2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with charging station visible; photo by George ParrottEnlarge Photo
After several months of using a 2011 Chevy Volt and a 2011 Nissan Leaf as our sole family transport, we have a better understanding of both cars than we did in March, when I first wrote about how they compared.
First to arrive at our West Sacramento home was a beautiful crystal red 2011 Volt. We chose the neutral leather upgraded interior with heated seats and the backup camera option, but did not go for the polished wheels.
We had not driven the Volt before taking delivery of ours, and we hadn't owned an American car at all since 1969. We were immediately impressed with the finish on the Chevy Volt, both inside and out. The paint was smooth and all the body-panel gaps were tight.
Our second initial impression--one that has held up over the 4,200 miles we have now put on the car--was how impressive and detailed the feedback is on the electronic display. The Volt even reports the pressure in each tire, and the door-open display is shown in color to warn even more clearly if a door has been left ajar.
We find ourselves usually driving in the "L" range on the transmission, as this gives the Volt more aggressive regenerative braking, so we use the brakes less in this mode.
2011 Nissan Leaf and 2011 Chevy Volt, with roof solar panels visible; photo by George ParrottEnlarge Photo
We've always gotten at least the number of miles of electric range displayed after charging. Usually we will get 5 to 10 percent more.
That means we've regularly been getting 40 to 44 miles of pure battery range before the gas engine kicks in. Even for longer road trips, we find that the gas engine delivers 38 or 39 miles per gallon in operation.
The performance and ride of our 2011 Volt feels well-planted, almost European. We've owned several German cars, and the Volt feels German on the road. Acceleration in the Volt is at least as good as in the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid that it replaced.
For the first 4,100 miles, our overall gas mileage stands at 97.3 mpg.
The heated seats in the 2011 Chevrolet Volt make my wife much, much happier on the few colder days we have here in California. The car's actual electric resistance heater seems way less effective than regular fuel cars, but the air conditioning is quite good.
The concierge service that comes with three free years of the OnStar service has already been helpful a couple of times.
Our sole gripes are that General Motors missed an obvious feature by not including proximity locking and unlocking (which will be included in the 2012 Volt).
The company also should have made the Volt's gasoline engine meet the tougher California emissions standards. As it is, 2011 Volt owners don't qualify to use the state's High Occupancy Vehicle lanes with only a single driver inside. Nor do we get a state purchase credit as buyers of the 2011 Nissan Leaf do.
2011 Chevrolet Volt summary: GM may have missed a few things, but the 2011 Volt is truly a revolutionary piece of engineering.
Our 2011 Nissan Leaf SL, in glacier pearl, arrived about a month after the Volt.
I was immediately pleased that we had opted for the quick charge feature ($700), as I had to drive the car 86 miles home from the dealer in Petaluma. I was able to use the DC quick charge station in Vacaville (now shut down for public use) for 27 minutes of recharging, which got me home just fine.