2016 Chevrolet Volt: Still Has a Mountain Mode, but Seems Less Necessary
by Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor on April 19, 2016
A few days ago, I was driving our 2016 Chevrolet Volt for the first time. I also happened to be driving north on Interstate 5 approaching the Tejon Pass (the "Grapevine"), which is a mountain pass north of Los Angeles that climbs to about 4,100 feet and then eventually dumps motorists out into California's agricultural and bovine heartland. As the mountains loomed in the Volt's windshield, I thought to myself: "Wait, isn't there a mountain mode that you're supposed to use in this thing?" This was based on recollections of our previous long-term 2011 Volt.
Well, it turns out that there still is a special mountain driving mode in the new Volt. But the Volt's mechanical improvements have rendered it less necessary, at least in my mind.
The mountain mode, according to the Volt's owner's manual, "...should be selected at the beginning of a trip before climbing steep, uphill grades and when expecting to drive in very hilly or mountainous terrain. This mode maintains a reserve electrical charge of the high voltage battery to provide better grade climbing performance."
My problem was twofold: A) I was already at the base of the mountains, and B) I was already nearly out of battery power anyway. At that point, I decided I'd just climb the mountain grade using the Volt's normal driving mode and see what happened.
Short answer: Nothing out of the ordinary. The Volt's gasoline engine fired up unobtrusively and kept the Volt powering up the grade at 70 mph, just like a typical car. There was no real engine racket or lack of oomph. "Did it without breaking a sweat," you might say.
I went back and looked at our reporting on our 2011 Volt and discovered James' update about running low on power after encountering hilly terrain. That's likely the nugget of info that stayed in my head all these years. But the 2016 Volt's new 1.5-liter gasoline engine is more powerful than before and now takes on the majority of responsibility for driving the front wheels once the battery is depleted.
I imagine there are still other mountain passes in North America that would warrant using the 2016 Volt's mountain mode. But this drive, at least, stood out to me as a solid example of the Volt's substantial improvement in usability compared to the old model.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7,263 miles