Thursday, May 10, 2012

Getting a charge out of the Chevy Volt

This review originally appeared in the April 2012 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California – For the first time in a long, long time, I was handed the keys to a car that I really felt insecure about driving.

Resting in the parking space was a 2012 Chevrolet Volt.

I’d already seen numerous Volts and was actually in on the ground-floor, super-secret press briefings General Motors held before the Volt was revealed to the world. I’d even driven the Volt around a couple blocks of downtown Los Angeles.

But now I was getting a Volt for a week. It was mine to drive. Mine not to scratch, or worse. Mine to recharge via a standard outlet in my home garage.

When the car delivery guy showed me the recharging mechanism, I felt like a little kid learning how to put together his first Lionel train set. Scared, nervous? Yeah, I was every bit of that.

I started out slow, baby-stepping the car through its paces. Turns out, I had nothing to fear.

The Volt responded with vigor on the highway and was a nimble urban street warrior in crowded downtown traffic. My reluctance quickly gave way to relaxation as the Volt performed like most other cars, albeit silently.

With the radio on, or when the small gas-fed engine kicks in to rejuvenate the on-board battery, it rarely dawns on you that you’re driving an electric-propelled machine.

I went in fearing the transition from from all-electric to gas-engine-assisted power, thinking it would come with a jolt at highway speed. Nothing of the kind happened. The powertrain transitioned without even a hiccup, and you get plenty of advance warning from the in-dash information center that the car is going from all-electric to engine-assist power.

Speaking of that in-dash information center, there’s more data there than what you get on the complex steering wheel of a Formula One race car. There’s literally too much information to follow while on the move, but rest assured, if you want to know something about how much electric power, gasoline and other things are being used, it’s there to be had.

There are so many monitoring systems in the car that you can get information overload. And my tester was not short of extra comfort/convenience perks, driving the bottom line on the sticker to a somewhat painful $44,970. Yeah, you’ll want to start saving on gas right away after paying that price.

Thing is, that 35-36 miles of all-electric driving after a full charge – turns out that was as easy as charging my cellphone – goes SO, SO quickly … so quickly that you start driving in ways to conserve every bit of juice – not a bad thing I suppose.

The Volt is what I thought it was when I first saw it on the drawing board, a technological marvel and a baseline for the car of the future. Now if they could just bring down the price …

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