2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Can A Car Be Too Quiet?

January 17, 2012

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Not usually. But in this case, following a barely-muffled v-twin cruiser pop-pop-popping all the way across Santiago Canyon Road with the Volt humming along in whisper-quiet electric mode, maybe yes.

I was wishing I had an engine to at least somewhat drown out the obnoxious clatter coming from this guy's hog (there's good loud and bad loud, and this was the latter). So I did the only thing I could do: I cranked up the radio.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 14,072 miles.

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2011 Chevy Volt: Fan Speed Control Fail

December 21, 2011

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Are you familiar with the climate control screen of the Chevy Volt? Yes? Good. Do you see what's broken here?

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Fun With a Laser Thermometer

December 20, 2011

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I'm not sure if hybris was serious when he asked for a laser thermometer reading of the seats on the highest heat setting of the Chevy Volt. But we aim to please, so I brought my thermometer to work today.

Click through to see a video of me measuring the temperature of the seat heaters in the Chevy Volt after I arrived at the office. At one point at a red light I took the temp and it was 110.5 degrees F. On this video the temp varies from 96 to 109 degrees at different points on the seat. I'll do this again in some of our other cars for comparison. This may not be the most scientific experiment, but at least it will let you see the differences.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Hot

December 16, 2011

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You may find this hard to believe but the seat heaters in the Chevy Volt get too hot for me. It has three toasty levels with the highest level getting really hot. I find I have to knock it back to the second level and then it's just fine. Everything in moderation.

I'll be driving the Volt this weekend and plugging it in at home for the first time. Let me know if there is anything you want me to research for you.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Colllld Start

December 06, 2011

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This morning it was so cold that there was frost on our 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Frost! So when I jumped in the car, I immediately set about trying to make it as warm as possible. Seat heater full blast, temperature ratcheted up to 77 degrees, change from Eco to Comfort, Auto.... Yeah, I wasn't going for extending driving range here, which apparently can be helped if you just use the seat heater instead of the actual heater.

Since the car just started the air was still cold so naturally I decided to wait until it warmed up a bit after some driving to turn up the fan. But the thing is that it never warmed up. At least not within the 40 minutes it took for me to drive to work. The seat heater worked just fine but even though my backside was baking I was still shivering. I'm assuming that I must have not pressed the right options in the above screen. Right? (FYI, I pressed "Comfort" and cleared the Auto seat heater button for the passenger seat after I took the photo.)

Watching Chevrolet's How-To video on how to work its climate controls didn't clear things up for me. Any Volt owners care to shed some light on this matter? Did I do it wrong or is the Volt's heater just not very effective?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Chevy Volt: Want

November 30, 2011

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While scanning through the photos of the 2013 Scion FR-S reveal, I came upon a small cache of photos I never posted from the 2011 L.A. Auto Show. Included amongst those photos was this interior shot of a 2012 Chevy Volt.

Check. That. Interior.

This is how I'd equip mine, with the $1,300 "Jet Black seats/Ceramic White accents, Perforated leather-appointed seat trim" option ticked. I would wax it and not let anyone touch it unless they were wearing white gloves. Okay, maybe that's a little far, but still this is super cool and just reaffirms the fact that we got the worst interior AND exterior color. Such is the trade off with getting a car really, really early.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Black Friday Hike

November 28, 2011

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Took the family on a hike last Friday, to work off the stuffing and whatnot and enjoy some nature. The Volt's cargo area served as a convenient post-hike picnic spot, at least for the kiddos. The cargo area is plenty deep for the little ones to sit in, and it's a relatively small surface area to have to deal with. While it isn't as accomodating as a crossover, SUV or minivan would be obviously, it was great to have a contained place to plunk them and feed them. Thankfully, our snacks were non-greasy, non-smushy, non-crumbly and non-sticky, so cleanup was easy, too.

Bryn MacKinnon, Edmunds.com, Senior Editor @ 12,360 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Left Out

November 23, 2011

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File this in the Whiny Baby Pants bin.

