The all new 2016 Chevrolet Volt shatters perceptions.
If you were a car company that had created a car that was so widely acclaimed that it received numerous awards in the first generation, wouldn’t you expect to perhaps tinker with some of the components and make small improvements?
Not Chevrolet. Not with the Volt.
The first-generation Volt, which was launched in 2010, shook up customer expectations of electric vehicles. Light, sassy, and environmentally conscious, the Volt was the top-selling plug-in electric car in the United States until February 2015. Over the last five years, Chevrolet’s team of expert designers and engineers, many of whom have been with General Motors companies for decades, have collected data from current Volt owners to see what they like and don’t like.
“Technology has changed a lot since 2010,” says Executive Chief Engineer Pam Fletcher of Chevrolet. “We started from the chassis up; everything is completely new.”
Chevrolet has set out to shatter perceptions with the new Volt, and they have done it well: this is not your Grandpa’s Chevy. The company launched their Find New Roads campaign with the idea that customers and potential customers see Chevy in a new light and forge paths previously unexplored. They also hope that the Volt will woo back former customers with lots of bells and whistles that aren’t just for looks.
For starters, the car is a whopping 200 pounds lighter than the original. The Hitachi cast-iron engine has been replaced with a less-cumbersome aluminum one, and the drive unit and engine have been folded in together instead of as an appendage. I was curious as to why the Volt didn’t include a motor to move the seats forward and backward, so I asked Chief Engineer Andrew Farah. As it turns out, the electric seats were sacrificed to meet the overall weight and range goals. The other noticeably absent feature is the sunroof, another weight hog. The design team believes Volt customers won’t miss either, as most drivers will move the seat once and leave it in that spot, and they will give up the novelty of a sun roof in favor of better battery and fuel economy.
This Volt saves even more fuel – and goes further!
On the 2016 model, the new two-motor drive unit is more than 10 percent more efficient than the previous model, and this allows the 2016 Volt to deliver better EPA ratings than the first-gen model. The all-electric range is 53 miles for the new model, up from 38 miles with the 2015 Volt. Add to that a highly competent fuel engine, and you have a total of 420 miles with a full charge before you have to charge/refill. This means fewer stops on the road and incredible efficiency. Chevrolet fully expects owners will drive 1,000 miles between fill-ups by charging regularly.
The power plug-in is illuminated, matching the charging indicator on the dash, which makes it easy to see where you are in the process. The numerous information options on the dash give you various ways to see the same data, depending on how you like it sliced and diced. I loved the screen that showed me how the drive unit was operating as I drove.
As a hybrid-electric car, the Volt has a smooth, high-tech feel when you drive it, but inside, it’s streamlined and simplified. Have you ever driven a car that has too many buttons and too much information on the screen? Chevrolet took that into consideration and created a console that is simple to use. There are plenty of fun features, like the Apple CarPlay, which integrates with your iPhone, and the WiFi hotspot, not to mention all of the options that OnStar offers, including remote start from miles away and live map guidance.
Live in a cold or hot climate? The engineers recommend the electric drive unit be started up in your garage while still plugged in to get the new economic HVAC system going to either cool off or heat up your car before you get in. Since the electric side starts up first, you’re not wasting energy or gas. In fact, the seat heaters are present to help the owner conserve energy by warming each individual passenger versus blowing air into the entire vehicle, which eats up more electricity. Farah and his team tell me that it’s only about $1.50 per day on your electricity bill to keep your car charged up.
The Chevrolet team mapped out a route for me along Highway 1, which hugs the coast of northern California, just outside of San Francisco. Not only was the drive gorgeous, I had the chance to feel the car take the switchback turns smoothly and effortlessly, and the accelerator cruise through small towns and into the curves.
“Our number-one goal for the 2016 Volt was to increase the range,” says Fletcher. “And we achieved that. What we found is that our customers think it’s fun to drive.”
I didn’t want to give it back after my test drive, dreaming of all of the times I wouldn’t have to fill up the gas tank. It’s zippy, fun, and brand-new. I was surprised by how much I loved it. Compared to the SUV I drive now, I found it… FUN.
New For 2016:
- All-new, second-gen model with 53 miles of EV range, greater efficiency, and stronger acceleration
- New two-motor drive unit is up to 12 percent more efficient
- 420 miles total driving range
- All-new body style and five-passenger seating (NOTE: the back middle seat is small, and would be best for a child or petite person)
- Location-based charging
- Enhanced Chevrolet MyLink with smartphone projection technology, featuring Apple CarPlay capability
- Regen on Demand allows driver control of the energy regeneration by using a paddle on the back of the steering wheel
- Stronger body structure and quieter ride
- New braking system with improved capability
- Optional rear heated seats
- 120V portable cord set has simpler, compact design
- The Lane Keep Assist gently steers the car back into the lane when you nudge over the line
- Forward Collision Alert and low-speed Front Automatic Braking systems alert you to slowing vehicles in your path, and automatically apply brakes
- 10 air bags and a 360-degree sensor designed to adjust frontal air bag inflation according to the severity of a crash
- When air bags deploy, OnStar is alerted (3 years of free service for Volt owners)
WHAT I LOVED:
- The battery-powered drive unit has instant torque, which means immediate acceleration when you press your foot on the pedal. Zippy!
- The Regen button on the steering wheel is a fun toy and allows you to regenerate your battery and save brake wear and tear at the same time.
- Screen options: I could easily see my tire pressure, oil range, electric range, etc with the touch of a button.
- Console controls are simple and easy and intuitive.
- The car has an amazingly compact turning radius, making it easy to maneuver.
- As a techie, I think the inner working of the new battery and drive unit are fantastically interesting and innovative.
- The Volt makes a “shushing” sound when turned on to alert vision-challenged pedestrians hear and identify the car quickly. The low range was specifically tested for this purpose, and the speaker that emits the sound is just under the front bumper, which means you can hear it outside but not inside. Pretty cool, huh?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Base model price on the Volt LT: $34,000; premier: $38,000
- Complete Care: 2 included maintenance visits, 8 years / 100,000 miles battery and electric components coverage, 5 years / 60,000 miles 24-hour roadside assistance, and 3 years OnStar guidance plan
- Powered-up range from 53 miles + fuel engine = range of roughly 420 miles
- Runs on regular fuel, not premium (past Volt required premium)
- The plug-in is SAE standard and takes about 4-4 ½ hours to charge fully
- Free WiFi hotspot for 3 months
Disclosure: Chevrolet paid for my travel to attend this test drive event. Opinions expressed are my own.