2011 Chevy Volt Electric Hybrid: Review Roundup

Chevrolet Volt Review RoundupHere’s a round-up of reviews about Chevy’s flagship plug-in electric vehicle hybrid, the 2011 edition of the Volt.

Edmunds – 2011 Chevrolet Volt

Edmunds does a good job of explaining exactly what the Volt is:

“The Volt is a four-seat, four-door ‘series-parallel plug-in hybrid’ hatchback with a lithium-ion battery pack that can power the car’s 149-horsepower (111-kilowatt) electric motor by itself for an estimated 40 miles in the city. After that, the gasoline-powered inline-4 engine primarily supplies electricity to the motor for as many as 300 additional miles. All told, the Volt is the most advanced hybrid to date and quite possibly the most fuel-efficient car you will be able to buy.”

They note that there is no standard way to determine fuel-efficiency. If you never fully deplete the battery (by going a short distance at an easy clip and recharging the car every night) then you may never use any fuel. But over longer distances, you’ll use gas. Edmunds measured the fuel economy of the Volt with an empty battery and found it to be 31.4 mpg. In their long-term road test, they found the Volt varied between 47.9 and 111.5 in “apparent” MPG.

In Edmunds performance testing, the Volt went from zero to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds in electric mode and 9 seconds flat with the engine generator. Both are fairly quick times for the traditional hybrid segment. They were satisfied with the pickup and handling, though they called the brakes “touchy.”

Edmunds also found the interior intriguing. The Volt boasts some very impressive console features which they rated as “fairly intuitive.” They described the space and comfort in the cab as “a little disappointing,” finding the back seats to be cramped and the hatchback a bit lacking in storage capacity.

They conclude: “If you want an intriguing yet practical taste of a greener automotive future, the 2011 Chevy Volt might be just what the General ordered.”


MotorTrendFirst Test: 2011 Chevy Volt (December 2010)

MotorTrend says the Volt “shows a lot of promise.” and that it “accelerates fairly smartly right up to its 101-mph top speed—with or without the 84-horsepower gasoline engine switched on.”

The review says that the Volt goes from 0 to 60 at 8.8 seconds with full electric power and “it blows Toyota’s plug-in Prius away (9.8 seconds to 60 mph), and runs neck and neck with a 2.4-liter Malibu in acceleration and handling tests.” The MotorTrend test team agreed that the daily commute is where the Volt shines, describing it as “quick and nippy” in traffic.

The review goes on to praise the wealth of information and controls available on screens in the cockpit, although it mentioned that some can require too much attention to operate while driving. The steering was referred to as a little “numb,” but always straight and accurate. And the car’s regenerative brakes also drew praise.

MotorTrend identified price as the number-one drawback: $41,000, not including the installation of a 240-volt charger to bring recharge time down from 11 hours to 4.


Car and Driver2011 Chevrolet Volt Full Test (October 2010)

Car and Driver gripes about the lack of electric-car-charging infrastructure nationwide and makes a cogent point: that the mass-produced pure electrics cannot make long- or medium-range trips. They then praise the Volt for it’s included gas engine, which assists the car’s electric motor. They then state: “although the Volt has both a gas engine and two electric motors—one primarily to power the wheels and a second to generate electricity from the gas engine—it is unlike any gas-electric hybrid on the road today: If charged sufficiently, it can operate continuously, at any speed, as an EV, without ever needing to switch on the gas engine.”

But this comes with a drawback: the technology necessary for this efficiency is expensive.

The review also describes the user-interface that tells the driver the sweet-spot to keep the car in to maximize energy-efficiency. An LCD panel shows a spinning, green ball of leaves. Keep the ball green and in the middle of the display, and you’re accelerating and braking with maximum efficiency. Which sounds crazy, but C&D assures us it’s easy to use. This feature is also complemented with touch-sensitive controls and displays that convey to the driver the current performance of the car.

The reviewer goes on to state that the Volt, like other EV’s, has a smooth thrust. There’s is no mechanical downshifting. The reviewers were also impressed with the Volt’s quiet motor. They were also taken with the powertrain and suspension, saying the Volt drives “surprisingly well”. The brakes, however, can feel “disconnected” at low speeds. A third reviewer mentioned that the front ground clearance is so low that it was easy to scrape it on speed bumps.

The range that the Volt can accomplish will vary based on driving conditions, but the C&D crew got anywhere from 26 miles to the upper 30’s with just battery power. Coupled with the gas motor, C&D estimated 74 MPGe.

Overall, Car and Driver was impressed, and concludes: “This is without a doubt the most important new car since the advent of hybrids in the late ’90s, and GM has nailed it.”


Automobile Magazine2011 Chevrolet Volt Review (June 21, 2011)

Automobile has seven staffers give their opinion. Let’s break them down:

All the reviewers seem united against the center console, saying it’s too busy and that the touch controls are too difficult to operate while driving without taking your attention from the road. They all gripe about the limited rear seating and several dislike that the cargo area is visible from the back seat.

The Volt’s handling and acceleration are given good marks. One reviewer says it drives “like any other compact passenger car,” with the exception of the regenerative brakes. Another reviewer says that stepping on the brake peddle “at first doesn’t seem to decelerate the car at all, then engages the brakes so unexpectedly as to produce unintentional panic-stops.” They use terms like “seamless” and “unnoticeable”  to describe the Volt’s transition from electric power to gas.

Most of the Automobile reviewers seemed to feel that the Volt hit the mark as a good “transition” car from gas-only vehicles to electric-only vehicles, successfully alleviating the “range anxiety” common with EVs like the Nissan Leaf. Has anyone test driven one yet, or purchased one?