I'm left-handed. I know it's the (cool! creative!, wonderul!) minority of handedness, but would it kill automakers to put two grab-handles in their rear hatches? Look at all that blank space on the left of our long-term Chevy Volt's rear hatch, doing absolutely nothing but begging for a grab handle. That vast swathe of plastic practically screams, "Ooh, grab me!" doesn't it? (I think it actually said that to me when I was taking this picture.)

This isn't a Volt-specific tragedy, either. It's rampant in the automotive world. My personal car, a Honda CR-V, only caters to the righties, too. I deal with this injustice every. damn. day.

Fine. I learned to use right-handed scissors in kindergarten. I can learn to close a hatch that way, too.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 12,278 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Feels Ordinary Off the Plug

October 03, 2011

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Thirty-four miles into my weekend, our long-term Chevrolet Volt's 1.4-liter gasoline engine started up and that was the end of the EV experience. I live in an old apartment building with no outdoor outlets and bad wiring to boot, so plugging in wasn't convenient.

Obviously, the "range-extending" engine makes it possible for people like me to own a Volt, whereas a Nissan Leaf simply wouldn't work. Trouble is, this car feels pretty ordinary when it's not doing the all-electric thing and it's full of compromise, so I'm not sure I'd want to own one.

To start, it's not that roomy. Three friends and I piled in to go to lunch in Venice, and I had to scoot my seat way up to make room for an adult to sit behind me. The front passenger was about 6-foot-3, and with his wife seated behind him, legroom was at a premium -- as were shoulder room and hiproom, because the Volt is based on GM's global C segment platform (Cruze, Astra, etc.) so it is not wide.

In addition, the efficiency-enhancing front diffuser/spoiler thingy results in a seriously low-clearance car. You can go as slow as you want, and it will still catch on some driveways and on the decline sections in Venice, California's "canal district" (above). No big deal, really, since the black plastic is there to protect the real bodywork, but the continual rubbing is annoying.

Finally, when getting up to speed on a freeway entrance ramp -- without the lithium-ion juice -- the Volt feels kind of slow (even if it isn't actually slower in reality). Not as slow as I'd expected, mind you, given the engine's 84-hp rating, but not enjoyable. And I was driving along with the knowledge that I was only getting 30-35ish mpg as opposed to 45ish like in a Prius.

Yet, once I was at speed, I liked being in the Volt more than I like being in a Prius. It's a heavy car -- about 700 pounds heavier than a Prius -- and while it's fun to complain about curb weight, in this case it contributes to the Volt's very solid highway ride ride. Straight-line stability is good, too. It's like driving a normal car instead of a hybrid, and this time I mean "normal" (or "ordinary") as a compliment.

Also, even though the Volt's passenger quarters aren't roomy, its hatch area is quite useful. So I'll give it a couple points there. And I love the instrument panel, so five more points there.

No question, GM's plug-in hybrid is an interesting car, but unless you're plugging in every day, at least via 110 volts, you can't fully appreciate what it has to offer. This is a moot point for most of you reading here, but in L.A. where most people rent (and then lease a 328i or Prius), this logistical challenge diminishes the Volt's appeal.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,144 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Stay-at-Home Parent: Kid Test

September 26, 2011

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This past week I've still been doing my stay-at-home-parent test with the Volt, the latest being.kid schlepping duty. I've found the Volt's effectiveness for this task to be mixed.

Mostly, I've been taking my four-year-old daughter to school in the Volt. This isn't a particularly difficult challenge, as I could do this with just about any car with a back seat.

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2011 Chevy Volt: My Wife Likes It, But...

August 16, 2011

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Yesterday I gave my wife our long-term Volt to drive. And she liked it.

I gave her the Volt with 27 miles worth of electricity and a full tank of gas. She ran her planned errands with the kids (bank, Home Depot, etc.) and used up the 27 miles in a couple of hours. Then she called me. Her sister wanted to take the kids to Disneyland. Disneyland is about 50 miles from our house. A Nissan Leaf ain't making the round trip. "Have fun," I said.

"But I'm already out of juice," she replied.

