Driven: 2011 Chevrolet Volt At the 2011 Denver Auto Show


2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

The 2011 Denver Auto Show, a show that saw an increase in size and participation this year, closed on Sunday. The results proved what most of us in the auto industry felt about the show—there were more people and more manufacturers out on the floor. Officially, the 2011 Denver Auto Show was up in attendance over 20 percent and exceeded its record attendance year by two percent. The record attendance was probably driven by the interest in cars that we haven’t seen in either the press fleet or the general consumer population. That list of firsts included the Fiat 500, Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Volt. For the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and our spin around Downtown Denver.

How did we get behind the wheel of a 2011 Chevrolet Volt? Well, normally we don’t kiss and tell, but in this case it was something anyone attending the 2011 Denver Auto Show could do. In the spirit of experiencing the consumer point-of-view, we hopped in line and waited in the sleet and snow under the ride and drive tent outside the Denver Convention Center. This might not surprise anyone, but the Volt was very popular even with the ride and drive requirement that you drive another GM car first before getting in line for the Volt. After waiting our turn, my two passengers and myself jumped at our chance to get behind the wheel. For “testing” purposes we put my 6’ 2” 275 pound passenger in the backseat. We will get to the comfort and interior later.

Everyone wants to know how the 2011 Chevrolet Volt drives. The good news for General Motors, Chevrolet and consumers is that the driving experience isn't anything that would knock your socks off—in a good way. You don’t realize you are driving an electric powered car, per say. There are a couple things you will notice about the Volt right away: the lack of engine noise when you start it (unless it is cold and it needs to warm things up), the all digital gauges and the quick response from the accelerator pedal. When you pull out of a parking space with a Volt you will notice the steering is really smooth and being electric it feels consistent when stuck in traffic or out on the road at speed. The acceleration is actually quite remarkable as you have instant torque from stop, but the thing you will notice is a slight difference in how the car responds when you floor it. It seemed comparable to the experience in an electric golf cart.

What do we mean by that? When you accelerate in a regular gasoline car you are used to hearing the engine rev up, the gears shift and there is an ability to coast when you lift off the accelerator. In the Volt, whenever you lift off the accelerator you are engaging the regenerative braking (not as aggressive as the MINI E). This creates a different driving experience that requires a modulation of the throttle for the most efficient driving. For example, it is possible to drive in traffic without using the brakes as often as you might in a gasoline powered car. Of course the other cool factor of regenerative braking is that you can recharge the battery and in theory extend the battery range. The truth about the Volt driving experience, especially in the heavy traffic we experienced, is that it is like driving most modern cars. So if you were to buy one you would probably pay attention to the new energy usage gauges you aren’t used too and play with the menu settings, but eventually you would settle in and enjoy driving knowing you are adopting the way of the future in automotive transpiration.

Stay tuned for the second part of our 2011 Chevrolet Volt driven review where we cover how well a 6’ 2” 275 pound person fits in the back seat, the view out the back and our final opinion on who should buy a 2011 Chevrolet Volt. While you wait, check out all of our coverage of the 2011 Denver Auto Show

 

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