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After five weeks and 5,100 miles in my new 2017 Volt LT with the Driver Comfort Package (heated leather seats, heated steering wheel, and heated outside mirrors) I’m glad I made the purchase. I’m comparing this car to a 2012 Cruze Eco Manual that I purchased new from the same dealership (Ed Bozarth Chevrolet in Lone Tree, CO). The Volt is actually the third car I’ve purchased at this dealership, having purchased a 2012 Cruze LS Manual from them for my son for his graduation from the Colorado School of Mines.

The Volt is wider, which my wife likes because we don’t “fight” over the center console as an elbow rest. The center console is also further forward so it works better as an elbow rest for me since I drive at 4 & 9 on the steering wheel. The front cup holders are side by side vs. front/back in the Cruze. The cargo space isn't as large but that just meant we didn't take as much junk on our annual road trip to visit the kids in New England.

I find the driver’s seat to be a little less comfortable than my Cruze, probably because I’m not a big fan of leather seats and my back sweats a lot. I also find my upper back isn’t held in place as well. I do like the heated seats and that the Volt automatically turns them on when the car is cold. My wife likes the Volt seats a lot better. What I am missing is the power Rostra Lumbar Supports that I had added to the Cruze in both front seats. I’ll have to see if I can figure out how to open the back of the Volt’s seats and the center kick panels and console (wiring) to install this support in the seats. I also miss the power front seat, but since the Volt has an automatic transmission, it’s not as critical as it was in the Cruze with the manual transmission.

The driving experience in the Volt is definitely different – automatic vs. manual and my right hand now doesn’t know what to do with itself in heavy traffic so I end up shifting in and out of L a lot. The Cruze was a 14+ second 0-60 car, the Volt is 7.4 0-60. While the Cruze had reasonable pickup once you realized you could safely drop to 3rd gear at any speed below 80 MPH and get some serious torque for passing the Volt just goes when you step on the throttle. This aspect of just going is what sets the Volt apart from just about every other automatic transmission on the road. From this perspective, you don’t have to be quite as aware of what the car is doing when preparing to pass. So far the two cars appear to have roughly the same cornering and overall handling, but the Cruze had the edge here. I tested a Volt premier and it floated like a boat in the corners. The Volt LT feels much better in the corners and curves.

I've been a hypermiler since I bought my first car in 1985. I don’t hyper mile in such a way that I’m a rolling road hazard so while I’m always close to the speed limit, I normally drive for smoothness and efficiency. As such I have always gotten combined lifetime fuel economy numbers better than the EPA’s highway numbers and the Cruze no exception, with a combined MPG of 42.5 MPG over nearly 104,000 miles. The Cruze's EPA numbers were 28 city, 42 highway, and 33 combined and I routinely pulled down 33 in the city and 45 - 48 on the highway. I’m still learning how to do this with the Volt and figure it will take a year before I figure it out completely. What I did notice on my annual 4,100 mile road trip to New England was that the Cruze outperformed the Volt running ICE by 2 MPG, 40 to 38 MPG. However, the Cruze required premium (yes, I know GM said regular but the car actually had the KRD 91 octane code in the glove box) and the Volt runs on regular. In some places in the Midwest there is as much as a 70 cent per gallon difference between the two so the Volt actually ended up being cheaper to fuel. What I didn’t miss as much as I thought I would was the sheer range of the Cruze – Burlington, CO to St Louis, MO on a single tank of gas in the Cruze averaging 70 MPH. I was able to fully charge overnight in western Pennsylvania and drove secondary roads to Watkins Glenn, NY after that and discovered the Volt really likes hills with downhill in L recovering over half the uphill energy spent going uphill. On this trip, I used Mountain mode on the highway and switched to Normal while slowing down on off ramps when leaving the highway. I switched back to Mountain immediately after resuming cruising speed on the highway. Hold mode in this car really doesn’t work as well as I would have hoped, always losing ~2-3 miles of EV range and frequently one bar of EV battery charge before the car would hold the battery level. Mountain mode held about 6-7 EV miles.