I of course explained to her how the car worked and she hit the road worry free.

As I said, she liked the Volt. She liked the freedom from range anxiety. She liked the way it drove. She said the seat is comfortable. And she said it felt peppy. She also said it felt good whether the engine was running or not. But there were two problems. And one is a dealbreaker.

The first problem is visibility. She didn't like the split rear glass and the huge A-pillars. But the dealbreaker is the rear bucket seats. With only room for four she says no to the Volt. Gotta have room for five in a pinch.

Hard to argue with.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2011 Chevy Volt: Knuckle-Buster 9,000

August 12, 2011

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(Note: As a righty, taking pictures of your own right hand inside of a car is exceedingly difficult. At least for me.)

You know what they say about guys with big hands, right? Yep, that they have a really difficult time using the shifter of the 2011 Chevy Volt.

As you know, there are a lot of things I like about our Volt. If i were in the market for a daily-driver, the Volt would be near the top of my list. But it's not perfect, there are a few things that really bother me about the Volt and most of them have to do with the center console.

1) As I've stated before, the buttonless touch-panel sucks to use. I fail on 2/3s of button presses and accidentally activate things all the time. It needs to go. Now.

2) The shifter and shifter surround are rubbish.

A) The shifter itself is too fat, hollow and scratches easily.

B) The shifter surround is too small which means:

-- I smash my knuckles on the damn thing when I try to put the car into park or when I reach into the cave to get it out of park.

-- I cut my knuckles on the unsanded flashing on the inside when trying to pull the lever from park. Even if I'm careful, my hand is too big to press the shift-lever-release button and not hit the side of the shifter cave.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: First Meet and Greet

July 20, 2011

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I drove the Volt briefly for the first time ever a couple nights ago. It was a bit strange finally driving a car I'd been reading about for months (or years). I enjoyed the seat time. In general, I like the technical aspect of cars that are efficient. So I was pleased to see I went 33 miles on battery power and still had, at least according to the Volt, about another 12 miles left of juice.

The Volt isn't weird to drive, either. It's quiet on the highway, has a nice, compliant ride quality and feels substantial at the wheel. Parking it was trickier than expected, though, due to the touchy brakes, limited visibility and somewhat wide turning circle (36 feet, about 2.5 feet more than the Cruze's circle, even though the Volt is shorter).

I know this drive was just a taste, so I'm looking forward to spending more time with our Volt in a couple of weeks.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Electric Seats. Or Not.

June 30, 2011

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Call me crazy (go ahead, it's okay. I've been called worse things), but I was a little surprised to find that our $44,695 Chevy Volt doesn't have power front seats. Not even the driver's seat.

I don't really care about the manual fore/aft seat adjustment, but it's nice to have an electrically-operated seatback. I'm kind of a fidgety person, so I usually mess with the seatback several times during my long commute.

If I can't have power operation, I'd at least like a VW-like round knob which gives an infinite amount of adjustment, as opposed to the Volt's lever, which doesn't always leave you in that exact right position.

On the bright side, the front seats are plenty comfortable when I can find that perfect setting.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 6,971 miles.

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2011 Chevy Volt: My Favorite Commuter

June 17, 2011

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It's not that it's forbidden in any way, but when the sign-out sheet comes around the office, it's generally frowned upon to take the same car night after night after night. It's usually an easy thing to get around, after all, we've got a lot of nice cars in our fleet: BMW 528, Mustang GT, Equus, Optima SX Turbo and more....

But whenever the board comes around, I always hover over the Volt before realizing I'd driven it just the night before. I can't help it. Except for what could be the worst center console design in history (seriously, this thing works less often than teamsters -- hey-o ), I love the Volt. The seats are perfect for commuting, cushy but not too soft and not too wide. The iPod interface is bright and clear (though shuffle is best as it doesn't arrange albums correctly all the time), there's good visibility, enough power to pass and most of all, it's super-quiet when in EV mode (i average about 30 miles on battery) and just what I want to get me home after a long day of work.

