2011 Chevrolet Volt Gets a Charge: Motor Trend Names It 2011 Car of the Year

November 18, 2010

GM may be betting the farm on the all-new 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, but the automotive press are definitely taking notice of the family car in a big way. Motor Trend Magazine today named the Chevy Volt as its 2011 Car of the Year. The prestigious award comes just one day before GM releases prices on its IPO – and company executives were already touting Volt as the symbol of the new GM. The Motor Trend Car of the Year (COTY) award has to be a big charge.

Indeed, high praise for Volt comes from Motor Trend’s editors, who say in the January 2011 issue, “In the 61-year history of the Car of the Year award, there have been few contenders as hyped – or as controversial – as the Chevrolet Volt…a lot of the sound and fury that has surrounded the Volt’s launch has tended to obscure a simple truth: This automobile is a game-changer.”

Actually, winning the COTY award is no cake-walk. To achieve such status, a nominated car (and the field included 21 contenders) has to best meet the six key criteria: advancement in design, engineering excellence, efficiency, safety, value, and performance of intended function. Here’s how Volt fared on each in COTY testing.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Aerodynamic design, unique look, placement and design of interior features are all strong points in Volt’s favor.

In terms of engineering excellence, the Chevrolet Volt’s powertrain allows the car to run as an electric vehicle (EV), series hybrid or parallel hybrid, depending on how the driver drives – and how far.

Editors noted that Volt will complete the EPA fuel economy test in full EV mode, thereby “making conventional mileage calculations impossible.” But in real-world, 299-mile testing, Motor Trend testers used just 58.6 kilowatt hours of electrical energy and 2.36 gallons of gas. The internal combustion gasoline engine “sips gas at the rate of about 40 mpg.” Just counting the gas, say the editors, the Volt “returned 126.7 mpg.” But converting gas used to energy used and adding to electrical energy used, Motor Trend editors arrived at 72.9 mpg. As the editors remark, “That’s impressive.”

As for safety, the four-seat Volt has a full complement of active and passive safety technology, including eight airbags and anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control.

Noting that all Volt’s technology is expensive, at $40,280 MSRP, consumers can apply for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, which effectively brings down the net cost to $32,780. And as GM amortizes the development costs over a wider range of vehicles, the price is likely to come down. Motor Trend’s testing suggests that “even if drivers regularly went 80 miles between charges, the Volt is significantly cheaper to run than regular hybrids.”

In the performance of intended function, Volt does deliver on GM’s original concept for the vehicle: combining the smooth, silent, efficient, low-emissions capability of an electric motor with the internal combustion engine’s flexibility and range. Motor Trend adds, “It is a fully-functional, no-compromise compact automobile that offers consumers real benefits in terms of low running costs.”

Summing up why the 2011 Chevrolet Volt wins the Motor Trend Magazine 2011 Car of the Year award, editors comment: “Moonshot. Game-changer. A car of the future that you can drive today, and every day.  So what should we call Chevrolet’s astonishing Volt? How about, simply, Motor Trend’s 2011 Car of the Year.”

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