2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test - Performance

2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (4)
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2011 Chevy Volt: Thoughts from the Curb

January 25, 2012

Chevy Volt at a Barbecue.jpg

At the risk of being punny, the Chevy Volt is a lightning rod -- for conversation, for controversy, for confusion and for grand-standing wind bags. From its concept's unveiling at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show to today, no car has come remotely close to garnering as much attention, especially outside the little car world in which we inhabit.

This past Saturday I went to a friend's backyard barbecue, where my car for the weekend certainly did not go unnoticed (I mean, look where I parked it). The usual questions and misconceptions we've encountered over the course of the year popped up, plus a few new ones. I was only too happy to oblige with my usual scattered helping of thoughts.

"Gas engine? Wait, I thought it was electric." No, it's better than electric. If it was electric, I wouldn't have been able to drive it here, or I would be trying to bum electricity as we speak. There's something so chintzy and undignified about that.

"So what do you think about it?" I like it a lot, there's a reason I've driven it so much this year. There's something really cool about an electric motor -- it's quiet, there's no vibration and it's all torque, so it really plants you in your seat. It feels so very effortless. But I also like how it drives beyond that. It feels really substantial. It's more expensive than a Prius (I add once the guy with the Prius leaves the room), but it should be, it's better in about every possible way.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Weekend Ramblings

January 18, 2012

Volt volting.jpg

I had the Volt last weekend, and tried to treat it the way a Volt owner would. Meaning, plugging it in to re-charge in my garage after even just short trips. The goal here is to remain on battery power as much as possible without tapping into the gasoline reserves.

Since I live 65 miles from work, I obviously ran it out of juice on the way home as well as when I drove back to the office after the weekend was over. I also took it to go hiking on the San Juan Trail off the Ortega Highway (74), about a 40-minute drive each way, so I clearly ran out of battery power that day too.

But that was about it. I plugged it in six times over the weekend, charging it even if the battery wasn't empty. It charges quickly.

In general, the Volt is easy to live with, and it's kinda fun that it's such a rarity out on the road (although I did see one other Volter while I was out electrifying around--she ignored me). People are definitely intrigued by it. Acceleration, something I care about, is adequate from a stop.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Changing Battery Performance Over Time

January 13, 2012


I found a few interesting tidbits while looking over our 2011 Chevrolet Volt's charging records.

On average, it took 12.2 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to fully charge the battery using the 240-volt charger in our Santa Monica parking garage. That figure rose to 13.0 kWh when using the 120V home charge cord that comes in the Volt's trunk.

Why? Charging losses. Any laptop user can tell you that a certain amount of charging energy is wasted as heat. Charging losses are a fact of life with plug-in hybrid and EV recharging to the tune of about 10 to 20 percent. It seems the Volt's 120-volt charge cord resides closer to the high end of that range.

On-board vehicle systems continuously monitor the proceedings, throttling the charge rate and battery cooling systems throughout. Because 120V charges take about twice as long, these systems operate for far longer periods (albiet somewhat less energetically, we assume). Also, the Volt's 120V charge cord is notably skinnier and may impart more resistance.

Whatever the reason, the difference amounts to 6.6 percent more electricity purchased for a given recharge, which works out to $25 if we apply this offset to all the kilowatt-hours our Volt consumed this past year.

That's not nearly enough to cover the cost and hassle of installing a fancy-pants 240V home charger. The only reason to buy one of those is reduced charge time. For the Volt, at least, that wasn't really an issue for us.

But wait, there's more...

Our 240V charger dispensed an average of 12.3 kWh to fill our Volt in the first two months we had it, but that fell to 11.9 kWh in the last two months -- a drop of 3.5 percent.

Huh? Is our Volt's battery losing it? Is this a sign of battery degradation?

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: December (And One Year) Fuel Economy Update

January 10, 2012


December represents our twelfth month with the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, and that makes this update a one year summary of our Volt's thirst and, well, whatever Bender calls it when he needs a jolt.

In the past 12 months our Volt has amassed just over 13,000 miles. That number could have been higher if we had encouraged more long road trips, but the number of long trips 20 people take in a year is far more than a single owner would take, and that would have skewed the results too far in the gasoline direction, which is most definitely not the Volt's sweet spot.