The only thing that would keep me from owning one is the lack of a charger at my apartment (not looking to own anytime soon) or office. Change that and I'm in. I've never said anything close to that about a Prius.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor Inside Line @ 6,600 Miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Not Yet the iPod Moment

May 16, 2011

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Ever since we took delivery of it, I'd been hesitant to spend any time with the Volt. Seemed like too much ionic voodoo to wrap my head around, too many lights, colors, buttons and pie charts. But Dan Edmunds suggested I do my 90-mile round-trip a few times and see how far a charge would go. I'm glad he did.

Really came to like the Volt, as much for what it represents as for what it simply does as a comfortable, daily distance ranger. In my case, I rent and couldn't charge at home. I'd make the morning runs on gasoline. But after recharging at work all day, the challenge became getting home solely on battery.

I did it once. Made it from the Edmunds garage to home with a little left over, then circled the block to run it dry. That evening, traffic flowed fairly well once out of the constricted Santa Monica/LAX arteries. Kept it largely between 58-62 mph, stayed in the slow lane, and tried to coast and minimize braking. No A/C, drove it in "L" gear. Most days I made it nearly within a mile of my off-ramp.

As a pavement-eater, the Volt measures up. Its seats are comfortable, almost sporty, and the lack of a rear seatback makes the cabin feel bigger (an optical illusion that distracts from the scarcity of legroom back there). The wacky Volvo-esque center stack makes for an irritating knee rest, and the headliner has an odd honeycomb-like print to the fabric.

There are plenty of storage nooks: door pockets, behind the shift stalk (good for cell phone, parking pass), in front of the shift stalk (good spot for the key), center console, even a covered tray space in the upper instrument panel. There are at least three 12v power points, which somehow you expect in this kind of car. Doug Newcomb plans a full Volt audio review, so I'll just say the Bose system delivers plenty of headroom, clarity and - personal favorite - a three-band EQ.

On the road, the Volt feels substantial, heavy even. Not overweight really, just meaty. A distinct difference from a Prius or Insight. You feel it when you give it some steering input, but it suppresses roll pretty well. A sporting chassis obviously isn't the priority here, but you can tell that the suspension team didn't just phone it in.

Just past my on-ramp is a long transition sweeper that drops you into the flypaper called the San Diego Freeway. Given some pedal at speeds that one needs to merge ahead of a rig, the Volt tracks confidently through the long bend. It leans, but never gave up grip and felt like it had some to spare. It felt like what you think a Chevy should feel like. Solid. Dense. Still, you're always aware you're swinging around a 435-lb. battery array back there.

The only overwhelming disappointment was the Volt's sketchy braking. I just couldn't get accustomed to the artificial feel, and that faint click you hear when first applying force, then pushing your foot through a mushy zone with minimal feedback. I never got a good feel for the required force and found myself underestimating stopping distances a few times (thankfully with no consequence).

Additional gripe: when letting off brakes, before going to throttle, an annoying high-cycle hum fills the cabin. Is this simply a by-product of the motor switching to its generator mode? As with the brakes, a Volt owner would probably adjust and accommodate. But this drove me kinda nuts everyday. Loud music will mask it, but it's ever present.

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2011 Chevy Volt: L.A. to S.F. and Back Part 2

May 04, 2011

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A few weeks ago I drove our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back. In two days I drove the Volt 916 miles nearly all of it on the highway. And, as you can see in the photo, while I was there I took in a Giants game.

The first 30 miles of the trip was on pure electricity. Then I started burning gasoline.

I drove the Volt like I would any other car. I didn't change my driving habits and I certainly wasn't showing off my hypermiling skills. And the results show it.

The first tank full of premium carried the Volt 285.4 miles. Then the Volt took 7.866 gallons. That's an average of 36.2 mpg. Then my right foot got heavier and the Volt got thirsty.

I ran through three more tanks, averaging 30.1 mpg, 27.9 mpg and 28.6 mpg. My average for the entire trip (excluding the first 30 miles on electricity) was 30.7 mpg.

Pretty disappointing. But there are some serious grades between here and The Bay Area, which didn't help.

