We're going to have a lot of 2011 Chevrolet Volt coverage this week, as we round up our impressions on the five days and hundreds of miles we've racked up on GM's first extended-range electric vehicle.
We'll do a full drive report later on, but first, a few quick hits about the things we like in the Volt (here), the things that puzzle us, and the things we weren't so fond of.
(1) The lit blue power button
Blue is the new orange for gauges and instruments this year, it seems, but the Volt's power button stands out all by itself. With the computer power symbol on it, and a lovely pulsing blue light, it's the first of many indicators that this is a very different kind of car.
(2) No visible exhaust pipe, hidden gas-door release button
The 2011 Chevy Volt has an engine, so it also has an exhaust pipe, of course. It's just not visible at the back of the car; it dumps out downwards underneath the car.
2011 Chevrolet Volt dashboard
And while the button for the recharging-port door is visible in the driver's door, the gas-door button deliberately isn't. It's just as easy to reach, but an angle in the inside door panel hides it from site--deliberately, if we recall our Volt briefings from more than a year ago.
Both points subtly underscore the Volt's electric powertrain. We like that.
(3) The engine runs smooth and quiet almost all the time
The electric motor that powers the Volt's front wheels seems no noisier at freeway speeds (or beyond) than around town. Sure, there's tire noise and wind noise, but the Volt is remarkably calm at speed. Part of that is due to the engine, whose speed doesn't necessarily rise with road speed.
There's a downside, though. A few times, running with the cruise control off, we found ourselves doing closer to 90 mph than the 70 mph we were shooting for. Turns out the lack of increased engine and transmission noise deprived us of a subtle cue about our increased speed.
We resolved to pay closer attention to the large numeric speed display in the center of the driver information display.
(4) Low center of gravity
Having driven a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Cruise compact sedan just last week, it was fresh in our minds as we tested out the Volt's handling.
And there's no denying that the Volt's low center of gravity--due to all that battery mass in the tunnel and under the rear seats--made it feel very "planted" and solid as a rock under cornering.
2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011
It's hardly a light car, nor does it have lightning-quick reflexes. At times it almost felt ponderous. But the low weight gives the driver a confident feeling even under the hardest cornering. And that's a nice thing.
(5) The stretchy nylon vanity cover for the load bay
At first, we thought it looked cheap: It's no more than a black nylon cover with loops at each corner, to fasten to hooks in the corners of the load bay and hide the contents below. It was folded up in the tray below the load bay floor, and we didn't know it was there until we pulled out the charger.
Then we realized how brilliant it was. Having lost the full-width, roller-blind style vanity cover for our own car, we think a lightweight, folding nylon cover fits the need just perfectly, and could be kept with the car even when the rear seats are folded down.
Inexpensive, lightweight, minimalist. Nice.