For 2013 the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car received a number of new features that justified a second test drive. We found GM's much publicized Volt has evolved well and continues to show us that electric cars can be mainstream.
The Volt got an increase electric-only range to 38 miles officially, however in our week-long test found that it can actually go well into the 40's if you make a point to drive in a way that offers up more regenerative braking.
Also new for 2013 is a new “hold” mode. This allows you to turn off the battery mode and run on the gasoline engine as a power source for the Volt's electric motor. This lets you use the gasoline engine for things like a long freeway drive where it is the most efficient way to drive, and save battery for city driving where it is the most efficient way to go.
We used the hold mode a good deal, as our offices are 30 some miles from the city center. Being able to choose which power mode to have at all times enabled us to conserve the evening's battery charge such that we never ran it down. We used the 120V slow charge each night and it was full in the morning. You can opt for a 240V fast charger which tops off the battery in a matter of hours.
The Volt drives so much like a traditional automobile that it takes no getting used to. It is so smooth and quiet, the power delivery so creamy and refined. It is the pinnacle of refinement that automakers have been striving for with gasoline powered cars for over a century.
When the gasoline engine powers up, it is so smooth and devoid of noise, vibration and harshness you rarely even perceive its there. And because the gasoline engine only powers a generator, you never feel its grab in the power delivery of the car.
Steering and handling are also very remarkable in their refinement. This car feels so good and natural you gain a confidence behind the wheel pretty quickly. Braking feel seems to have improved over previous Volt models too, with regenerative braking being refined.
The interior is well above what you expect from Chevrolet in design appeal, fit, and material quality. The leather seats in our tester were so very comfortable, and the cabin just felt very upscale. Controls are all very mainstream in their layout and design, so this car has not much a learning curve.
The interior did have a few nit picks however. One complaint we had was the touchscreen controls for audio and HVAC. It was difficult to use the radio preset station graphic buttons. They are located at the bottom of the screen where your finger cannot touch them well because of a frame.
Their location made using them awkward, having to twist your hand in odd ways to get your finger on them right. Additionally, the seats had manual adjustments which while worked well, seem out of place in a car costing $40,000.
While the Volt has often been misunderstood by many, maligned by political foes, it makes all the sense in the world after you spend some time behind the wheel. In our week with the 2013 Chevrolet Volt we came to appreciate now normal and mainstream it really feels in daily life.
Yes you get home and plug it in for the night, but after you pass the gas station a few times without worrying about the price on the sign that begins to feel pretty good.