2012 Chevrolet Volt Hatchback Review | Toronto Sun

2012 Chevrolet Volt Review

2012 Chevrolet Volt Review
By Shaun Keenan – Toronto Sun


Rocking down Electric Avenue


Detroit, Mich. – Nearly two dozen Chevrolet Volts (U.S. production models) are charged up and ready to go. My co-driver picks a black one – it looks the nicest because the black rear fascia blends in with the rest of the vehicle.


I’m in town for the 2011 North American International Auto Show and GM Canada has arranged some seat time in the recently anointed 2011 North American Car of the Year.


Looking around the nicely-appointed leather interior, it looks like a normal four-door sedan, except for maybe the dual rear bucket seats separated by a console that hides the five-foot long T-shaped fully-integrated, self-maintaining 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 111-kW (149-hp) electric drive unit said to provide between 40 and 80 kilometres of electric-only operation.


Once depleted, Volt’s range-extending 1.4-litre gasoline engine/generator is good for another 500 klicks (based on EPA estimates) while the battery charges and lends a hand whenever possible. The transition from battery to gas is near seamless, though. A slight idle and a few extra decibels of sound can be detected, and the info-screens change over.


Departing, I waste no time burying the throttle to see what kind of oomph it’s got with a topped-up battery. It accelerates as robustly as a high-output four-cylinder might, and respectably enough for a 1,715 kilogram vehicle, let alone a battery-powered one.


Over a mix of highways and local streets, today’s route isn’t long. From the hotel to the driver change point is just under 38 km. Volt’s electric range really depends on the terrain, driving techniques and temperature, so I’m not surprised the gas engine chimes in after just 25 km. During this leg, the Volt went 2.5 km on gas. The other 35.4 km were done entirely on battery power, with the electro-hydraulic regenerative braking feeding the battery to help eek out more after the initial 25.


I know lots of people with daily commutes in this range. Considering you can plug in and recharge the battery in 10 to 12 hours using a conventional 120V household outlet, or as fast as four hours using a dedicated 240V charging station, it would conceivably be possible to go a whole year without using a single drop of gasoline. And, for those lucky enough to be in this position, the Volt will even remind you when the fuel is getting stale and prompt the owner to use it up or replace it.


On the road, Volt doesn’t lumber at all. A well-tuned MacPherson strut-type suspension and low centre of gravity imparts great road manners. Steering is direct, linear, precise and offers good feedback. Overall ride quality leans toward comfort but there’s enough sport here to have Eco-lapses.


A sport driving mode is also available (mountain and normal being the others), which reconfigures the throttle to deliver torque to the FWD sooner. Sport combined with putting the automatic transmission into L (low) results in a very noticeable engine-braking effect that helps recoup juice for the batteries from the brakes more effectively.


My only issue with Volt’s otherwise solid driving dynamics is a mushy brake pedal. Most ABS systems don’t let you push the pedal to the floor, this one does.


Volt buyers in the U.S. have been taking deliveries since December 2010, but it won’t go on sale in Canada until summer 2011, launching as a 2012 model in one very well-equipped standard trim level, along with two option packages.


While my short stint with the Volt didn’t allow much time to play around with all the electronics, the really exciting stuff is the new OnStar, which when combined with the OnStar Mylink Mobile App and web portal, will give owners unprecedented connectivity and interactivity with their cars.


The Chevrolet Volt isn’t a car for everyone, but it is a great car and worthy of its latest award. Time will tell how deep Volt runs.

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