2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Cracked Shifter Fixed and Software Update

February 02, 2012

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Last week, we took our long term 2011 Chevrolet Volt to fix its cracked shifter. There isn't a Chevrolet dealership in Santa Monica and the Infiniti dealer we usually go to (which used to be a Chevy dealer but still works on the cars) cannot perform warranty work. Our next option was to take it to a nearby Cadillac/GMC dealer that works on all GM models.

Our Volt was probably one of the first they had seen. I got a few "What's this car doing here?" looks from some of the employees and customers. While the service advisor was writing the repair order, he checked with his manager to verify if the cracked shifter would qualify for a warranty claim. The manager signed off on the repairs and the advisor said they would overnight the part.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Long-Distance Sipper

January 26, 2012

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Here's a number that maybe doesn't get enough attention. It makes sense that we'd find it in the Volt's instrument display: gallons used. We've used just less than three gallons to travel 180 miles. Forget for a second that our electric bill, and the real dollars that pay it, helped us travel that distance.

What matters is that gallons used is a number that I can see and relate to. I see them add up every time I stop at the pump. There's a psychological sleight of hand here: the digits rise fast in the pump meter's LCD, yet they tick off much slower here in the Volt. And I tell myself, hey, isn't that nice? I won't have to visit the Shell as often.

It's one of those numbers that sounds pretty fantastic out of context. And like range estimates, who knows really how accurate it is? But GM should call more attention to it. Highlight it. Have some OnStar overlady like Siri whisper it from the headliner every time you park it for the evening.

Or maybe an audio clip of a congressman indignant that GM executives allowed the president to sit in a potentially flammable protoptype wunderwagen. You can take solace knowing you used less fuel over several hundred miles than those gasbags emit in a single day's investigative hearing (Hey Darrell Issa, how about a refund for that lame Viper alarm that never worked in my Integra?)

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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2011 Chevy Volt: Hard Boiled Broken Shifter

January 23, 2012

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The Volt's shifter has had a crack in its plastic shifter casing since at least September, and its only gotten worse since I reported it back in October. Well, it got really bad on Friday.

I pulled the shifter back, rubbed my fingers across the rough, raised crack (oh dear, this is just asking for jokes). It felt worse than before, and admittedly, I picked at it slightly. With less force than you'd use to removed the shell from a hard-boiled egg, this was the result. A huge chunk is just clinging to dear life on the left side like a broken nail. And like a broken nail, it was hard not to play with it and no doubt rip it clean off. Although really, the only solution is to get it replaced.

I no longer think this is the result of someone dropping something on the shifter as I've heard other Volts have suffered from this problem. Recall that this is not the original shifter design for the Volt. It originally had this guy, which spanned the entire space in the center stack. However, I imagine someone realized that this design could potentially lead to fingers getting stuck between shifter and center stack space. That would probably be worse than a huge chunk breaking off, but neither situation is ideal.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 14,489 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: The Elusive Gas Door Release

January 19, 2012

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Not sure why this catches my eye every time I drive the Volt. Is it the fact that it uses an extra little arrow to point out the somewhat hidden location of the gas door release? Or maybe it's the fact that the gas door release is hidden while the plug-door button gets more prominent placement? Conspiracy theories abound I'm sure.

Then again, if the Volt was a German car the engineers would have said, "Forget the little icon, let them figure out where the button is on their own." Either way, it's one of the odd little quirks about the Volt that reminds you that this is no ordinary car. I'm guessing most owners don't mind being reminded of that every now and again.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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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 Chevrolet Volt: Unbright

January 03, 2012


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With holiday celebrations to attend (and gifts to schlep) across the Southland this season, I had plenty of opportunity to put the Volt's cargo area to the test. Size-wise, the cargo area served us pretty well, even during the couple of occasions when our kids' gift haul was on the large size. (We left our enormous stroller at home.)

But we quickly noticed one major flaw: that tiny light in the wall on the driver side is the only light for the cargo area. It's not nearly enough. Need to find something in a fairly packed trunk in the dark of night on Christmas Eve? You best have a flashlight handy, because the built-in light isn't nearly enough, even if it isn't mostly blocked by the cargo itself.

The hatch is nearly all glass, so I guess it's challenging to find a suitable place to tuck an overheard light into; that's the only excuse I can think of for such an inadequate cargo light.

What is the lighting like in your car's cargo area? I used to have a stripper Civic coupe without any cargo light at all. Ended up installing a stick-and-click light to get by.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 13,729 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: How's It Holding Up?

