2011 Chevrolet Volt mule - Volt powertrain in Cruze bodyEnlarge Photo
Well, the big day has come and gone: Now we've driven a 2011 Chevrolet Volt prototype. More than 18 months before buyers can walk into a Chevy dealer and test one, we got behind the wheel.
What's the Volt like? It's remarkably ... unremarkable.
And we mean that as praise. General Motors has managed to build a radical car that seems so normal it'll make the average American driver completely comfortable with electric drive.
For half an hour today, we drove a Volt "mule"--a Volt powertrain installed in the body of a 2010 Chevrolet Cruze subcompact--around the roads of the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. It uses "production-intent" components and, said vehicle line executive Frank Weber, provides about 80 percent of the capabilities of the final car.
2011 Chevrolet Volt mule - Cruze interior with test-car kill switchEnlarge Photo
Just like normal, only different
In fact, the Volt accelerates, brakes, and drives exactly like a quiet, smooth subcompact. If, that is, it happened to have a powerful engine mated to an automatic transmission so quiet you couldn't hear it shift--ever.
Electric motors put out maximum torque
power at 0 rpm, making the Volt mule pretty sprightly when accelerating from rest. The goal for the production Volt is 0 to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds; ours did it in about 9.5 seconds. We even got the inside front wheel to spin accelerating around a turn from rest.
It's no 2009 Tesla Roadster, mind you, but it's not designed to be. It has four seats, four doors, and it's designed to provide its 40-mile electric range and undiminished performance even after 10 years or 150,000 miles. (We quickly learned that GM executives get very snitty if Tesla is mentioned, making irritable remarks that cite the technical flaws of "certain startup West Coast electric-car makers".)