About exactly four years after GM first showed the Volt as a tech-exotic concept, it's going on sale as a real production car. We've driven the 2011 Chevrolet Volt in a variety of conditions, and can report back that the Volt is indeed a real car.
GM admits the Volt has evolved from the evocative concept shown at the 2007 Detroit auto show, but it says many cues have come over from the striking concept version. The closed front grille is one hallmark that's carried over visibly into the production version, while the tapered corners up front and clean lines at the back (including a small spoiler) are styled to manage the Volt's aerodynamics.
The fact that it also has a revolutionary powertrain that operates as an electric car or a plug-in hybrid—and is the first Chevrolet you can plug into a wall to recharge—could almost be an afterthought. It's that well executed. The Volt may be propelled by electricity. It may plug into a wall socket or a special garage recharger to "refuel." But the new and remarkable compact hatchback also rides and drives quietly, seats four comfortably, and performs briskly.
Simply put, the Volt charges up for a range of about 40 miles on battery power only; then the gasoline engine allows another 300 miles or so on top of that.
The sole fly in the ointment is the inevitably high early adopter price: $41,000. New auto technology always costs a lot when it first hits the market, and the Volt's lithium-ion battery pack all by itself likely costs half the price of a new 2011 Chevy Cruze subcompact.
- An EV without range anxiety
- Drives (almost) like a normal car
- Attractive, comfortable interior
- Ride quality and poise
- Strong warranty
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- Design isn't as radical as the idea behind it
- Relatively high price
- Requires premium fuel
- Typical economy-car mpg on the open road
- Muddled message—is it an EV or not?