MPG-o-Matic 2011 Chevrolet Volt Review Summary: The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is both futuristic and familiar, with a range-extended Voltec drivetrain designed to provide efficiency, as well as flexibility. Top off the battery overnight and you’ll have approximately 40 miles of pure electric range in the morning. If you should exceed the Volt’s range before recharging, a fuel-efficient gasoline-powered engine will kick in to provide electricity to power the electric motor. Welcome to the future.
The game-changing 2011 Chevrolet Volt is equipped with a 111 kW electric drive motor that produces 149 horsepower (HP) and 273 foot pounds of torque. A 1.4-liter inline four cylinder engine and 55 kW generator motor are used as a range-extender.
With a full charge, the Volt’s EPA (city) electric range is 35 miles. When the battery is depleted, the Voltec system’s range-extender kicks in to provide electricity.
The official fuel economy estimates for the 2011 Chevy Volt are different from what we’ve long been accustomed to, with 93 miles per gallon (MPG) combined and 37 MPG in gas only mode.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
While rolling up close to 600 miles on our Viridian Joule Tricoat review unit, it soon became clear that the 35 mile range is conservative when the Volt is driven conscientiously. Fuel-efficiency out on the open road was the big question.
So we ran down the Volt’s battery, took to the highway for a long-distance test, and were not disappointed. The Volt turned in a very respectable 42.9 MPG in our Interstate test in late-spring/early summer temperatures. Temperatures spanned the fifties through the eighties, with Interstate highway testing temperatures running near the top of that range. The test vehicle was delivered with slightly over 5000 miles on the odometer.
The Volt is equipped with 17-inch forged aluminum alloy painted wheels clad with low-rolling resistance all-season Goodyear Fuel Max P215/55R/17 tires. Our test unit was equipped with the identically-sized polished aluminum wheels.
Interstate Mileage Testing:
- Target Speed: 68-70 MPH (when permitting), A/C on low, windows up: 41.5 MPG
- Target Speed: 65 MPH (when permitting), A/C on low, windows up: 44.2 MPG
The Volt is a little soft off the line, as it overcomes its nearly 3800 pound curb weight (3781 lbs., to be exact). Once rolling, however, the power delivery is linear and delivered with a wonderfully quiet whoosh.
The 10.5:1 compression-ratio gasoline engine requires premium fuel and puts out 84 HP, although none of those ponies directly power the wheels. Highway driving range is good when driven conservatively, with a 9.3 gallon fuel tank.
Four wheel anti-lock (ABS) electro-hydraulic regenerative disc brakes are standard. The vented discs measure 300 mm in the front and 292 mm in the rear.
Dual seven-inch LCD screens deliver the full Jetson’s experience, with the Driver’s Information Center’s bouncing ball displaying acceleration and regenerative charging efficiency. Drivers can conserve battery power with special climate control modes.
Driving the Volt is much like driving a conventional car … just a whole lot smoother and quieter. The Volt has three drive modes: Normal, Sport, and Mountain. Sport is designed to provide a more responsive pedal, while Mountain mode kicks in the generator to conserve charge. There are no gears, in a conventional sense, although you can drop the transmission into Low for a high-degree of golf-cart like regenerative braking.
Jane, George, Judy and Elroy would feel right at home in the Volt’s space age 2+2 cabin.
Our test unit was equipped with the Premium Trim Package, which includes:
- Leather seating surfaces
- Three-level heated front seats
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- “Premium” door trim
Seat adjustment is manual. Adjustable lumbar support is not available.
We highly recommend adding the Rear Camera and Park Assist option package to aid rear visibility.
The “Energy Efficient Series Sound System” features six Bose speakers. iPod support is well-done. GM’s OnStar system and hands-free Bluetooth are standard, along with XM radio (including NavTraffic and Local Forecast), with a three-month free-trial period.
There are 12-volt power outlets in the cubby at the top of the dash, in the center console (where you’ll also find the line-in and USB audio inputs), and between the rear bucket seats.
The Volt is designed to accommodate four, as the nearly six foot long thermal-controlled lithium-ion16-kWh T-shaped battery pack forces a 2+2 cabin layout. The bucket seats in the second row provide 36 inches of head room and 34.1 inches of leg room.
The Volt’s cargo area provides 10.6 cubic feet of storage. The rear bucket seats can be folded down to accommodate larger items. To reduce vehicle weight, a spare tire is not provided. The Volt’s 120V charging cable and tire compressor are located beneath the cargo area floor.
Our only big gripes are the premium fuel requirement and the front air dam’s low clearance. Folks with sloped driveways, take note … the flexible air dam was designed to scrape bottom.
All-in-all, the 2011 Chevy Volt delivers on the promise that we’ve been hearing for years. With a gasoline engine on tap for backup power, the Volt’s drivetrain eliminates the aura of range-anxiety. While we do have some minor quibbles, the Volt is a stunning effort overall. If you’re in the market, the question is not whether to buy a Volt … it’s whether to buy or lease … and we lean heavily towards leasing.
We expect development to proceed at a rapid pace in coming model years, as GM will be producing more of the Volt’s components here in the United States. Adding FlexFuel compatibility to the current 1.4-liter range-extending engine would be a significant step.
Parts Content Information
US/Canadian Parts Content: 40%
Major Sources of Foreign Parts Content: Korea 20% (Batteries)
Final Assembly Point: Detroit, MI
Country of Origin:
Transmission (Electric Drive Unit): Japan
– by Daniel Gray