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Chevy Volt Test Drive


Many wonder if the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will live up to the hype when it finally goes on sale at the end of this year. Promising a fuel economy of 230 miles per gallon and zero emissions (if driven no further than 40 miles per day), the Volt has got many environmentalists with fingers crossed.

I’ve only seen it at auto shows so when the General Motors regional office called to let me know that the Volt was coming to town during the SXSW music, film, and interactive festival, and offering test drives, i.e. seat time, I was on it like brown on rice.

One of 80 pre-production models, and only one of two traveling the country for public inspection, the Volt was parked on a small cone course in the parking lot of a local mall. The test course highlighted the Volt’s handling as well as its sport button option that enables the driver to request a little more power from the engine when engaged. 

The course was mild and the Volt handled it very well, but getting behind the wheel was a thrill on its own.

Closer to a production model than the models on static display at auto shows, this Volt’s exterior also reflects GM’s forward thinking, with a pressurized gasoline tank on the passenger side as well as the electric outlet on the driver’s side. The power cord that will allow owners to plug-in the Volt in order to charge it at home, will be included and neatly stashed in the trunk.

Most impressive was the interior with techno-forward features like a capacitive touch center console that senses touch in order to engage controls as opposed to a push button operation. The blue illuminated power button for ignition will need to be depressed, however, or at least, it was required on the test model.

The digital instrument panel displayed on a seven-inch LED screen is graphically pleasing, as is the white accented interior—a charcoal version will also be offered. Some might fault it as shiny plastic but it had more of an enamel finish and chrome accents made it look upscale. Interesting graphics on the side panels may be a hit or miss but I liked ‘em.

A four-seater, the Volt’s hatchback will allow for cargo carrying and the seats easily engage to fold flat.

Chevy engineers still anticipate that the Volt will drive on an electric charge, via a 120-volt household outlet, for 40 miles. If owners need to drive longer distances, the gasoline engine, which engages only when the charge is gone, and not when more power is needed, helps the Volt produce more electricity to travel up to 400 more miles on a full tank (eight gallons). Chevrolet refers to it as a range-extending gas generator.

Reflecting a green intention combined with a sedan silhouette, the Chevy Volt improves on closer inspection.

Interesting door panel graphics.

Hatch and fold flat bucket seats in the rear add cargo room.