As it was our Volt was already being driven by staffers who live too far away to make best use of the EV part of its split personality (raises hand). Combine that with the handful of long trips it did make and you get our observed Utility Factor of just 43 percent. The Society of Automotive engineers reckons a plug-in hybrid with 35 miles of rated range should run on electricity 58 percent of the time in the hands of a typical consumer. We reckon they're right.

2011 Chevrolet Volt





Electricity (kWh/100 mi)





Electric Range (miles)





Gasoline (mpg)





Our average electric range (from fully charged to fully discharged) was 37.3 miles, and that was derived from 96 data points. Twice that many partial discharges can't be counted because the car was plugged in again before it ran out of juice -- which we encouraged because that's what you'd do if you were trying to run on electrons as much as possible.

In perfect semi-traffic conditions I managed to smash through the 50-mile barrier twice -- 54.6 and 54.3 miles on consecutive charges -- though no one else did. In my case, perfect conditions meant nearly-clogged freeway traffic that rolled steadily at 35-50 mph without any stopping or sudden speed changes.

We also beat the EPA's estimate for average electricity consumption. Our average was 34.2 kilowatt-hours used every 100 miles instead of the rated 36 kWh/100 miles.

On the other hand, gasoline fuel consumption was worse than the EPA combined rating, 34.3 mpg actual versus 37 mpg rated. Before you say we didn't drive enough long-distance highway miles, please remember that hybrids do better in the city, where speeds are lower, regenerative braking is in effect and electric motors are more efficient. Note that our longest e-range occured at sub-freeway speeds. At regular freeway speeds the Volt's engine is doing two things at once, generating electricity on the one hand while assiting with direct mechanical propulsion with the other, which means it's working that much harder.

What all this points to is an EPA gasoline consumption rating method that is equally optimistic when this plug-in is burning gasoline as it is when certain brands of traditional gasoline-powered cars are on the dyno rollers. Maybe the EPA and NHTSA should take another look at their methodology. It's hard to see how we would beat electricity by 5 percent and miss gasoline by 8 percent, but we did.

On the other hand, human nature could explain it. Think of the conversation in your head going like this: "I'm out of juice and am now burning gasoline. I have no more range to maximize. The videogame is over. I need no longer drive like Ed Begly Jr. Time to make up for lost time."

Comparing notes with others in the office, the Ed Begley Jr. effect seems to be a real thing.

2011 Chevrolet Volt





Utility Factor (% EV miles)





Apparent MPG (ignore electricity)





Cost per mile (US average prices)





(Cal. average prices)






Popular hybrids, for reference





2011 Toyota Prius (US average prices)





(Cal. avg prices)





2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid (US avg prices)





(Cal. avg prices)





I found a flaw in my October/November data, in which I left some electricity consumption out of the cost calculations. The gray boxed have been revised upwards, which, frankly, makes them make more sense.

In the end, the cost to operate our 2011 Chevrolet Volt in National Average terms worked out to 8.1 cents per mile. As it happens, a Toyota Prius would have cost a penny less per mile and a Ford Fusion a penny more, assuming both spent the year running at EPA combined. Any hybrid owner will tell you this is unlikely, indeed.

And that's at a yearlong Utility Factor of 43 percent. One column to the left, where December's average UF was 51 percent, the cost per mile was 7.2 cents. And if you can achieve the SAE's predicted 58 percent UF, the cost per mile drops into the 6-point-something cent range. And it'd be far less than that if you lived in Washington State, where they practically pay you to take electricity off their hands.

Bottom line: the cost to operate the Volt (and whether it makes economic sense to you or not) is entirely dependent on how far you drive every day between plug-ins, how much of that is wide-open freeway and what you pay for electricity.

Furthermore, the Volt's medium sized battery takes about 12 kWh to fill from empty on any given day, which is totally doable overnight (or during a standard 8-hours-plus-lunch workday)on standard 120V electricity from a regular outlet. Pure electric cars with larger batteries can't say that; they need the 240V charger.

