[ad#post_ad]I have had the honor and distinct privilege of living with the 2011 Chevrolet Volt for the past 19 days.  I have driven the car day in and day out as my only vehicle.  I was granted this opportunity through GM as part of the Volt consumer advisory board along with 16 other individuals across the nation who have been given a captured test fleet car for use and feedback over a 90 day period.

In these past 19 days I have driven the car nearly 1300 miles, and thus the following review is based on the longest duration experience ever published.

Exterior DesignThe Volt is a beautiful and striking vehicle, yet can assimilate within traffic.  It looks compact sitting around in parking spots and in traffic but exudes a high tech aura.  People familiar with the car immediately recognize it.  People new to the car are regularly struck with its aggressive yet refined and sporty styling.  The seams are razor sharp and exact in tolerance, and every component appears high quality and luxuriant.  I have been driving the Viridian Joule color model and the black highlights on the belt line, rear and roof are pleasing to look at and don't have any gaudy quality.  I have found slight issues with the low front end air dam which scrapes on steep angles, but am told by GM officials this wont injure it as it was made to bend.  They also claim a higher front end optional dam design will be made available.

The charging door is optimally placed and easy to open either with the key fob or a button on the driver's door.  The charging coupler readily eases in and the car signals the commencement of charging with a short beep. The charging door doesn't close in an extremely satisfying way however.  I made GM aware of this and they acknowledge they are fixing it slightly.  It must be pressed from the center, not edge.  Once it opened spontaneously on the highway.

InteriorI am 5'8", 145 pounds.  The car is very roomy for me.  There is significant amount of headroom and hip room and egress and ingress is no problem.  I have watched many people over 6 feet get in and out and drive with no problems as well.  The black leather seats are sturdy and firm and comfortable.  The steering wheel tilts and telescopes easily and the seat is manually controlled to move up and down, back and forth, and to recline.  Finding the perfect driving configuration is a breeze.  I don't particularly care about the lack of electronic seat controls GM left out to reduce mass.  The rear seating is equally roomy in the lateral dimension for two passengers, though with a front seat pushed far back, knee room is limited.

There is ample storage bins in the doors, the center console, and above the dash.  The cupholders are well placed for my needs and I use them every morning for my cup of coffee.  The cargo space in the hatch is copious.  I used it to bring home a week's worth of groceries for my family of 5, about 12 plastic bags full without any problem.


Dash/Displays/Tech
The bright crisp high resolution driver's dash display is a joy for me.  Everything is easy to find and recognize and there are many different unique messages the car can tell you when the time is right, such as cruise control is on, fuel door can be opened, press twice to turn off (if you hit the off button while driving).  The bright green happy battery indicator is just right as is the green eco-ball indicating how aggressively you are driving.  There are less detailed configurations available at the push of a button to the left.  I prefer more information.

The center stack of this car is the white version.  It looks very sturdy and refined in person and with use, its quite attractive.  After a short learning curve the myriad capacitive buttons are simple and satisfying to operate and find when you need them.  The center display has a terrific touch sensitive surface that seems to be calibrated just right.  It is a joy to behold the technology and connectedness you always feel.  This is mostly supplied by OnStar which I have found easy to use and friendly, and ensures you are never alone.  The stereo is perfect and iPhone integration both for songs and phone calls is a breeze.

After each trip a screen indicates how much energy you used both in terms of gas and electricity and overall MPG efficiency is displayed.  There is also a real-time efficiency screen that shows you your driving style from 0% (aggressive) to 100% (highly efficient).  Use of the cabin HVAC is also rated in similar terms of efficiency.

I have found the OnStar iPhone app very useful.  I have enjoyed looking at my battery state of charge from afar, and even more importantly have warmed up the cabin on a couple of occasions using grid energy 15 minutes prior to my departure.


