2011 Chevrolet Volt: Spoiler Alert!
January 24, 2011
Racers know them by many names: chin spoilers, air dams, air deflectors. Whatever you call 'em, they're intended to encourage air to flow around or over the car--anywhere but underneath. Track-day enthusiasts and racers want them because they can increase top speed and reduce aerodynamic lift, but there's also a benefit, theoretically speaking, for those seeking additional fuel efficiency.
But the typical track-day aero mod will drag on every parking curb and driveway in sight, so the deepest, most effective ones never make their way onto production cars, no matter how tempting the tiny fuel economy benefit may be to automakers and their CAFE averages.
Except, it turns out, for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.
This one's really low, folks: 3 inches, or 1.13 iPhones (in a case) from edge to pavement. That's not enough space for my balled fist, knuckles up. That gap narrows with a driver aboard and shrinks further when the car dives forward under any kind of braking.
And so the Chevy Volt's spoiler drags on everything. Speed bumps? Ssccrrraaape. Driveways? Ssccrrraaape. It's shallow enough that every intersection with a lateral gutter of any depth becomes the Rubicon Trail.
A deliberate, angled approach is your only defense--or a pair of earmuffs. And don't even dream of pulling all the way up to a concrete parking curb without making contact.
The approach angle to this protuberance is not specified, of course, but we'll soon measure that, too, just for grins. My guess lies at the high end of the single digits.
Of course GM knew all this going in, so they chopped it into three parts and made it kinda-sorta flexible. Nevertheless, Volt drivers must swallow their pride and simply tolerate the scrape sound and the inevitable ratty appearance of their front air dam.
As for us, we're taking bets on how much of the thing will be ground away at the end of our test year. Feel free to weigh in with your over-under guess of the replacement mileage. No word yet as to whether or not it'll pass the Top Gear UK "sleeping policeman" test that allows cars onto their Power Lap Times board.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 1,312 miles