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Friday, April 22, 2011

Driving the Chevy Volt Through The Streets Of Atlanta

Story by Miguel Caparros
  We have been hearing about it; saw one on Hwy 400 a month ago, sat in one at the Atlanta International Auto Show. Today I got to drive one.  Walking around it out in the open air the car looks much better than in the photos or in the lights of the auto show. The Chrystal Red Metallic paint looks real good, and those of you that know me and paint jobs can attest that I am brutal in my quality inspection. This car's fit and finish were way above from what I have come to expect from the General. The color also made the car look bigger than it really is. With a wheelbase just short of 106 inches it is not a large car but the forward cabin placement makes the best use of the space. At 6' and 225 lbs I am a heavy weight in the ring and most of my height is in my torso, yet I had no issues fitting in the drivers' seat and then in the back seat with the front seat adjusted for me. The all digital instruments and touch screen controls may seem a little daunting at first, get used to it, this is from now on the normal. The quality of the interior two tone leather like seats and the brushed aluminum look is very tasteful and right in line with what you would expect in a car optioned to $40,000. The MSRP for the base car price is $32,700.Chevy Volt Brochure here.
To start, put your foot on the brake and push the blue start button and you hear......nothing. The only indication you are ready to go is that the instrument panel is lit up. Pull the center console mounted shift lever towards you and you are ready to go silently down the road. In city driving is where this car can save you a fortune in fuel as it operates in full electric mode unless the battery voltage drops to low. When that happens, the performance management computer seamlessly kicks in to move you like a conventional gas powered car and charges the batteries. It's the electric motor that really supplies the performance of this car and it does accelerate well.
Driving the car in electric mode is eerily quiet; all that quiet dictated that Chevrolet Noise and Vibration Engineers had to pay close scrutiny all the things that can rattle and vibrate as there is no noise to mask and confuse the ears. I am happy to say the Volt NVH group did a great job, I have always preferred the ride motions of a firm suspension as long as it does not loosen my fillings or rattles things in the interior. Once again I was very surprised how tight this car felt driving around the streets near Piedmont Park. Like most major older cities, the streets are less that billiard table smooth, and there is lots of torn up spots where there is construction going on. The Volt's suspension handled every thing perfectly and maintained perfect comfort inside. 
There was only one thing that I did not like and it would not be something most people would notice unless they sit in the drivers' seat as far back as I do. As a racer of all kinds of vehicle I rely, and I am very aware of what is going on in my peripheral vision. Due to my seating position and the very thick B pillar, that is also a key to achieving side crash protection and roll over integrity, when I would scan my eyes to see what is over my left shoulder all I would see is the pillar. Please understand that I am part of a very small minority of people that this would affect, I just have to rely more on the mirror and lean forward to see around the pillar. 
Hopefully in the near future we can bring you a long term Video test and answer questions on long distance driving, overnight charging and then perform instrumented fuel consumption and performance test. I want to thank General Motors Southeast Region for making this car available.

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