Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Second-generation Volt offers surge in driving pleasure

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California ­– Introduced in late 2010, the Chevrolet Volt wowed the nation’s automotive establishment, employing a relatively long-range electric drive source and a small, standard gasoline engine.

A sensible driver could pilot it from Sacramento to the outskirts of Los Angeles before needing to refill the gas tank.  A commuter with a daily, 30-mile round-trip routine could theoretically run on only electric power every day, as long as he/she recharged the Volt with an easy-to-use plug upon arriving home each evening.

The Volt came on the scene decidedly green and capable of long-distance hauls.  For many awaiting an environmentally friendly, gas-sipping car with traditional auto capabilities, the Volt’s appearance was a dream come true.

Among numerous honors, the Volt was named Motor Trend magazine’s 2011 Car of the Year.

I was privileged to get an early look at the first-generation Volt.  Having recently spent a week in the second-generation 2016 model, I can tell you this: The new one is WAY better than the original, darn near a quantum leap.  And yes, I was very impressed with the original.

The reworked Volt has a starting price just a shade less than $40,000. Given the Volt’s current technology, that’s a bargain.

The first thing I noticed was the Volt’s sleeker, sportier skin.  In fact, when I first walked up to it, I didn’t think it was a Volt.  Neighbors who saw it parked at my home said the same thing.

Two electric motors power the Volt’s front wheels.  They’re backed up by a modest 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine ready to take over once the juice runs out – a seamless transition, by the way.  The electric-drive system puts out an advertised baseline of 149 horsepower, and max torque is nearly 300 foot-pounds, a definite eye-opener.

The Volt’s much-improved torque was evident to me right off the bat.  I actually had to learn to be a little lighter on the “gas” pedal, so as not to look like a complete idiot out there on the public roadways.

Besides the torquey power source, there’s this: the new Volt has an electric-power-only range of up to 53 miles.  Total driving range improves to 420 miles.  Needless to say, a little gas for the standard engine goes a long, long way.

The Volt’s range was improved in part by weight loss.  GM engineers were able to shave more than 200 pounds off the curb weight of the first-generation Volt.  The more-slender Volt was a nimble performer in both city and freeway traffic.

Most impressive to me was how much information the car was feeding me while I was on a roll.  I was getting real-time readouts of energy consumed, battery status, regenerative braking contributions and much more.

I confess that three full-size adults in the Volt’s back seat will be too close for comfort.  Fine, somebody has to go.  Four car occupants will get along just fine.

Please note that the latest Volt can be had with the safety and driving-enhancement features that have become staples on most contemporary models.  That includes lane-keeping assist, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision alert.

Interior comfort is likewise improved, and the list of standard comfort/convenience features is what you’d expect for a major automaker’s small sedan offering.  And the hatchback arrangement works well with this vehicle.

On my grading scale, the Volt gets an “A.”  Others complain that it’s too pricey for many households.  I understand.  But technological advances, and progress, don’t come cheap.

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