Driving
The car is truly a pleasure to drive.  It is quick and responsive and feels powerful from off the line to over 80 mph on the highway.  It feels heavy and solid and very well-planted on the ground.  This allows for quick aggressive turns with no lateral skidding.  It hugs the road well.  In fact this bottom heavy weightedness is a blessing separating the Volt from most compact cars that are much lighter, and gives it the feel of a luxury car.  It reminds me of the Mercedes E350 I used to drive.  My wife felt the same way.  Yet the calibration of the steering and accelerator make it seem much more nimble that its weight would have you expect.

With the shifter in the D position the car coasts in the same way any conventional car would.  The L position adds significant regenerative drag when the accelerator is released.  I find myself mostly driving in D to allow for coasting, but use the L position to simulate downshifting and to obtain motor braking

The brakes are powerful.  I had to slam them a few times and the car stopped very aggressively.  At first at low speeds they seem a little unusual but over time I readily got used to them.

Efficiency
This car is all about minimizing the use of gas while at the same time giving the driver limitless driving freedom.  To this mission the Volt hits the mark.  What's so interesting about the car is how it will work differently for everyone.  Anyone who drives less than 40 miles per day will enjoy gas-free driving at almost all times.  The longer the length of the average daily driving cycle the lower the effective mpg.  My daily drive is roughly 60 miles.  I can arrive from home to work purely on electricity usually with anywhere from 3 to 8 miles of EV range remaining.  The EPA has found the car gets 35 miles of EV range, and that is roughly what I have been averaging.  My commute, however, is nearly all highway at around 65 to 70 miles per hour, and I do drive a little towards the aggressive side.  I primarily use the sport mode which has a more aggressive pedal map, but is noted by GM not to reduce efficiency over the normal mode.  I usually get anywhere from 32 to 38 miles of EV range.

I have the luxury of being able to charge at work in my office parking garage assigned spot, for free.  I am there for four hours three days per week and eight hours two day per week.  At 120-v this gets gets me 14 miles of range in four hours and 36 miles in eight hours.  The EPA has found the car uses 12.9 kwh of electricity from the grid to provide the full electric range.

I have kept a detailed driving log here , but for the total of 19 days, I have driven 1291 miles and burned 9.28 gallons of gas (one full tank) for an effective 139 MPG.  Of those miles 946 (73%) were on electricity and 346 (27%) were on gas.

My total combined average fuel economy in charge-sustaining mode is 37.3 MPG.

I have consumed an estimated 340.4 kwh at a cost of 20 cents per kwh.

Thus the total energy cost for me has thus been 9.28 x 3.34 = $31.00 for gas, and $68 for electricity.  This works out to 7.7 cents per mile.

Furthermore, my particular lifestyle and job also required me to surpass 100 miles three times over those 19 days, without time to charge in between.  This is typical for me, and makes exclusive use of a pure 100 mile EV impossible.  When I drove the MINI E for 1-year I had to use a backup gas car for those occasions.

Very importantly, the Volt allows me to complete all my driving requirements with absolutely no concerns or compromises or needs for any additional vehicles, all the while reducing my petroleum consumption by a stunning 75%.

Street Cred
I have found from my interactions that the Volt seems to be viewed by the general public as a hero of sorts.  There is tremendous interest and what appears to be American pride in the car.  The majority of passersby don't seem to notice it, but each day several people ride up next to me check it out and give a thumbs up.  A few people actually blow the horn, wave, and show great excitement.

Many people have stopped me in parking lots to ask about the car.  Parking attendants seem extremely interested.   I went to one restaurant where there was valet parking.  When I came out the attendant had mounted the car up on the curb in front of the restaurant like a trophy while a dozen high end Benz' and BMWs sat neatly in the rows with common cars in the back parking lot.  The attendant was filled with glee and said he wished he was allowed to drive the Volt out on the road, but took it around the parking lot as may times as he could.  The main questions people ask are "how do you like it?" and "how much does it cost?"

ConclusionI am extremely impressed with what GM was able to achieve with the Volt.  I am awed and amazed thinking back to those early days in 2007 when I started GM-Volt.com.  I had no idea then how unbelievably successful GM would prove to be in developing this car.  The car is a masterpiece on every measure.  It truly deserves the awards and attention it is deserving, and every day I look forward to my drive.


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