My daily commute is 48 miles round trip and I have been doing this on pure electric, charging for free at work during the week and then at home on the weekends where I’m paying roughly $1.70 per “electric gallon” instead of $2.40 for 87 octane. For weekend driving I'm familiar enough with the hills in Denver that I should be able to optimize use of the ICE engine and restrict it to downhill stretches where gravity will reduce the amount of power it needs to generate. I've already done this twice - once ending up with 70 MPG gas and no EV range when I got home and once with 99.7 MPG gas with 1 mile EV range pulling into my driveway.

GM got the Voltec drivetrain right on the first try and it appears they improved it on the second try. This drivetrain is, frankly, addictive, between the instant response to the throttle and absolute lack of engine noise. Even when using the ICE to recharge and maintain Mountain Mode on my road trip the engine noise simply wasn’t noticeable over the tires and stereo. I rented a Toyota Camry Hybrid in 2013 and absolutely hated how the Toyota Synergy Drive would actually cut out power when switching from electric to gas. The first time that Camry did this was at 30 MPH in Boston rush hour traffic and I honestly thought the car had died in traffic. The Volt’s switchover to ICE is so smooth that my wife never knew when the ICE was propelling the car except by watching the power flow display. I can tell because there is a very slight, but 2-3 second long power change that I can feel during the initial ICE power up but when the car switches back and forth due to terrain I can't tell. I’m not sure I’d notice the initial ICE ignition if I weren’t driving the car.

The only real negative I have on the Volt is the tires. This is my sixth set of Michelins over the years. Three were OEM and three retail. Not a single set of these tires was worth the rubber they were made from. The Volt's OEM tires remind me a lot of the OEM Goodyear Eagle GTs on my first two cars, a Fiero 2M4 and a Fiero GT – excellent on dry, relatively clean asphalt but lousy on any other road surface or conditions. The Volt’s tires took turns howling, whining, and even sounding like the tread was separating (all four tires) while driving on the I-70 concrete from Kansas to Ohio. They also lose traction quicker in turns than the OEM Goodyear FuelMax Assurance on the 1st Generation Volt and Cruze ECO. I also noticed the tread depth off the dealership lot was 8/32” instead of the standard 10-12/32” on a new tire. I’ve already started thinking about replacement tires.

I test drove a 2012 Volt while I was waiting for my Cruze to be dealer prepped and almost told the salesman to cancel the Cruze and that I would be taking the Volt, but I didn’t have the monthly cash flow to support the larger car payment. When USAA totaled my Cruze after the hailstorms in northwest Denver this past May I looked the tax refunds, insurance payout, GM’s 0% financing offer and realized I could be out the door with a brand new Volt for a little less than $13,000. Adding a 5 year/100,000 mile zero deductible service contract brought my Volt to $14,300.

I miss the analog speedometer but have settled on the Classic Enhanced DIC setting.

Bottom line – the Cruze ECO MT was the right car for me in 2012. I believe the Volt is the right car for me now and other than having a new car payment I’ve been very happy with the Volt.
 

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Very good read. Hoping it sells some browsing guests of the forums to consider purchasing a PHEV.

I got a few questions about your Cruze vs Volt experience:

Cup holders Side-by-side vs Front-back: What do you think about the location of the MODE button in front of the left cup holder on the Volt? Do you use the "sunglasses" slot next to the shifter? I hate the cup holders whenever I have a drink with a straw in it. If I have to shift my arm will hit the straw. Also, hitting the MODE button is difficult with a drink in the way. Sure, I can use the passenger's drink holder, but that only works if it's available.

Leather seats and breathability: Agree 100%. This is why I explicitly asked for cloth seats. I found aftermarket cooling seats to help a little so perhaps you can give that a try? I purchased a model similar to this but for a few bucks less. It will ruin the silence of the Volt, but on days when you're running HVAC high or windows down anyway, the noise from the seat cooler won't be noticeable.

