We're now roughly a year away from the much hyped, much anticipated Chevy Volt going on sale and GM is starting to take the wraps off its extended range electric car.
This week I was the first journalist to get an exclusive test drive of a Volt model similar to what we'll see in showrooms next year.
We did this drive at the GM proving ground in Milford, Michigan.
I wanted to share with you several impressions from my time in the Volt:
Instant, smooth acceleration and great handling.
With the battery stack running under the middle bottom, the Volt has a lower center of gravity and a sportier feel when you're accelerating. This is certainly not a sports car, but it's also not a car that just putzes along. The near instant torque when you hit the accelerator gives you the responsiveness you want in car.
The transition to the gas assist engine needs to be smoothed out
When you go from driving all-electric to running the gas-assist engine, the transition is disconcerting.
It needs to be smoothed out, and GM engineers know it.
When you're driving on the gas assist engine, there's no fall off in power, handling, etc. and perhaps I found it jarring because I went from the silent electric drive to hearing the engine. Whatever the reason, it needs to be improved.
Comfortable interior, but center stack needs refining.
The Volt has more than enough space and is comfortable, even for a guy like me (6' 1"). GM admits it still needs to finalize the grain and look of the dashboard, including the center stack, which has an iPod feel to it. This look and configuration needs to be upgraded before the final Volt comes out. Some of the dials felt odd, and should be replaced.
A pleasing instrument panel.
It has some unique features I loved including an efficiency gauge that is green when you are getting the most effective use of cars power. Accelerate or brake too quickly and the gauge turns yellow. The car also tells you in a simple, but pleasant manner, how much battery power you have left and the mileage you are getting on your drive. Overall, a great instrument panel.
Pedestrian chirp is a cute feature people will love
Because the Volt is a virtually silent extended range electric car, GM has built in a "chirp" for drivers to announce/warn pedestrians when they are driving by. This chirp is gentler than a car horn blaring and drivers sound it by pulling on the turn signal much as you would for turning on your high beams. Volt drivers will love the chirp.
Overall, I was very impressed with the Volt I drove at the GM proving grounds.
The acceleration and handling will surprise skeptics who think electric cars will feel like golf carts.
It's not perfect and its price (estimated $40,000) could keep many people from being interested in the car.
But based on what I've seen so far, GM should get a charge out the Volt.
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