finances worsened and the Volt was then locked into the Delta platform.  Did I get this right?  I thought the Hy-Wire and Sequel really were revolutionary and could have been the basis for a resurgent General Motors.  The Volt is an interesting niche vehicle, and they might be able to use some of the technology elsewhere, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal.
     
     
     
     
     

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Ed, I think this is the best review I’ve seen you do to date. Good work.
     
    A few comments relative to comments above:
     
    Yes, all press cars are ringers. I used to be one of the guys who was paid to shake down the preproduction prototypes; the best ones went to the press fleet and the fit-and-finish flunkers went to the on-road-vehicle-testing fleet, to have 50-100K put on them in six to twelve weeks and then proceed directly to the crusher.

    For what is essentially Volt v. 0.9b, I’m pretty pleased with what I see. The Volt is significantly better than a simple proof of concept. Given all of the corporate drama during its gestation, the achievement is even more remarkable. And refinement and improvement is almost inevitable, even with old GM’s track record.

    Price is much less relevant right now than it will be in two years. With a first year production run of only 10K, the question is much less who will buy them than how much over list we’ll see them offered for. I think one of the mistakes we car guys make looking at the auto market is thinking that most consumers make their car purchases on a rational dollar-value basis. If the entire science of marketing didn’t put that notion to rest, the success of the Prius should.  Besides its attractiveness to early adopters, this car is incredibly rich in intangibles. If the Volt doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on a strictly monetary value basis, we should remember that there are lots and lots of different ways to define values, and this car provides more of those ways than anything else on four wheels that I can think of right now.

    I think lots of us will be following this car’s reliability very closely. It does appear to have the potential to be a game changer IF it exceeds what are, I think, pretty low expectations for long-term reliability, due to its GM heritage. I’m no GM fan but I’m actually rooting for them in this case.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      A game changer?

      In what way does it change anything?
      Perhaps the engineering will be refined and someday made affordable, environmentally meaningful and economical, but right now this is pretty much dead achievement.
      It will make it as a social statement.
      But is that what our money was used for?
      To make social statements?

      If, as so many above remarked, what you wanted to do was avoid stopping for gas, then whoopee!
      All you had to do was buy an extremely high mileage car and visit once a month.

      Why is this car better than a Jetta or Golf diesel?
      Really.
      Please…in what way whatsoever?????

      • 0 avatar
        darrelld

        I currently drive a 2010 Jetta TDI. If your daily commute involves typical urban start/stop driving you risk prematurely clogging the Diesel Particulate Filter. This filter will cost $1500+ to replace and may not be covered under warranty. VW treats the DPF as a wear item based upon your driving habits. You have to dig on the VW site to find this caution.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      “Please…in what way whatsoever?????”

      For just one: it doesn’t stink. Either standing behind it, backing up with the windows down, or fueling it. I frickin’ hate diesels. I’ll never own another one.

      “But is that what our money was used for?
      To make social statements?”
       
      I’m really tired of this reactionary meme that taxpayers have some sort of continuing claim on tax money once it’s paid.  It’s not your money any more. Deal with it.
       
      Cleaner air in big cities is considerably more than a social statement. It’s a quality of life issue. Spend some time in Mexico City, or Tokyo, or LA on an inversion day. I really don’t care how much it costs, because I’m nowhere near an early adopter; I’m more of a really-proven-technology guy myself. I like body-on-frame vehicles with pushrod engines. But I really like clean air.  And it’s precisely because the Volt is a conglomerate of existing technologies is the reason it will succeed. No reason it needs to be expensive once the development costs are paid down.
       
      It’s the same kind of reactionary worldview that is blind to the wrenching flux petroleum prices are in for later this decade. These people continue to look at fuel costs as if oil prices are going to remain static when, in reality, we’ve merely had a recessionary reprieve from 2008. By the time the first-gen Volt fleet approaches retirement, its dollar-value economics are going to look a whole lot different.

  • avatar
    ktm

    geozinger, no, what PN is saying is that the cost differential is the equivalent of a drop in fuel economy.  87 octane is approximately 20 cents a gallon cheaper than 91 octane.  If your fuel budget is a fixed amount (fixed cost), your money will purchase fewer premium gallons.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Sorry ktm, my point stands. Why are we suddenly changing a (or this case inventing a new) standard? Fuel mileage is fuel mileage. X amount of miles traveled on X amount of gallons of fuel. Plain and simple.
       
      Let’s use a different car. Let’s say we’re talking about an Acura that uses premium fuel. Should we suddenly declare that it gets worse mileage because the fuel costs more? Bullsh*t.
       
      If the car gets 30 mpg on premium unleaded, E85 ethanol or liquified unicorn farts, it gets whatever it gets. The only dis-incentive is the premium fuel’s cost, and if you can’t afford the fuel, don’t drive as much.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    ED…

    Wow…got a lot of responses.  Shows EVERYBODY is focused on this thing.

    I have a technical question.
    One of the things that bothers me about the Prius and the Crosstour is the rear design.
    What is the reason behind the rear window/hatch/spoiler?
    Why do these cars have that bar cutting across rear windows?

    I don’t get it.
    It really bothers me when looking through the rear mirror. As a spoiler, this car shouldn’t, can’t go fast.

    Did you have any issues with backing up or blind spots when changing lanes?

    Oh, and that center console! It scares the hell out of me! Look, if they tell me I can’t text while driving, what the hell do they say about working that monster on a freeway!!!???

  • avatar

    “You can already sense a trend of blaming the customer should they have the gall to actually use the Volt for their normal driving patterns.

    The user must adjust to the tool or be chastised for ‘not understanding the unique requirements and functionalities’ of this product.”
    No, I don’t think so. The user must take the trouble to check out the tool before she acquires it, to see if it will do the job she needs it to do.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    People who don’t understand why the Volt doesn’t have a specific MPG figure should do more research before buying one. It’s funny, isn’t it, how it’s so easy for us to understand, but the general public needs to see that number in order to feel comfortable about the car’s efficiency.

    My hat’s off to GM for boldly creating a truly unique car, but I fear that the $40,000 price tag will severely limit its market appeal.

    Great review, by the way.

  • avatar
    BeaverFood

    Let’s see. I traded a 2007 Silverado (in 2009) for a Tundra because it had 5 total electrical failures that GM could not fix. Now they expect me to buy one of their electric cars for $41,000? Thanks, but I’ll stick with my Tundra and my Prius. No more GM for me and that’s a fact.


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