Premier "floats" like a boat vs the LT: Huh, I would've thought both would be the same in terms of handling. What does "floating" like a "boat" mean? Does it mean when you provide steering input, it takes a while to show as actual change in direction? This really surprises me and makes me wonder if it's all the Driver Confidence packages that add another intermediate to steerage.

Thank you for your report. Makes me really appreciate my Volt even more and not regret test driving ICEs during my car shopping.
 

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Sunglasses slot next to the shifter? I thought that slot was for phones? Holds my iPhone perfectly. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Very good read. Hoping it sells some browsing guests of the forums to consider purchasing a PHEV.

I got a few questions about your Cruze vs Volt experience:

Cup holders Side-by-side vs Front-back: What do you think about the location of the MODE button in front of the left cup holder on the Volt? Do you use the "sunglasses" slot next to the shifter? I hate the cup holders whenever I have a drink with a straw in it. If I have to shift my arm will hit the straw. Also, hitting the MODE button is difficult with a drink in the way. Sure, I can use the passenger's drink holder, but that only works if it's available.
I actually like the location of the Mode button although on the steering wheel would be better. I don't hit the mode button that often so drinks in the way aren't a big issue for me. I didn't know that was a sunglasses slot. My sunglasses are a magnetic attachment to my regular glasses and I keep them on the shelf in front of the instrument cluster. In the Cruze I replaced the driver's side "Oh-s#$t" handle over the window with a sun glasses holder for the Korean Cruze. About $20 shipped and it matched perfectly.

Leather seats and breathability: Agree 100%. This is why I explicitly asked for cloth seats. I found aftermarket cooling seats to help a little so perhaps you can give that a try? I purchased a model similar to this but for a few bucks less. It will ruin the silence of the Volt, but on days when you're running HVAC high or windows down anyway, the noise from the seat cooler won't be noticeable.
I'll have to look into this.

Premier "floats" like a boat vs the LT: Huh, I would've thought both would be the same in terms of handling. What does "floating" like a "boat" mean? Does it mean when you provide steering input, it takes a while to show as actual change in direction? This really surprises me and makes me wonder if it's all the Driver Confidence packages that add another intermediate to steerage.
The suspension on the Premier is tuned for softness and smoothing out imperfections in the road. Taking corners hard during the test drive resulted in a lot of body roll and coming out of the turns made the car roll back the other direction before settling. It feels like a boat going sideways through the waves and is a good way to have your passenger vomiting inside the car. Doing the same in the LT doesn't have the body roll but you feel all the imperfections in the road.

Thank you for your report. Makes me really appreciate my Volt even more and not regret test driving ICEs during my car shopping.
You're welcome.
 

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The suspension on the Premier is tuned for softness and smoothing out imperfections in the road. Taking corners hard during the test drive resulted in a lot of body roll and coming out of the turns made the car roll back the other direction before settling. It feels like a boat going sideways through the waves and is a good way to have your passenger vomiting inside the car. Doing the same in the LT doesn't have the body roll but you feel all the imperfections in the road.
8-O @ vomit spray.

Huh, makes me wonder just how much smoother the Premier would be. I always thought it was rigid LRR oem tires that made the road feel prominent.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
One other slightly humorous thought. I was at a truck stop in Iowa and had just fed the ICE engine. I started my Volt and had to wait for people to walk directly in front of me. It wasn't until later that I realized they didn't realize my car was "running".
 

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According to the parts diagrams at gmpartsdirect, the LT and Premier have the exact same part numbers for springs, struts, sway bar, etc. There must have been something awry with the Premier you test drove. Maybe they had the tires under-inflated?
 