December 16, 2011

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It had been awhile since I was behind the wheel of our Chevrolet Volt so I signed it out for a nice long drive the other night. Here's what I was reminded of:

- The interior does nothing for me. It's not just the shiny plastic center console or the mediocre seats, it's the whole layout in general. It's just not a very comfortable car to spend time in.
- Our Volt was built well. It has over 13,000 miles on it and I didnt't hear a squeak or rattle the entire trip. Pretty good for a car that was running on batteries much of the time.
- The brakes are awful. They work fine and all, but trying to be smooth about it is nearly pointless.
- The gas engine is noticeable, but not intrusive. Some people say they can't even tell when the gas engine is running. They're nuts. Or legally deaf. That said, the noise it does make is minimal so no matter what you're running on the Volt is a relatively quiet car inside.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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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 Chevy Volt: According to GM, It's a Creak

November 30, 2011

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Just before the 2011 L.A. Auto Show, I got an email from General Motors about a blog I'd written on a squeak in our Chevy Volt. They read the blog and then scoured their web of Volt owners to see if anyone else was having a similar experience. They weren't. This made us feel special. It made GM even more determined to get to the bottom of it.

Well, it just so happened that Jim Federico, Executive Director of mini and small cars and electric vehicles, would be flying into town for the show and, with our permission, would like to take a look at the car. They knew our office was in between the airport and the LA Show and asked if Jim could stop by on his way from one to the other.

We told them we couldn't let them fix it, but we'd be happy to have him by the office to inspect our Volt. Federico has worked as an engineer and executive with GM for 30 years and is responsible for the Opel Insignia, Chevy Silverado and Cadillac CTS.

Federico showed up fresh off the flight dressed in a sharper looking suit than I'll likely wear to my wedding and spent no time before tossing his briefcase to the floor and crouching under the car. Engineers.

He then hopped in the passenger seat and asked me if I could replicate the squeak and, approximately, how far we'd have to go to hear it. Luckily, the shroud over the IP makes the super annoying noise as well at 0 mph as it does at 20 -- you just have to coax it a little. Pushing down extremely lightly on the left corner produces the sound every time and with almost the exact same frequency as it does if you let the car wiggle it on a rough road.

I got one light squeak out and Jim slid out of the passenger seat and over to the driver seat where I was sitting.

"It's not a squeak."

I'm sure at this point I'm going to get some crazy PR spin here.

"It's a creak," he says with a grin. "We call this a creak."

Jim then spent a few minutes examining the rest of the car taking down the VIN, examining the brakes, looking under the car and trying his luck to get a creak out of any other interior panel.

His conclusion? Our Volt is a very early build (one of the first couple hundred to hit private hands) and the IP cover wasn't secured properly. As he left he said he'd look into it further and asked if we would follow up if we bring it to a dealer for this issue. Likely he'll ask them for documentaion of what exactly was happening in there to make this car different than all of the others.

GM cares about the Volt. Executives don't make mid-route pit stops if there's no get and finding a cause of one creak is apparently enough of a get on this one.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: A Macro Look at Interior Materials

November 30, 2011

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Last night was my first time getting behind the wheel of our 2011 Chevrolet Volt, and I have to say, I liked it. Decent interior materials and everything feels pretty solid (well, except what's up with that crack in the shifter?). The leather on the seats isn't exactly plush but it doesn't feel cheap either.

We bought our Volt for $44,695, which includes the $1,395 Premium Trim Package with leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and premium door trim. Just for comparison's sake, here's the interior of our $41K Volvo S60 T5.

How do you like the looks of our Volt's cabin?

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Child Safety Seat Behind Driver

November 29, 2011

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I usually try to avoid installing my son's rear-facing child safety seat behind the driver seat, even in midsize cars like the Volt. But my husband happened to do just that when he graciously installed it in the Volt for me this weekend. We were in a hurry to get where we needed to go, so rather than bothering to reinstall it, I just went with it.

I was happy to discover that the baby's seat didn't impinge on my comfort while driving at all. I am 5'8" tall, and you can see in the picture above, there's plenty of space between the driver seatback and the top of the baby seat.

How does the Volt's ability in this arena stack up with the hybrid/electric competition? With 42.1 inches of front legroom and 34.1 inches of rear legroom, the Volt's legroom is just behind the Prius' 42.5 inches in front and 36 inches in the rear seat. The next time we get a Prius in the office, I'll have to try the kid seat behind that car's driver seat, too.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 12,365 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Wasn't Trying, But Thanks

November 15, 2011

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Went to adjust the volume while listening to Stern this morning and brushed the REC sensor field. The Volt threw up this terse warning. I was slightly fascinated that someone thought to include this screen, as the REC sensor is normally used to import CD/USB tracks into the Volt's hard drive.

