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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Worth the Long Wait
Posted By Brian Armstead On February 10, 2010 @ 3:03 pm In 2011 Model Year,Car Reviews,Chevrolet,First Drives,Green Hybrids/Alternative Fuels,New Car Previews | Comments Disabled
There’s an expression that says “good things come to those who wait.” As that expression relates to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, it is certainly true.
I remember several years ago, when I saw the first concept of the Volt, and was duly impressed. It seemed as if Chevy had trumped the competition by bringing the mass produced electric car to market faster that other manufacturers. But as time moved forward, it seemed as if the Volt was taking forever to make it to market, and other carmakers with their own “green” cars were stepping up their game. Ford  perfected the Escape and Fusion hybrids, Honda  supplemented its hybrid models with the FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Nissan  made noise with the Altima Hybrid and announcements of its own electric, the Leaf. And VW  marched forward with stellar fuel economy from its superb TDI vehicles.
So is the Volt late to the dance? No way. General Motors , parent company for Chevy , has taken their time to get the Volt right. We recently had the opportunity to drive a pre- production Volt on a test track in Washington, D.C. The track was the former circuit for the Grand Prix of D.C., which only lasted a year. So while the drive was in a controlled environment, I had the chance to drive it hard to see if the Volt “charged” my emotions.
My initial walk around the Volt revealed very tight body construction. The Volt is a well-penned design, with smooth, fluid lines from front to rear. Styling sort of reminds me of the late, lamented Subaru  SVX sports car, but is not quite as dramatic. I especially like the rear deck treatment, with high mounted tail lights and an integrated spoiler. Volt side panels feature a deep door crease, and either black or chrome strips just below side glass, depending on your exterior color choice. The front view features a prominent grille and blue accented headlight clusters. Exterior fit and finish is superb.
Good things continued inside, as the materials for seating, door panels, console, dash and headliner are first rate. While not a luxe interior, this is no Chevette, as Chevy put time and thought into interior execution. Dash seams are tight, the doors close with an authoritative sound and the cabin seems bright and airy, even with a dark color package on my tester. In front of the driver is a command screen that gives you real time and stored data. Speed, range, current MPG and other parameters show here. The center console allows operation of climate settings, as well as XM radio and access to the Volt’s music hard drive. You can also program charge settings via the console touch screen, and get a full readout of economy data. The journalist who drove the car before me was able to achieve 522 mpg on a four mile run through the test loop! My returns were just under 100 mpg. My only interior quibble was I found the color choice on the center stack a bit odd. It was an off white metallic, which seems like it will be prone to scratches and was just weird looking. Chevy’s rep on scene told me a charcoal version was also available, and in field testing, folks were split about 50-50 on the white metallic as a color choice.
Techwise, the Volt is an electric car with a range extender gasoline engine. This means the Volt runs on electricity from its battery pack, and when that is depleted, runs on electricity it generates from its 1.4-liter, four-cylinder, gasoline engine.
Congratulations Chevrolet, the Volt is quiet, accelerates well and most important to me, was pretty seamless in the switch from electric to gasoline generated electric power. This car feels totally different from Tesla  or Fisker  electrics, as they are built for luxury and speed. Speed is good, but speed can zap a battery pretty quickly. I would rate Volt acceleration on par with a big four cylinder or small V6 gasoline engine. It’s more than adequate.
Handling was also “normal.” A special chicane was part of the test track, and the Volt blazed through it with no issues or excessive tire squeal. By the way, the tires are specially developed by Goodyear to maximize fuel economy by decreasing rolling resistance.
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