I should also point out that the Volt was very comfortable on the drive. It hums along nicely at speed and I found its ride and its driver's seat to my liking. But it has a short range because of its small tank, so you'll never really test your bladder when road trippin' a Volt. Heck, the third tank of fuel only lasted 207 miles.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Aerodynamic Side Effect

May 02, 2011

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I often drive with the windows down. I like the fresh air and in the case of our Chevrolet Volt, you can bypass the AC as a way to conserve battery life. But sometimes, the Volt makes this simple task hard to do. There is a great deal of wind buffeting that occurs at speeds of 60 mph and above. It is even more pronounced if only one widow is open. The buffeting is loud and creates a vibrating noise that hurts your ears. Cracking the rear windows helps a bit, but sometimes you don't want that much wind and noise coming into the car. I tried to record the buffeting in a short video after the jump.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Hits and Misses

April 27, 2011

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I've put enough miles on the Volt by now to have a solid impression of the car. Here are my top three hits and misses so far.

Hits:

1) IP design: I haven't played with all the various gadgets buried within the various menus, but they look impressive. The graphics are sharp, the colors are pleasing and it conveys a sense of technology with being overwhelming.

2) Quiet cabin. Hybrids aren't known for their refinement for a reason. Usually because they have rock hard tires and minimal insulation to keep their weight down. The Volt doesn't feel like it has either.

3) Reasonable performance. Doesn't sound like much of a hit, but my expectations were low. I wouldn't take the Volt on a trip that included more than one mountain pass or any twisty roads. That said, around town and on the highway, it plenty fast.

And the misses...

Misses

1) Those dreadful center stack buttons. I've already covered them enough here.

2) The transmission lever. For some reason the designers decided to bury it in the center console. Every time I put it in gear it feels awkward. Can't think of a reason for the design choice.

3) The brakes. Still don't like the way they work at slow speeds. The binders on the Leaf work much better.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2011 Chevy Volt > Toyota Prius

April 06, 2011

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As I alluded to yesterday, I drove a rental Toyota Prius this past weekend while in Indianapolis for a friend's wedding. I was originally given a Mitsubishi Galant. "Oh joy," I thought having never actually driven one before. "I get to see if it really is the worst midsize now that the 200 has replaced the Sebring!" Sadly or happily, the Galant had 40,000 miles, at least nine major exterior scratches and a dent in the driver's door that made the left-rear difficult to open. I tossed the key on the Hertz desk and said, "please try again." The cheerful Hoosier behind the desk gave me a choice and I went with the Prius -- cheap on gas I figured.

And cheap on gas it certainly was. But it was also surprisingly noisy, with lots of road noise and a gas engine that sounds like lawn mower. The ride was also harsh, though the tires were also probably overinflated in true rental car tradition (I didn't check as I did a month earlier on Hawai'i). The driving position is still poorly suited to tall people despite the telescoping wheel and height-adjustable seat, the slanted HVAC and stereo displays easily wash out in the sun, the interior materials are quite cheap and I don't care for their rough graining. In other words, I didn't like it.

Contrast that to the Volt. It isn't noisy, even when the engine kicks in. The ride feels more substantial (regardless of tires), handling is better, the seating position is far better and the interior materials are vastly superior. There's also more of an electric-torque kick when accelerating in "gas" mode than you get with the Prius. Sure, the Volt has only two very cramped rear seats and less cargo capacity. Oh, and it costs way more. Regardless, I'd happily drive the Volt ... not so much the Prius.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 3,851 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Going from Leaf to Volt

March 31, 2011

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Like it or not, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is frequently compared to the Nissan Leaf, mainly because they are the only two mainstream electrified cars on the market now. I drove the Leaf home Tuesday night and had the Volt the following night so the differences really jumped out at me. By the way, the price is one of the few aspects of the cars that you really can't compare. On the basis of the roughly $43,000 price tag, the Volt is simply not a real world consideration for anyone except the early adopter.