Of course, you first have to swallow the price of the thing. Factor that in and the stronger gasoline hybrids may come out cheaper in the long run.

Yeah, there's math involved.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: How's It Holding Up?

December 16, 2011


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: One Lap of Orange County

December 13, 2011


Just over a week ago I drove the 2012 Fisker Karma around our semi-official One Lap of Orange County city fuel economy course. Aside from our 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the Fisker is the only other plug-in hybrid on the market. But our Chevrolet Volt has never taken a trip around the OLOC circuit.

Until now.

One Lap of OC (OLOC) is a 100% city loop that's 105.5 miles in length. There are dozens of siganls (I'll count someday), and most of the roads are of the main arterial variety. Speed limits range from 25 to 45 mph, though a 3-mile section of Pacific Coast Highway between the signals at Seal Beach and Huntington Beach is posted at 60 mph. There are exactly zero freeway miles.

We adhere to all speed limits except the one on that 3-mile stretch of PCH, where we go 55 mph instead of the posted 60 mph. Throughout we accelerate modestly at a pace that falls somewhere between old lady and late-for-work commuter, and we look ahead and anticipate instead of tailgate.

In other words, we're not hypermiling, but we are driving in a way that would please our parents or any for-hire passengers with weak stomachs we might be carrying. Hybrids tend to do quite well on this loop, though by nature it is too long for the likes of the all-electric Nissan Leaf (although in the interest of science we should try).

2011 Chevrolet Volt


LT Test


Electric Range (miles)



7% better

Electric Use (kWh/100)



5% better

Gasoline Use (mpg)



8% worse

The above chart shows how our 2011 Chevrolet Volt has fared so far in relation to its EPA ratings after 12,000 miles of randomized driving.

At first glance, the EPA's electricity ratings come across as too harsh. We understand the cautious approach for full EVs like the Nissan Leaf -- you don't want to over-promise if a roadside stranding (or a bad purchase decision) is a possible outcome.

But this is a plug-in hybrid, so running it out of juice has no ill consequences. In fact, it's expected, a regular occurence. The EPA can afford to loosen up and be more realistic when it comes to the EV mode ratings of plug-in hybrids, I think.

Meanwhile, the Volt's gasoline rating seems too optimistic, even here when the same driving style continues through the transition from battery power to engine-generated electricity. Perhaps we're seeing the effects of decades of learning how to best calibrate a gasoline engine and transmission to do well on a standardized set of dyno-based gasoline test patterns. Perhaps some that EV-mode pessimism needs to be applied to gasoline hybrid operation modes.

Now let's look at how the OLOC city route compares to EPA ratings.

2011 Chevrolet Volt




Electric Range (miles)



26% better

Electric Use (kWh/100)



22% better

Gasoline Use (mpg)



1% better

Since the regenerative braking function recovers most (but not all) of what is lost at the signals and stop signs, and the start-stop function kills the engine at rest (when it's being used, that is), overall performance can reap the benefit of the loop's low average speed. The 105.5 mile loop takes about 4 hours to complete, which means we're averaging just over 25 mph including all the zero mph rest time at signals.

As such, all three performance metrics improve, especially electricity consumption and e-range.

Our modestly driven Chevrolet Volt did significantly better than the EPA's EV-mode predictions when driven in the medium-density suburban city environmnet of Orange County. It fared better than it usually does in the denser traffic of the West Side, better than it does on wide open freeways. A driving pattern like our OLOC course is quite kind to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Two Things That Always Happen

November 21, 2011


Two things always happen when you're at the grocery store in the Chevrolet Volt:

1) While waiting in line at the outdoor ATM at the bank next door, someone will ask you if the Volt uses gas. (Conversation ensues accompanied by simultaneous patting of head and rubbing of stomach to illustrate the principles of the Volt's gas/electric powertrain.)

2) While driving across the lot to park in front of the grocery store, you nearly run over some really old guy and his grocery cart because the Volt is so quiet in electric mode that he doesn't hear you coming. (Rude gestures are exchanged.)

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 12,229 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Brake Early

October 26, 2011


I'm not feeling the love for the brakes in the Chevy Volt.