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According to the parts diagrams at gmpartsdirect, the LT and Premier have the exact same part numbers for springs, struts, sway bar, etc. There must have been something awry with the Premier you test drove. Maybe they had the tires under-inflated?
I agree, the LT and Premier should ride the same, unless the tires were inflated to different pressures. The Premier weighs slightly more than the LT due to the subwoofer, maybe some additional sound deadening.
 

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One other slightly humorous thought. I was at a truck stop in Iowa and had just fed the ICE engine. I started my Volt and had to wait for people to walk directly in front of me. It wasn't until later that I realized they didn't realize my car was "running".
Were you by chance still in park? The pedestrian noise maker won't sound until you shift out of park. Pedestrians do notice my Volt's noise maker in parking lots as I'm pulling out. Could be that I back into spaces so the noise maker is closer to pedestrians.

According to the parts diagrams at gmpartsdirect, the LT and Premier have the exact same part numbers for springs, struts, sway bar, etc. There must have been something awry with the Premier you test drove. Maybe they had the tires under-inflated?
I agree, the LT and Premier should ride the same, unless the tires were inflated to different pressures. The Premier weighs slightly more than the LT due to the subwoofer, maybe some additional sound deadening.
Could the springs and struts, sway bar, perform differently depending on configurable parameters? Like, how you link one part to another. Or could the Premier be compatible with LT parts but if you install different versions (not listed on gmpartsdirect) you'd get softer/boatier suspension?
 

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Small differences in weight, load distribution seem to have a noticeable effect on my Premier's ride. My Volt rides differently with a full tank of gas.
 

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... Could the springs and struts, sway bar, perform differently depending on configurable parameters? Like, how you link one part to another. Or could the Premier be compatible with LT parts but if you install different versions (not listed on gmpartsdirect) you'd get softer/boatier suspension?
Gmpartsdirect is the web face of a GM dealership with the official GM parts listings online. When there are different part numbers for the same thing (e.g., door trim with or without the light spears, or different colors of a trim part), you will see all listed. In this case, there were no differences in suspension parts that I could see.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Small differences in weight, load distribution seem to have a noticeable effect on my Premier's ride. My Volt rides differently with a full tank of gas.
Then I would say either the suspension in the Premier isn't all that good (not likely) or you have a problem with your suspension (far more likely). A full tank of gas in the Volt weighs less than 60 lbs. 60 lbs is less than you load in the cargo area for a weekend get away.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I did go out and measure my OEM tires at 5,200 miles yesterday. 5.5/32" tread. These tires will have to be replaced this fall - I'm not going into winter with this little tread. It also explains why my car hydroplaned last week. Hydroplaning is 100% dependent on tread depth and speed through the water.
 

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I agree, the LT and Premier should ride the same, unless the tires were inflated to different pressures. The Premier weighs slightly more than the LT...
...Could the springs and struts, sway bar, perform differently depending on configurable parameters? Like, how you link one part to another. Or could the Premier be compatible with LT parts but if you install different versions (not listed on gmpartsdirect) you'd get softer/boatier suspension?
Or Could be Placebo effect.;)

Part is parts. They don't have multiple ways to connect suspension parts.
The only differences you felt could have been tire pressures on identical tires. Not likely.

Pump your tires up the max on the sidewalls and see if you don't have a 'Spritelier' car ! See if you can feel that!
 

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Darn my human frailties. Why brain do you betray me with placebo effect?
 

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I did go out and measure my OEM tires at 5,200 miles yesterday. 5.5/32" tread. These tires will have to be replaced this fall - I'm not going into winter with this little tread. It also explains why my car hydroplaned last week. Hydroplaning is 100% dependent on tread depth and speed through the water.
The Volt needs snow tires, the OEM tires are strictly summer tires they won't work at all if there is even a single snowflake on the ground. Last fall I bought a set of rims from Costco.com and a set of Blizzaks from Costco which worked fine in the snow, the downside of the snow tires is that they are noisier than the OEM Michelins and fuel/energy efficiency is about 10% worse.
 
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