This is part 2 of a two part series covering my time with a Chevy Volt. Behind the movement: the electric/gas Chevy Volt.
With our initial thoughts behind us, it's time to set to the brutal roads of Chicago to see how the Volt stacks up. I received it and it still had about 15 miles worth of electricity left. I hit Lake Shore Drive, with pristine Lake Michigan in the background.
The lithium-ion battery hard at work, providing navigation, cold air via the A/C, and music to boot. After several miles down Lake Shore Drive and hitting Interstate 55, our battery was down to about 7 miles left on electricity. I then hopped on I-94 and headed towards O'Hare airport. As we got downtown standing in traffic, it felt great not burning gasoline. About 6 miles later, the battery was empty, and the gasoline engine kicked on seamlessly to power the vehicle. While the 83-horse gasoline engine replenishes the battery, it's not as powerful as the 149-horsepower electric motor.
While the EPA rates the Volt at 95/93 mpg-e, it certainly depends on how far you drive for your commute, and if you charge it every night. I'd highly suggest the Volt for long commuters and locals alike. Having no gasoline bill would really be lovely.
The one thing that was a bit of a surprise was how quick the Volt got up to speed- on electricity. This car felt like it accelerated just as fast as my turbo four cylinder, and even better- using no gasoline doing so. The one thing I noticed is that I averaged about 35mpg after the battery was empty, so if you frequently drive over 40 miles a day, you're still getting good mileage.
When it came to braking, I did notice the pulse of the brake pedal, something that didn't bother me much. The Volt captures energy on deceleration using regenerative brakes.
Handling was also on par with other vehicles I've tested if not better. The turn radius seemed much tighter, which is a boon in a big city.
Inside the Volt, you may first notice the four bucket seats. That's because part of the Volt's battery is stored in the middle of the back seats. For me, this doesn't matter much, as I only have a fifth passenger perhaps once every year or two. The two-tone dash was lovely and looked perfect. The cabin felt like it was built and finished well. I was a bit disappointed there were no power seats, but I'm not used to that feature, so it wasn't too much to sacrifice.
The only other thing was how busy the radio, navigation, and control panels were. I couldn't seem to figure it all out. I found the A/C button, but really, it was a bit too clustered together. If I had spent time reading the manual I might have had more luck, but who reads those anymore these days unless for emergencies?
Cargo storage was mixed. While the rear seats folded down to open additional storage, it still lags the Toyota Prius in storage space. The other bad news was that since there is no hatch, the trunk lid severely limits how much cargo will fit, even with the seats folded down.
Overall, the Volt was impressive, and overall a very attractive vehicle, but some shortcomings on cargo and interior issues may present a deal breaker for some.