The pedal has a firm feel that doesn't seem to move much when you put your foot down. I like to feel like I'm actually participating in the stopping of a car. The pedal feels like the buttonless buttons in the center stack. It goes something like this:

Put your foot down.
Feel nothing.
The car seems to be stopping...
Maybe I should stomp on it.
Jerky Stop

The brakes do stop the car but not confidently. I'm sure the eco-friendly tires contribute to this lack of conviction.

I wouldn't know the Volt has a regenerative braking system if I didn't read it. It doesn't feel like it. I enjoyed the aggressive braking of our Mini E and the subtly assertive style of our Nissan Leaf. And I was often able to gain some driving time back in those cars. Since the Volt becomes fairly inefficient when it switches over to the gasoline engine, any regenerative help would be appreciated.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2011 Chevy Volt: Where's The Hold Button?

October 26, 2011

Vauxhaul interior.jpg

This is the interior of the Vauxhall Ampera. Besides being slightly different in terms of design (the knobs are far smaller and also in the wrong spots) there's a big functional difference here, the "HOLD" button.

This is a simple and rather brilliant idea by GM to let the operator decide when their car would be most efficient. Hint: It's not always in the first 30 miles of the drive.

Let's say I'm driving our Volt out to visit Dan Edmunds down in Orange county. That's going to involve a lot of fairly fast highway driving and then a bunch of stoplights and signs once I'm off the freeway. EVs don't really like highway speeds; they operate best somewhere right around 30-35 mph.

I know that and you know that but the Volt doesn't care. It gives you electricity first and then you're stuck with the motor the rest of the ride. The Ampera, however, is a little smarter.

Picture it: Meander through LA traffic to the highway in EV mode -- using about 2 miles of range -- then flick the hold button and suck down gas while cruising along at 75 for the next 30 minutes and then put it back into EV mode when dealing with the stop-start of a residential area in a different county.

Now, mountain mode sort of does this, but it puts the internal combustion engine at a higher load than normal to provide more power for motoring up long, steep hills. Not exactly a situation you want to be in all the time.

It's a super handy feature that GM can't bring over soon enough. They can keep those stupid small knobs, though

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2011 Chevy Volt: Electric Car Meets Electric Karts

October 13, 2011

Pole Position.jpg

During the oh-so-grueling city driving loop of the Fuel-Sipper Smackdown, we took a break from being frugal with our accelerator pedals and decided to blow off a little pent-up car guy energy by putting our feet to the floor -- or rather a little metal panel.

Pole Position Raceway is an electric go kart track located just across the street from the Palms that we previously hit up a few months ago. Sadly, we did not hit it up (nor did we know it existed) when we actually stayed at the Palms for Fuel-Sipper 3. Oh well.

Like the Volt, the electric karts are noteworthy for their right-now electric torque. As such, they are a lot more forgiving when you lose momentum (it's like the difference between Yoshi and Donkey Kong in Mario Kart). They're also less apt to give you a headache from exhaust fumes.

Follow the jump for a video of our excursion and our results.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Late Adopter

October 01, 2011


I'm almost embarrassed to admit I haven't driven our long-term 2011 Chevrolet Volt until now. It wasn't personal; there was just always a three-pedal car that I figured would be more interesting to drive when the end of the day came around.

After one evening I've yet to cross into the Volt's gasoline-engine mode, but that will come later today. One thing I hadn't counted on is just how normal the car would feel in electric mode, and by that I mean it's not like a regular hybrid where the combustion engine interrupts your all-electric zen 15 seconds into the driving experience, and it's not like our Mini E or Nissan Leaf where you have to map out your itinerary every time you leave the house. The Volt comes across as the logical middle ground.

Another thing I've noticed is the electric power steering. I think it might be the best EPS I've experienced to date in a GM vehicle. It has more weight to it at low speeds than I'd expected, and it's actually kinda precise. Presumably, I'll have more substantive thoughts about the Volt over the weekend.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,026 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Driving Style Test

September 30, 2011


For the first week I had our Chevrolet Volt, I drove it as if it had the equivalent of electric gold in its battery pack. I employed pretty much every easy trick I could think of for improved efficiency -- maximum use of the regenerative brakes, no excessive speeding, coasting up hills, predictive approaches to stop lights. Mostly, this is because I wanted to. Chevrolet designed the Volt to be efficient, so I figured I'd return the favor by driving efficiently.