Then I wondered how much longer this activity won't be permitted. There are portables that can record 10 or 15 hours of SiriusXM programming. In this era of the App Store and constant software updates, updating the Volt's multimedia system to enable sat-rad recording should be as simple as GM sending a firmware update through OnStar, or at the very least with a visit to a local dealer.

Something tells me it has more to do with music industry licensing than technological inability. Probably a bit of both.

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2011 Chevy Volt: Busting Fuzz

November 08, 2011

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There is a power outlet located under the Chevy Volt's dashtop outlet. Gee, what on Earth could you plug into it? Especially with that cut out in the cover pointing at the windshield? Hmm, I can't think of anything at all. Certainly nothing that could possibly be illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia, for example.

As I can't think of such a thing, I certainly can't say how you'd exactly use this power location to create a less wire-rific set-up for such a hypothetical device, but I also certainly imagine it would help. Our Mustang also has a power outlet located up high on the dash, but not hidden away in such a covert manner. A potentially thoughtful feature though ... if I knew what to do with it of course.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,779 miles

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2011 Chevy Volt > 2012 Ford Explorer EcoBoost

October 29, 2011

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Our 2011 Chevy Volt and 2011 Ford Explorer don't have a ton in common. They're both domestics, they both have four cylinder engines and, importantly to this blog, they both have stupid, near-buttonless touch-panel control centers.

It's that near buttonlessness that propels the Volt to victory here because if I'd been driving the Volt instead of the explorer last week, I wouldn't have been pulled over...

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2011 Chevy Volt: squeaksqueaksqueak

October 19, 2011

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This is the IP housing for our 2011 Chevy Volt. After some 11,000 miles, it has started to squeak like a trapped mouse every time the car rolls over any rough pavement. So, in LA, all the time.

You can hold down the left side (pictured here) and make it stop for a little while, but within a few minutes of letting go the squeak returns.

Traditionally for little things like this we wait until the car needs service, but our Volt's oil change schedule is something like every 24 months. I'm thinking of making a special trip for this. We'll see if anyone else is as bothered by it as I am.

If it was yours: Wait or take it in?

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line @ 11,388 miles

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2011 Chevy Volt: The Gas Gauge Part 2

October 13, 2011

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A week ago, Al blogged about the Volt's gas gauge, noting that it was difficult to tell how much gas you had when running on electricity. Given the gas icon's design, it's tough to tell if it's indicating full or if it's simply indicating it's existance.

Since I burned some gasoline the last two days, I thought I'd follow up on this topic. The gas gauge went down and the above photo shows what the gauge looks like when you press "Config" and ditch the floating efficiency ball. It's a little more obvious and you can definitely tell how much gas you have, but as Al originally noted, the grey bars are hardly eye-catching.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,300 miles

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2011 Chevy Volt: The Shifter is Cracked

October 11, 2011

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The plastic trim piece that covers our Volt's shifter is cracked. It's pretty significant too, since the lower side of the crack is slightly higher than the other creating an edge. It looks like a fault. I'm not sure what caused it, but I see two possibilities: 1) Some sort of weird heat/cold expansion situation or 2) Someone accidentally dropped something heavy on the shifter. Do we have any bowlers?

If it's the latter, they would've had to do it with the car in gear since when in park the shifter is tucked into its cave under the center stack.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,160 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: The Gas Gauge

October 06, 2011

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I was rolling in our long-term 2011 Chevrolet Volt last night and wasn't sure how much gas I had. Well, the gasoline range is shown there, but looking at that cluttered driver display didn't help much.

You see, GM say they are selling an electric car here. And if you're running in EV mode like I was in this instance, the fuel gauge is an afterthought.

I had some difficulty understanding how much gasoline was in the tank from that tiny fuel pump icon. Yeah, I know I could look at the range and assume that it was full. But I wanted to read it from the gauge. Addtionally, in that pic it looks like it's empty because the icon is only lightly shaded. Trust me, it looks tiny from the driver's seat.

There is a way to get a better read on the fuel situation.

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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 Chevy Volt: HDD Fail

August 04, 2011

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As you're all pretty tired of reading, I like our Chevy Volt quite a bit. So much so in fact, that I've decided to burn some CD's into its 30gig HDD so that I don't have to bother with an iPod cable or carry CDs can test the system.

Someone had already tried this with "Something for the rest of" but I didn't want to hear that, I was going to record Flogging Molly's "Speed of Darkness." So I popped it in and drove home and then, before apparently it was done recording, turned the car off.

