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2011 Chevrolet Volt - How Does It Drive? Review By Larry Nutson

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2011 Chevrolet Volt EV Hybrid

Chevrolet Volt Specs, Comparisons and Prices - Chevrolet Buyers Guide

2011 Chevrolet Volt - It does what it’s supposed to do...very well.

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Chevrolet Volt was named the 2011 North American Car of the Year, and rightfully so. The Volt has won other awards including the 2009 Green Car Vision Award, 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, 2011 Green Car of the Year and 2011 World Green Car. It’s also a IIHS Top Safety pick.

The first question in the mind of many folk is ”How does it drive?” Well, it drives very well. I had two previous drive experiences in the Volt; one for about fifteen minutes and the second for about forty-five minutes. I now would have the car at my disposal 24/7 and get to live with it in going about my daily activities.

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From those previous drives, I knew the Volt was quiet, responsive, well-handling, comfortable and quick. What else could I learn? Especially, how does this $41,000, 4-person, compact 4-door hatchback fit into the urban automotive landscape? After all, the Volt is expensive when you compare it to its cousin the Chevrolet Cruze. And the Cruze provides the same level of transporting people and stuff.

Of great interest to me was the driving experience in the full-electric, battery power mode and also the battery recharging process. When the Volt arrived at my door the lithium-ion battery had been depleted from the drive into Chicago from the suburban location of the car-logistics handler. So I was to begin my drive in the mode of the gasoline engine/generator proving the electric motive power. Noteworthy is that in this drive trip the battery provided 37.9 miles of driving which was comprised of virtually all 70mph expressway driving with the air conditioner operating.

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I went about driving the Volt for the next four days on the gasoline engine/generator. Chevrolet says driving range in this mode is up to 344 miles. My drive included a 60 mile expressway drive and return during which the Volt didn’t disappoint and performed very well cruising along at 70+mph highway speeds. Braking, lane changing, on and off-ramp negotiating are all done with ease.

Chicagoland has a program in the works to install 280 EV charging stations by year end. A number of those are already in operation and can be located through a search on In my residence I don’t have the proper set-up to plug the car in to a 120 v outlet. Plus, I knew from other folks experience that the outlet must be on a dedicated circuit otherwise if some other electric-consumer is on the same circuit the circuit breaker will trip.

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I located a 240v charger in a public parking garage. Charging the Volt would be free but I would have to pay for the parking. The Volt has an instrument panel display that tells you the required charging time. I parked the Volt, plugged in for 4 hours and when I returned had a fully charged battery with the instrument display reading 42 mile of driving range. Personally, if I owned a Volt I would install my own 240 charger…for about $2500!

The weather had cooled a bit. My driving would be 100% city streets. In the end I got 41.2 miles of driving on battery power. The Volt has various displays to show driving range, fuel economy, energy usage and so on. One of the most useful is the “Efficiency Gauge”, a spinning green ball located in the instrument cluster. The ball is located in a vertical scale identified at each end with accel and decel. Keep the spinning ball green and in the center of the scale for best efficiency. This gauge is a good “educator” and in my view would make sense in any vehicle.

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Another feature I liked on the Volt is the Pedestrian Friendly Alert. A “chirp-chirp” horn that is manually operated by the driver by pulling the turn signal lever. Its intended use is to warn pedestrians and bicyclists of the Volts presence since at low-speed it is very quiet especially below about 15 mph when tire noise is minimal. I likened this to a city horn that too could be on all vehicles.

The Volt is heavy for its compact size due to the battery. To help save weight, there is no spare tire, nor a place for one, but a tire sealant and compressor kit is provided. Power seats are not offered since they add about 25 pounds each over a manual seat. Likewise, a sunroof is not available. Power windows and mirrors are standard.

At the start of my week-long drive it was hot. The air conditioner did a great job of cooling and keeping the interior comfortable. I didn’t try this out, but a nice feature of the Volt is the ability to cool or heat the interior in advance of using the car and while still plugged-in and recharging. A Nav system is standard. A Rear Camera and Park Assist Package is an option. Heated front seats are an option, which too can be turned on in advance. The heated seats use less electric energy than the car heater.

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As to cost, there is the Federal Tax Credit of $7500. Remember, it’s a credit; not everyone may get the full amount and you don’t get it until you file your federal tax return for the year you bought the Volt. For 2012 Chevrolet has announced a price reduction to $39,995.

All in all, the Volt is a nice car that delivers very well. It’s expensive in my opinion and the ROI…return-on-investment…is something that each buyer should consider. But, it can be an only car.

© Larry Nutson