But then I thought: does it really matter? Is my driving style really making a difference? So I devised a test to find out.

Since I'd been taking my daughter to school every day as part of my stay-at-home parent emulation, I had a repeatable route of about 17 miles of city driving. For two days I drove the route with efficiently in mind using the techniques noted above. Then for two more days I drove "normally," which was basically driving like everybody else on the road.

After each trip I recharged the Volt (on the 120V charger) and used our Kill-A-Watt meter to determine the amount of electricity used (in kilowatt hours) for the drive.

Efficient Driving: 29.4 kwh/100 miles average

Normal Driving: 33.9 kwh/100 miles average

(I wasn't driving 100 miles, but I converted the figures so that they're the same style that we've been reporting in the fuel economy updates. Remember that the lower the number, the better)

So the Volt became 13.3 percent more efficient in my limited testing. And driving this way hardly made any difference in terms of when I got to my destination -- there was no cost to me in terms of time. But I will say it does take more mental energy to drive this way. Sometimes it's kind of fun to test yourself, but other times you'll just want to just drive and not think about every little energy savings.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2011 Chevy Volt: I Would Own One

August 15, 2011


I just spend the better part of the weekend driving our long-term 2011 Chevy Volt. Sometime last evening, Volt packed with my offspring, I decided I could happily own one.

Fact is, I like driving the Volt. Another fact is that I don't like driving a Prius. And another is that I would never hem myself in with the limited driving range of a Leaf.

Meanwhile, I drive just 9 miles to work each morning. And my wife spends most of her days well within the Volt's 40 miles electric range.

For us, the Volt makes a lot of sense. It would be used as an electric vehicle most of the time. But my wife could also drive it to grandma's house (either 75 miles or 135 miles away depending on which grandma) without breaking a sweat.

I left the Volt with my wife today. I wanted her to use it. I'll report her reactions tomorrow.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 9,234 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Runnin' On Electric

June 27, 2011

Volt volting.jpg

Had a pretty quiet weekend, logging only 40 miles around town for errands and to go see some live music at a local coffee shop. But since I never drove very far during any one stint, and because I recharged the Volt in my garage, I was able to run all of those miles on electric (not that it's a great feat, mind you).

It's an odd feeling running the Volt in pure electric. On the one hand, it's eerily silent, which is very different than what I'm used to, whether it be with cars or motorcycles.

But I also find that I have this odd desire to go full-throttle from a stop around town, which isn't exactly efficient. I liken it to riding a scooter: The few times I've ridden a scooter, I'm full-throttle all the time, baby. Part of the reason for that is that scooters generally don't have much power and don't go very fast, so you have to get up to speed quickly or you get run over.

It's similar in the Volt: Around town, it's natural for me to want to use all of what little power the Volt has. I know I shouldn't do it, because the Volt is theoretically all about efficiency. But there's something fun about out-dragging a gasoline-powered SUV from a stoplight with an electric car. Even if they might not have been fully aware we were racing.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 6,867 miles.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: That's Not Distracting

June 24, 2011

Volt for Jen.jpg

So I'm driving down the 405 South yesterday afternoon in our long-term Chevy Volt. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing: minding my own business, keeping my road rage in check and paying attention to the all-important electric-to-gasoline switchover. Which was at 39.9 miles (versus the previous day's 34.6), the slower-moving traffic playing right into the Volt's electric hands.

Oh, and I was getting a little more annoyed at the Volt's low-speed braking weirdness, the amount of braking force not always related to the amount of pedal pressure. I eventually started moving the console lever to L as much as possible to slow the Volt instead of using the brakes.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Shockingly, Not A Crappy Drive

June 23, 2011


I don't know if I hang with the wrong or the right crowd, but no one has ever asked me: "So what's it like to drive a Chevy Volt?" Maybe my friends just assume I only care about high-powered sports cars and sports sedans.