When I got back in the car the following day (yes, I did this back in July), the recording continued from the same track, but placed it in a different folder. Part of this, I think, is because the Volt had no idea what this CD was, unlike say my computer which figured out the tracks no problem. So now I have two folders for one album, tracks 1-8 in one and 9-12 in the other. Still, I've never seen it handled this way.

I guess I'll have to commit to driving for an entire CD-length should I want to load anything else in and then keep a handy notebook of which dates correspond to which albums. Still, this might be better than the Volt's normal habit of pointlessly alphabetizing album tracks.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Inside Line

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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 Chevrolet Volt: Center Stack Hack

June 17, 2011

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I like our Volt. I really do, and pretty much for the same reasons that Magrath pointed out. And like Mike, I also detest the center stack controls. Now, I' don't consider myself a technophobe or luddite. In fact, I'm quite the opposite. I'm an early adopter, I love technology, but if the execution is off just a little, well, the claws come out.

And that brings me to the Volt's center stack. A shiny plastic chunk in the middle of the dash. And there's the first misstep -- shiny. During the day, I can't read the right side of the stack because the reflections are so harsh they wash out the text on the "buttons". And the text on the buttons are too small, condensed and, well, poorly chosen. No, I don't have bad eyesight, I actually have quite exceptional vision, thank you.

But my biggest complaint is the overabundance of buttons and their unintuitive layout. But rather than whine about it, I decided to offer up my own solution.

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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: What's Your Number?

June 15, 2011

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Right around the time the Volt was being released, I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the engineers who produced the driver interface. I asked them if there were any Easter eggs that were hidden in the system, you know, like if you hit a certain combination of seven buttons at once, the screen will bring up a Tetris game. But no, according to them there are no hidden gems in there. What they did tell me, however, was what that green number is on the bottom of the screen.

It's the production number. We have the 340th Volt to roll off the assembly line. While it's not as cool as a game of Tetris, I thought this was an interesting tidbit.

Seriously, though, how cool would it be to have a game of Tempest hidden away? Just look at that, it's got a knob and a fire button right there!

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Fuel Economy Pong

June 09, 2011

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There's a lot going on with the main meters directly in front of the driver in our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt. When I first drove this thing, I'll admit I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the info.

Let's focus on the far right of the display. There's a fancy spinning green ping pong ball that you're supposed to keep vertically centered in attempt to coach you into some smooth driving. If you accelerate, the ball goes up. Brake, and it drops: the harder, the farther.

I must say it got my attention and is a lot simpler to understand than growing shrubs.

It also reminds me of one of those lung capacity tests with a ping pong ball in a bong-like tube. (Which I actually sampled during a recent physical check. Good times.)

Hit the jump for fuel economy pong in action. (Sorry for the quality of the video -- I was busy driving.)

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 6,400 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 Chevrolet Volt: The Chevy Volt-Vo

May 09, 2011

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I spent some days with the Volt and have some impressions to share in a later post. But here's one quick thing that drove me bonkers. This Volvo-esque floating bridge piece might impress a conference of interior design Poindexters, but it's a pain in the knee. The cascading plastic pillar looks as hard as it is, and I found myself constantly shifting my foot around, trying to fit my kneecap in the gap.

And a stupid gap it is, too. Points for creating a storage nook, but it's useless for anything you might want to stash or grab while driving. It's blocked from the front by the shifter, and unless you're double wrist-jointed, good luck reaching in there with your right hand.

A nitpick, for sure. And a passenger might exploit its intended purpose. I just started trying to thread the Volt keys above the shift stalk every day, but most times ended up brickin' it like Bynum.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

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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 Chevrolet Volt: The Soothing Sounds of Start Up

April 18, 2011

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I drove my friends around a bit this past weekend in our long-term 2011 Chevrolet Volt before we took a cruise around the Marina Del Rey harbor. My friends were quite impressed with the Volt and asked me the usual questions: how much does it cost, what's the range, do you like it? Yeah, I do like, including the greeting you get when you enter.

I showed them the displays upon entering, which are accompanied by the soothing sounds of nature: birds, water, new age music. It also reminds me of what you hear when you power up a mobile phone. This gives me a high-tech impression of the Volt.

Can you hear those sounds? Hit the jump to watch and listern.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ 5,120 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: These Buttons Were a Bad Idea

April 12, 2011

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Okay, not all of these buttons. I'm mainly referring to the ones that are flat, hard to push and generally too modern for their own good. You know, like those fan speed buttons on the right or the radio button on the lower left.

