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First Drive: 2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier


Batteries… batteries are terrible… think about everything that runs off a battery: your cellphone, laptop, MP3 player (do those even still exist?). The fact is, they’re dreadful & unreliable… and then when you do run out of that sweet electric juice… what then… socialize? Gross! So the thought of batteries in a car… that’s even scarier. I mean, when my iPhone dies, I have at least 10 different chargers around to plug it in. Where do you plug a car? And I have to wait how many hours?

Chevrolet though… they’ve come up with a clever way around that. But bear with us, we’re about to get boring (might want to skip a couple paragraphs.) The Volt isn’t like a typical electric car like the Kia Soul EV or Nissan Leaf, but it’s also not a Hybrid like the Toyota Prius. An electric car uses batteries that power an electric motor that drives the wheels. A Hybrid combines forces of a gas engine with an electric motor for the same outcome, but what Chevrolet have done here is taken a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and turned into a generator. So, the Volt is a pure electric car, but uses a generator to recharge the batteries to drive the electric motor to power the front wheels. I hope I didn’t lose you.

Now obviously this technology isn’t exactly new… Fisker Karma did something similar and this is also now the second generation for the Volt – which has given General Motors time to work out some of the kinks in the system. This new Volt uses lighter batteries than the previous generation, better on efficiency. It can go father with up 53 miles of range on one single charge. And a claimed 420 total miles on that generator. However, we didn’t see either number – partly because it came down to our cheap butts. Charging stations cost money and luckily our headquarters offers Blink Charging Stations for employees… but free for the first two hours… then its $5 an hour there after – screw that! One late night we managed to trick the system and snatch 4-free hours of electricity and saw a full charge of 50 miles. Not too shabby, especially since our commute is only 30 miles round trip. And that’s where Chevrolet gets at, most commutes are under 50 miles, which means you have a better chance of making it to a plug before you run out of juice. But we’re busy people, we have a life outside of our home & office, we have friends to see, errands to run… eventually we ran out of our 50 miles – that’s where the backup gas engine generator comes in and seamlessly kicks in once there’s no more electricity – our read out claimed 310 miles on that gas generator – so not quite the 420 we were looking for.

Now the Volt doesn’t require just a charging station to charge – it can plug into a regular 110V outlet… just prepare to wait…. And wait… and wait… after 8-hours we saw an addition of 10 miles of range before we gave up.

Unlike a hybrid, electric cars can be pretty quick on their toes – all that electricity is full of torque – 294lb-ft of them. And that electric motor churns out 149-horsepower. Which means 0 to 60mph in about 7 and half seconds. And because the gas engine is off 90% of the time, it’s just a quiet hum as we accelerator – it’s so quiet you can hear a cricket sneeze. Now the Volt is no performance car and we are surely not going to expect it to handle like one. The steering is numb and the suspension is smoother than aged whiskey.

With our sampled top trimmed Volt Premier coming in just shy of $40,000, there were some unexpected disappointments. The interior materials used felt cheap – hard plastics covered every surface – they even cheap out on the rear seats and didn’t use the same finishes as the front. The front seats, while heated, are manual adjustable only. And while the rear seats provides adequate comfort, legroom is tight and headroom is shot for anybody over 5′-10″ tall with the sloping roof line.

But we’re forgiving here – we like the Volt…. A lot! We appreciate the new modern design Chevrolet has gone with – no longer a bizarre spacecraft odd box.  The interior is handsomely laid out with nice curves and three-dimensional attributes. It features other pleasant premium features like LED headlights, stylish 17-inch wheels, OnStar with Wi-Fi, a digital TFT instrument cluster and a high definition 8-inch touch screen infotainment system equipped with Apple CarPlay. Our tester also featured both Driver Confidence Packages, both $495 each that adds in Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Automatic High-Beams, and Forward Collision Alert. It also featured navigation for an extra $495.

Range anxiety is always the big issue with electric cars, like when I see 1% on my iPhone. Planning out your routes and hoping they have a charging station is no way to live. Sit back, relax, because whatever situation, the Chevrolet Volt always has a backup plan.

Price (As Tested):
2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier: $37,570
Destination: $875
Performance Specs:
1.5-liter Engine, Range Extender & 2 Permanent-Magnet Synchronous AC Electric Motors 149-horsepower | 0-60 MPH: ±7.5 seconds
EPA MPG: 106 MPGe/42 MPG – SSB Average:  94 MPGe/42 MPG – Fuel Range: 280 Miles
Featured Options:
Chevrolet MyLink Radio with Navigation: $495
Driver Confidence Package #1: $495
Driver Confidence Package #2: $495
Grand Total: $39,930


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