But one person actually has been pestering me about the Volt: Me. Last night, I finally got the chance to drive our long-termer.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it turns out the Volt is simple and fairly normal to drive. In a strange way, it's kinda fun because you can actually drive it in full electric mode for a long period of time, including highway speeds. With other hybrids, as soon as you step on the gas with any real force, the gasoline engine immediately fires to life.

In fact, the most confusing thing about the plug-in Volt may be our elaborate fuel/electric logbook (photo below), which is much more in-depth than with our gasoline testers. But for good reason. And yeah, I probably screwed it up and Dan Edmunds, our Director of Vehicle Testing, will fire me soon.

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2011 Chevy Volt: My Favorite Commuter

June 17, 2011

Volt Dark.jpg

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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IL Track Tested: 2011 Chevrolet Volt

May 24, 2011


Like it or not, the 2011 Chevy Volt is one of the most significant vehicles in recent memory. With a gasoline generator and EV propulsion, the Volt bridges the gap between past and future propulsion for a reluctant and skeptical population. And while energy efficiency is the primary goal of the Volt, building a transitional car that delivers non-standard driving dynamics (like being the slowest car we've ever tested) will surely stop this progress in its tracks.

Frequent readers will notice that this is not the first time we've tested the Chevrolet Volt. The first time we had one on our track was a short-term, early-production version that Chevy promised was close to production. Trouble is, that car had 4,000 miles on the odometer and we have no idea the life the battery/generator lived. This car, however, is our long-termer, which we bought off the lot and lovingly introduced to electricity. We know how it's been driven and how it's been charged.

So were there any differences? Follow the jump for IL's Track Tested of our Long-Term 2011 Chevy Volt.

Vehicle: 2011 Chevy Volt
Odometer: 2,238
Date: 11/02/10
Driver: Mike Monticello
Price: $44,695

Drive Type: Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Planetary CVT
Engine Type: Naturally aspirated 1.4-liter DOHC, variable intake and exhaust, gasoline engine (premium fuel). 111-kilowatt drive motor, 54-kW generator motor
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,398/85.3
Redline (rpm): 4,800 (not indicated)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 149-horsepower Voltec electric drive, 84-hp gasoline motor @ 4,800
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): Voltec engine: 273 lb-ft
Brake Type (front): 11.8-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): 11.5-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Steering System: Electric power steering with ZF steering gear
Suspension Type (front): Independent MacPherson strut-type with side-loaded strut modules, specially tuned coil springs, direct-acting hollow stabilizer bar; hydraulic ride bushings
Suspension Type (rear): Torsion beam, coil springs, hydraulic bushings
Tire Size (front): 215/55R17 93H M+S
Tire Size (rear): 215/55R17 93H M+S
Tire Brand: Goodyear
Tire Model: Assurance
Tire Type: All-season, low rolling resistance
Wheel size: 17-by-7 inches front and rear
Wheel material (front/rear): Aluminum alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,747 (61.3% front)

Test Results:

EV Mode
0-30 (sec): 3.5
0-45 (sec): 5.7
0-60 (sec): 8.9
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 8.5
0-75 (sec): 13.1
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 16.6 @ 85.3

Gasoline Generator
0-30 (sec): 3.5 (3.5 w/TC on)
0-45 (sec): 5.7 (5.8 w/TC on)
0-60 (sec): 8.9 (9.2 w/TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 8.5 (8.8 w/TC on)
0-75 (sec): 13.1 (14.1 w/TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 16.6 @ 85.3 (16.9 @ 81.8 w/TC on)

30-0 (ft): 29
60-0 (ft): 118

Slalom (mph): 61.4
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.79

Db @ Idle: 47.9 (gas) 42.9 (EV)
Db @ Full Throttle: 67.3 (gas)
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 64.5 (gas)

Acceleration Comments: Could find no discernible advantage between launching in D or L or Sport or Normal in full EV mode. Just a smooth surge of near-silent, if underwhelming, power. Of note, could register up to a 3-mile loss of range after a quarter-mile of full-throttle acceleration. The quickest run came once we squeezed the Volt out of its electric juice, bringing the gasoline engine into play for acceleration purposes.