I get that the Volt designers were going for something new for their super advanced family sedan. And going for a look that's different than every other midsize four door is perfectly reasonable given all the technology packed into the Volt.

But at the end of the day, design has to be functional and these buttons just plain suck. There's no tactile response when you push them, so all too often you're forced to just keep on pushing until something happens. Some have lights, but most don't. It's simply a case of being too clever when it wasn't really warranted.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: First Impressions

April 07, 2011

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Last night was the first time I took our long-term Volt home. The day before, I took our Leaf. That makes two days in a row that I didn't use any gasoline, and I'm showing no signs of withdrawal. So far, I'm enjoying both cars equally, so here's my take on the Volt.

The Volt feels solid on the road. It doesn't feel flimsy or like an appliance, and that's reassuring. I'm sure the cabin would've been incredibly quiet had I not been rockin' out (I can't seem to stop listening to Adele's latest album). I think that if I were in the market for an environmentally friendly car, this would be my choice.

On the downside, I found the glossy center stack too shiny and the controls poorly labeled. I like the way it looks, but during daylight hours, the lack of contrast between the type and background make the controls difficult to operate. I recently drove the new Ford Explorer with all of the MyTouch controls, and that seemed to be easier to read and use. The Explorer had a matte-black rubberized panel with legible and bright type.

Despite what Mr. Pearley Huffman thinks, I don't think the Volt is deserving of the "ugly car" label. Among cars in general, I don't find it offensive in any way. Among electric/hybrids like the Prius, Insight and Leaf, I actually think it's the best looking of the bunch.

Yup, I'm a believer. Are you?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 Chevy Volt: Where Are The Power Seats?

March 24, 2011

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The Chevy Volt cames standard with automatic headlights, heated mirrors, remote ignition, automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, OnStar, a touchscreen electronics interface, a navigation system, voice control, real-time traffic and a six-speaker Bose stereo with CD/DVD player, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface, satellite radio and 30GB worth of digital music storage. Our car comes with the optional Premium Trim package (leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats) and the Rear Camera and Park Assist package (gee, what does that give you?)

That's a comprehensive and luxury-like amount of equipment, but there are no power seats. I can't comprehend why the Volt isn't offered with them (the damn Cruze has a six-way power driver seat!), but regardless, it should have them. Besides luxury/cost expectations, it would improve the driving position.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 3,419 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Searching For Consistency

March 22, 2011

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I really like the Chevrolet Volt's interface. You can control the menu functions with a button and dial in the center, but you also have the option to use the touchscreen. There is something minor that I would change both for usability and for the sake of consistency, however. The photo above shows the phonebook search screen. Your contacts are neatly alphabetized in three-letter folders. This makes it easy to quickly find who you want to call. There is also a voice-dialing function, for those who prefer that method.

But when I plug in my iPhone, it's not the same organizational system.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Sometimes I Fear Technology

February 03, 2011

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I say I fear technology in cars because of my friends 1985(?) Chrysler LeBaron he had many years ago. It was one of those cars that talked. After a while it went a little haywire. It started to speak at random times. Hit the accelerator too hard, "Your door is ajar." Cruising down the freeway, "Please fasten your seat belts." All spoken in a creepy computer voice reminiscent of my Intellivision equipped with Intellivoice. Yes, that reference is going back a ways.

Out Volt is PACKED with technology. Ok, it might not be as gimmicky as a talking car, but the touch sensitive center console does worry me. The Volt isn't the only current vehicle with this feature on the market. It looks as slick as the Enterprise's deck consoles, but I'd rather have the proven durable technology of buttons. If I did want this feature, I think I'd go by the old adage of waiting till the second generation for them to work out the first run kinks.

Do you fear this technology? Or do you think that I'm being irrational?

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2011 Chevy Volt: And You Thought Honda Was Bad...

January 25, 2011

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And you thought Honda was bad when it came to buttons. Just look at this. Not only does the Chevy Volt have a billion buttons on its center stack, they aren't even buttons. They are touch-sensitive with little nubs like your telephone's 5 digit that gives your fingers something to work with. The picture above is pretty much what I saw from the driver seat this weekend and it took a good 1-onethousand-2-onethousand-3-onethousand before I went "ah ha!" and found the right button.

In the end, though, I have to admit it's way cool. It's futuristic and I'm all for anything that makes me feel like I'm on the bridge of the Enterprise. I'm also OK with buttons. Like Honda, I'd much rather have a button for selecting something than working my way through 8 different iDrive or MMI menus.

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

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

$204 per month*
* Explanation
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