Chevrolet Volt Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
2012 Green Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks
For those suffering from that new "auto immune" syndrome plaguing some plug-in electric vehicle owners, take heart. "Range Anxiety" can't get you if you're driving a new, 2012 Chevy Volt.
The folks at Chevy were gracious enough to provide me with one of the first 2012 Volt five-door sedans out of the chute on a blazing late summer day. I took the keys only after a thorough initiation on what to expect from a Volt specialist. The fully charged electric-only range - as received - was about 50 miles, depending partly on how it was driven. Not to worry, I was told. The 9 or so gallons of premium fuel in the gas tank would power up an auxiliary engine that refuels the battery. But still, I had that sense of trepidation wondering if I'd do something incorrectly once the lime green energy bars of battery power disappeared from the navigation screen's display.
I started driving with the Volt's air conditioning keeping me chilled at 68 degrees. It handled easily and cruised silently along a local express road and city streets as I made several preplanned stops. When the gasoline engine finally woke up, it barely purred in the background, while the usage icon toggled into recharge mode with every slowdown or stop to extend the electric-only cruising.
As I plugged into a standard 120-volt socket for an eight-hour recharge with the special charging cable, I realized local errands were a non-issue. But how about distance driving, despite the expected combined range of some 300 miles on the information panel?
I set off for a 400-mile round-tripdrive with about a half-charge, but without adding a drop of gasoline. To blend with traffic, I set the cruise control at highway speed and relaxed. The Volt loped along, effortlessly pacing the gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups along the way, even when engine power kicked in. The only problem was recharging where I stopped at a relative's. The Volt simply didn't like the house current there and a red warning light on the recharge cable kept blinking. There was 220-power available, but no adapter cable to plug in since those special, four-hour garage recharging units are Chevy add-ons. With an empty battery I opted to add $20.00 in fuel and completed the round trip with nearly 100-mile range still available.
The Volt is strikingly handsome, and attracted several favorable comments and questions. My overnight gear left room to spare in the surprisingly large trunk space with flip-down rear seats. Inside, I was fascinated by the touch-sensitive console with a slippery, almost aquatic-looking skin that teases one to play with the Bose sound, Bluetooth and iPod! connectivity and numerous informational display panels. As expected, auxiliary lighting turns off almost instantly to save power.
The hefty price-tag of $45,000 as tested makes one calculate the savings compared with simply buying more fuel. But the Volt has as much as $7,500 in tax credits that takes some of the sting out of the cost. And the joy of driving it? Priceless!
For more info on the Chevy Volt, click here.