Here are a few quick impressions of the Volt and the Leaf:

Seats/Comfort/Interior: The overall feel of sitting in these two cars is very different. Both have comfortable seats (I think the Leaf would be a better fit for a large person). The Leaf feels open and airy while the Volt is more insulated with high door sills and poor visibility.

Interior room: The Volt seats four people only -- no way you're squeezing five souls in there. The Leaf is built to carry five and the rear legroom is definitely better. The Volt's rear seats fold flat so you could slide in long items. The Leaf's rear seats also fold down but because of battery storage this does not produce a flat cargo area.

Noise: The Volt has the edge here -- it is spooky quiet. If you have the radio and fan off, you can hear yourself breathing. Both cars have a slight whistling sound as they accelerate.
Power delivery: The Volt feels responsive with strong linear power delivery while the actual numbers show it goes 0-60 mph in 8.53 seconds. The Leaf is actually faster with an unofficial 0-60 time of about 7 seconds.

Range: Our Volt is delivering about 37 miles in all-electric mode. After that, there is always a letdown when the gas engine kicks on. Still, there is no range anxiety as you drive the Volt. I'm finding that for my driving patterns, 37 miles only gets me there -- not there and back. And once the gas engine fires up it's just another gas-burning car. The extra 40 miles of range that the Leaf delivers opens a lot more possibilities for me. I can get home and back to the office charger without topping up. I can get to downtown Los Angeles and back to my home on a single charge. So, with careful planning, the Leaf affords an uninterrupted all-electric experience.

Summary: I really enjoy driving the Volt. When I suppress thoughts about the unrealistic price I can really enjoy driving nearly 40 miles on $1.95 of electricity. But given the lower entry cost of the Leaf, the ability to hold an extra passenger and access to the car pool lanes, the Leaf offers advantages that are impossible to ignore.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Halogen vs LED/HID Headlights

March 07, 2011

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I'm not a fan of halogen headlights. They aren't very bright and they don't look as good as HID or LED lights. I had driven a few cars with HID and LED lights and I was sold on them immediately. When I bought my car last year, HID lights were a must-have.

Our 2011 Chevrolet Volt has LED daytime running lights. They look great and give a off a nice cool blue light. But when you turn on your low beams, a pair of halogen bulbs comes on instead. This is disappointing because at $44 grand for a fully loaded model, you expect to get some premium features. Cost expectations aside, there are other reasons why the Volt could benefit from LED headlights.

A recent study by Osram Sylvania showed that having LED headlights can potentially extend an electric vehicle's range by up to six miles. I'm pretty sure every Volt owner would love an additional six miles of EV range (and brighter headlights).

You're probably thinking, "LED headlights are more expensive. If the Volt had them, it would cost even more." But for comparison's sake, the base model Nissan Leaf, which starts at $32,780, has LED headlights. Nissan has a partnership with Valeo-Ichikoh to produce a low-cost and energy-efficient headlamp.

General Motors already offers LED headlights in the Cadillac Escalade Platinum. If the tech in those headlights was too big to fit in the Volt, even an HID lighting system would be more energy-efficient than halogen.

What do you think? Should the Volt have LED headlights? What do you prefer on your cars?

-Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 2,982 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Cold Comfort

February 22, 2011

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Range anxiety is really not an issue in the Volt, since the gasoline engine kicks in when the battery has run its course. Range envy is another matter. I developed a bad case of it over the weekend.

My driving pattern over the last three days -- a 28-mile one-way freeway commute, around-town driving to the market and breakfast, the use of climate control and occasional forays into the Volt's sport mode -- got me lackluster electric-only range of around 30 miles. Nothing approaching the car's 46.4-mile best.

So for my commute to Santa Monica this morning, I was determined to better my performance. I read the Volt's onboard energy efficiency tips before heading out. The car is most efficient at speeds below 50 mph. I couldn't drive 50 on the 405 without being honked into oblivion, but I kept my speed at 62 or so for most of the drive. The car's climate-control system is most efficient in fan-only mode, and Chevrolet recommends using the Volt's heated seats rather than running the heater itself. Done. It was just 47 degrees outside, but I skipped the heater and turned up the fanny-warming driver's seat.