Braking Comments: Lengthy pedal travel, but decently firm feel. Occasional significant rear lockup and lots of ABS commotion. Regenerative braking had little to no effect at shortening panic-stopping distances.

Handling Comments: Skid pad: A singing tire is a happy tire, so what's a howling tire? The ones fitted to the Volt. Massive understeer the likes of which we rarely see these days, and the chassis is not overly willing to change its attitude. ESC intervenes, but throttle correction was still needed. Slalom: Feels heavy, cause it is. Steering is slow and there's a goodly amount of ESC intervention. ESC cannot be defeated so it was important to go only as quickly as possible without invoking the system to freak out and add a buch of brake. Driving aggressively just made for slower times.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: Not Yet the iPod Moment

May 16, 2011


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: Hits and Misses

April 27, 2011


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.


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...


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: Feels Good at 101 MPH

April 18, 2011


That is the Volt's top speed. 101 mph. It gets there quickly and feels like it'll stay there all day very happily. Notice the accel meter on the right. It's pinned. Fact is, with its speed limiter removed and different tires I'm sure the Volt could go much faster. Probably north of 125 mph.

Mileage does suffer at this speed however. Significantly.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

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2011 Chevy Volt: Crap Games, Great Drives

April 11, 2011


As I drove down to Los Angeles of Anaheim for the second straight day to watch my Blue Jays lose yet again (could be worse, cough, Red Sox, cough, Devil Rays), I came to a realization about the Volt. Of all my possible expectations for GM's newfangled motor car, the one I wasn't anticipating was how capable it is on the freeway.

The electric drive range was long gone before I even set out for LA of A on Saturday evening, which meant I'd be in hybrid mode the rest of the way. No worries, though, as the Volt does an excellent job of highway cruising. If you need to pass someone quickly, there's plenty of electric-generated torque for a quick acceleration boost. The engine is only rarely noticeable (it's often tough to tell if it's running at all), and when it is, the noise is comparable to that of a more muted CVT-equipped car.

I'd be interested to see how it handles the hilly drive to Vegas, but color me surprised that the Volt handles the highway as well as it does city. I like this car more and more I drive it. Oh, and I achieved 34.5 mpg along the way.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,139 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: First Impressions

April 07, 2011


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 > Toyota Prius

April 06, 2011

Toyota Prius at IMS.jpg

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: Five Things I Like

March 11, 2011

Volt getting gas.jpg

I drove the Volt for just over a week and it made a great impression on me. I loved its high- tech feel, quiet ride and the interesting looks I got from Prius owners trying to figure out what I was driving. Our director of vehicle testing, Dan Edmunds, wants each week-long tour of duty in the Volt to end with a trip to the gas station. The Volt wet its whistle with less than a gallon of premium fuel. The total cost was $3.17.

After eight days with the car, here are a few things I liked about it, not ranked in any particular order:

1. Sport Mode: Activating this mode increases the responsiveness of the throttle and gets the car up to speed much quicker. It does drain the charge faster, but it is nice to have if you want more pickup.

2. No Range Anxiety: This isn’t an issue in the Volt. Instead you'll find yourself getting range envy -- you want to see how far you can go on an electric charge.

3. Phone and iPod Interface: I like the ability to use either the touch screen or the designated button on the dash. It is very easy to find the song or phone number of the person you want to call.

4. LCD Screens: It may seem gimmicky to some, but I really like how these screens boot up and display information. It looks like the kind of "future car" we all imagined when we were kids.

5. Good Commuter Car: Dan will have more concrete data later, but my 12-mile round-trip commute is perfect for the Volt. The only time I went past the EV range was on the weekend and when I traveled to visit relatives.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 3,060 miles

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2011 Chevrolet Volt: A Pain to Park

January 20, 2011


Don't get all huffy just yet. I actually liked my first few miles in the Volt. Put it in Sport mode and it was surprisingly quick. Seats felt pretty decent too.

But it is a pain to parallel park. Like most hybrids, it's too touchy at slow speeds. In other words, it doesn't like to creep. Don't push enough and it doesn't move. Push a little harder and suddenly it lurches forward. Not exactly what you want when you're trying to be surgical.

On the plus side, it has a rear-view camera so you can see what you're about to run into.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

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