Unlike a hybrid like the Toyota Prius, the 2012 Chevrolet Volt might well be an exceptionally quiet conventional car when it's operating in electric mode. Chevy's remarkable powertrain remains entirely disguised most of the time the car is in motion.
The accelerator has been tuned to behave as if the Volt were a standard car fitted with automatic transmission, even though it has no gears in the conventional sense. To drive it on a "single pedal," as you do the electric Tesla Roadster, you must put it into a "Low" mode that increases the car's regenerative braking.
The surprise to drivers who may be familiar with hybrids, whose small engines often run out of breath, is how quick and sporty the Volt is. Its acceleration from 0 to 60 mph takes roughly 9 seconds, but it's smooth and stepless, with a strong surge of power right off the line to about 40 mph.
That's an advantage to electric motors, which produce peak torque from a standstill. We were even able to spin an inside front wheel slightly accelerating out of a turn. Try that in your Prius! Top speed is capped at 100 mph.
In mixed usage--using electricity first from the 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack and then, after 25 to 40 miles, switching to current generated by the range-extending 1.4-liter gasoline engine--the Volt's performance doesn't change. The driver may not even notice the engine when it first switches on, though its note changes as it provides power "buffered" through the battery. But acceleration is the same in either mode, making the Volt utterly predictable.
The driver can also select Mountain Mode, by the way, which leaves more power in the battery and makes the regenerative braking more aggressive for long periods of sustained power demand.
Electric power steering, suspension, and braking all are well integrated, and because the mass of the battery pack (located in the tunnel and under the rear seat) is mounted low, the heavy Volt holds the road well and corners flat.