As you can see from the Volt's energy-information screen at the top of this entry, I was doing pretty well -- driving efficiently and making the most (or least) of the climate-control system.

The result: much better range. I arrived at Edmunds' office with 13 miles to spare, meaning I was on track to get 41 miles of electric-only range from the car. The collateral damage: I had no sensation in my fingertips. The next time I drive the Volt on a wintry morning, I'm either bringing along gloves or resigning myself to losing the range war.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 2,530 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: One Backup Lamp Short

February 10, 2011

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I'm not a fan of single center-mounted backup lamps like the one found on our 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Yeah, it looks plenty big from the outside, but I need more illumination to the sides so I can see stuff in my side-view mirrors, too. I leave the house at dark, at 5:00 am, and on Friday mornings three trash cans are hidden in the shadows on the left side of the frame.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2011 Chevy Volt: Put Me in the 'Like' Column

January 24, 2011

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Whether the Volt makes sense from a financial perspective is one that shall be determined over the course of the year as we crunch numbers from the horribly confusing fuel/energy log. But for now, I do know this: the Volt is a very enjoyable car to drive.

It starts with the power delivery. After a brief dalliance with a punchless TSX, I realized I'm a torque guy and an electric motor is a big turn on, providing a perfectly smooth wave of immediate torque when accelerating. The wild Mini E was basically torque porn, but the softcore Volt is still defined by this characteristic. Even when the battery has been depleted, the car still has an electric car throttle feel since it is powered by the motor rather than the engine (at least most of the time).

When I accelerated from a stop, the Volt drew power only from the batteries just as a regular parallel hybrid would (the batteries still draw power from regenerative braking), although it seemed to take longer for the engine to kick in than it does in a Prius. I also found this switchover to be less intrusive than in the Prius, with less noise and vibration at start-up. There is another key difference. The Volt's engine works in correlation yet independently of your foot. If you lift off the "gas," the engine can still be churning along. Oppositely, you can lay into it and the engine can take a few ticks to come on. It's a little weird, but weird is OK by me.

To be honest, though, the Prius is still pretty weird and its powertrain is still pretty nifty. Yet, those attributes don't change the fact that Toyota's ubiquitous hybrid is depressing to drive. The Volt is not. Sure, the steering is rather inert on center, but the car's low center of gravity and commendable suspension tuning make it hug on-ramp cloverleafs like a champ. The I-110/I-405 South interchange alone had me sold. I have ZERO desire to take it on a mountain road, but for running errands this weekend and blasting down to Orange County on Friday night, the Volt has the sort of solid, buttoned down feel in normal driving that made me fall in love with premium small cars like the MKIV Jetta, BMW 135i and VW GTI. If the Volt was my daily driver, I'd be thrilled.

Now, do I have nitpicks? Oh yeah -- I could've written 10 blogs today. But I have a year to get into all that. For now, you can put me solidly in the Volt's "like" column.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 1,308 miles

28.1 miles on electricity (~10 miles stop-and-go traffic, the rest open highway)
36.8 mpg (according to computer)

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Breaking in the Engine

January 19, 2011

2011_chevrolet_volt_eng_lt_114111_815.jpg

So how do you break in the engine on your new 2011 Chevrolet Volt? According to the owner's manual, "The vehicle does not require a break-in period. Vehicle break-in is performed during manufacturing." But we are creatures of habit.

For the past week we've been running the Volt on the gasoline engine only. We depleted the battery fully and hit the road. It still isn't only running the engine, though. In some situations, such as accelerating from a stop, the batteries kick in to get you going before the gas engine takes the reins again. At this point, you're finally putting miles on the engine.

Speaking of the engine, you'll know when it's running because the 1.4-liter 4-cylinder is loud. But after a couple of tanks averaging about 39 mpg, it also seems to be efficient. More to come on tracking our fuel economy later.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 712 miles

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Chevrolet Volt in VA is:

$121 per month*
* Explanation
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