The Next Generation Volt is Voltalicious

We’ve been driving this car since the first generation Volts back in 2010. GM had made some major changes to the Volt in 2016, but the new and improved EV-hybrid didn’t quite catch on, given the historically low gas prices last year. However 2017 car buyers are starting to get a bit more excited about the value/technology proposition offered by the Volt.  It is the automotive equivalent of the OnePlus3T smartphone — it is about 50% cheaper than the top level Samsung/Apple/Pixel phones but almost as good.   So, you don’t need to buy a Tesla or BMW to experience automotive high-tech in all of its MPG glory.   In a nutshell, here is how the Volt is configured:

It touts twin electric-powered motors putting out 149-horsepower, combined with a 1.5-liter gasoline engine-powered range extender. The electric motors are powered by an 18.4 kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack that you typically plug-in to recharge, but it can also be partially recharged on the go from the gas engine/generator and regenerative braking. The gas engine kicks in when the battery pack’s charge is depleted, working primarily as a generator to continue providing electricity to the battery pack.  Brilliant, really.  


To drive the Volt is a riotous jolt of adrenaline. While the horsepower rating is a mere 149, the Volt makes 298 pound-feet of torque and you can’t help but feel it when you accelerate. It’s like zip-lining on asphalt.! Its gasoline-hybrid powertrain offers impressive all-electric range, greater efficiency, and better acceleration. The all-electric range is 53 miles; after that, the gas engine starts up to recharge the battery and keep you going. the Volt makes do with a 3.6 kilowatt onboard charger, rather than a 6.6 or 7.2 kilowatt system, and lacks DC quick charging. Charge times are 13 hours on 120V and 4.5 on 240V.
It’s enlarged 1.5-liter engine – described as a “range extender” has more power than the old 1.4-liter, at 101 HP versus 84 HP, 

Acceleration is amazing, and the batteries running through the middle of the car gives it a lot of balance and superb handling. Chevy’s quoted 8.0s 0-60 mph time seems understated.  In fact, Car and Driver magazine clocked the Volt in under three seconds for the zero-to-30-mph dash. That’s in the same ballpark as the fleet Tesla Model S.

In addition to the default Normal mode, three other driving modes—Sport, Mountain, and Hold—are available by punching a console button. Sport sharpens throttle response but is otherwise identical to Normal. Mountain keeps battery charge in reserve to help the engine ascend steep grades. The fourth mode, Hold, saves whatever battery charge is on hand for later use when pure-electric driving is desired, such as visiting city centers where combustion engines are prohibited or taxed. The 8.9-gallon gas tank adds more than 400 miles of highway cruising range.

Another energy saving feature is that when you drop the shift lever to the L position (below D) provides extra regeneration.  But that’s not all;  by tapping a paddle located behind the left steering-wheel spoke you get maximum regen to slow the car to a halt without energy-wasting friction braking.  It’s like braking the car without using your right foot brake pedal. 

The powertrain is, for the most part, silent in operation, and there’s minimal wind noise. Despite its electric muscle, you can’t help but notice the quietness of the car. The steering is properly weighted, tight on center, and quick to hunt down apexes. The ride is satisfyingly firm but never painful, even over tortured pavement.


An 8” Chevy MyLink touchscreen (think of it as a tablet) holds all the apps and allows you to operate the Bose stereo, the Apple and Android interfaces, navigation system, the 4G LTE hotspot (that will operate 7 different devices), and real-time traffic info. One screen gives you all the info on whether you are running on all battery, all gas, or a combination. The MyLink infotainment touchscreen is swift and responsive, unlike some of the sluggish communication panels on other cars. 

Chevrolet made the decision to fit OnStar 4G LTE as standard across most of its cars last year, and so the Volt can serve as a WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices. Chevy provisioned a high-power antenna on the car’s rooftop to receive signal where some cellphones just can’t. Once the trial period is up, you have to either pay Chevy for LTE data or add the car to your AT&T mobile share plan – but with the LTE feature, you can online in underground parking lots and mountain back-roads when most phones display zero bars. 


The NHTSA gave the 2017 Volt a five-star overall safety score (out of a possible five stars). In IIHS evaluations, the car received a Top Safety+ rating after it received its highest score on all crash tests and headlight safety test, and a Superior rating in the front crash prevention test after it avoided a 12- and 25-mph collision  GM’s Teen Driver feature has also been included; it allows owners to program the vehicle to only go up to a certain speed and limit the volume of the audio system.   By the way, the hybrid system, including the batteries, is under warranty for 8 years or 100,000 miles;  nice that Volt stands by its engineering. 


We purchased a 2017 Volt LT at Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet in Kearny Mesa (San Diego) on April 24, 2017.  The MSRP was $34,095.  Who cares….the key was that a White LT was available for $30,095.  With taxes and other fees, the out-the-door price came in at $33,395.  But with the Federal tax credit and California’s $1500 rebate, the out-of-pocket price for this car will end up at a ridiculously reasonable $24,395.    Folks, to buy this very impressive piece of machinery for less about the same price as a Toyota Prius (not a Prius plug-in) would be defined as a great deal in just about any dictionary on this planet.


The Volt is an excellent car at its price point.  But it’s not a perfect car.  For example, it’s the only $40,000 car we’ve driven in recent years that has manual seat adjusters, but that may be a testament to the designers preference to use as much power as possible for performance rather than piddly little cabin functions. So it can be excused.

Although Chevy calls this a five passenger, consider it a four passenger. The poor slug in the middle of the back seat won’t be comfortable for long.

The ingenious “regen” paddle on the steering wheel  (where you might commonly find a downshift paddle for a traditional gearbox) is clunky.  Perhaps we’ll get used to it but, more likely, we won’t.

The Volt has always been plagued by sub-par visibility.  Regrettably, the cars’ aerodynamic shape impacts rear visibility, with the high trunk line meaning you’ll only see the top half of any traffic close behind.   The “next generation” didn’t improve much on the first time around.   Perhaps that’s why Chevy put so much money into safety features — this car is a dream to drive but has more than its share of blind spots. 

And the lack of a spare tire (an optional extra) is a bit worrisome.  The tire reinflator stowed in the truck might work in most situations, but not all.   Make sure you have good roadside assistance plan if you buy a Volt. 

Finally, the Volt doesn’t have the accelerated charging capabilities of its cousin, the Bolt, nor its competitor, the Tesla.  That’s regrettable.  Volt engineers may believe that most of their customers do their charging at night or at the workplace, but if use the car for running errands, it’d be nice to be able to add a dozen miles or so in a few minutes, rather than an hour. 


If you are impatient to see what the future holds in transportation, The Volt is a good example of what is to come in automotive technology.  For an out-of-pocket price of $24,000, it’s a ridiculously affordable glimpse into that future.  And, if your daily commute is under 50 miles a day, you’ll never visit a gas station again with the Chevy Volt, so tack on those gas savings as well.

And don’t just take our word for it.  AutoBlog has been following the evolution of the Volt since 2011.  It concludes that, on its merits, the Chevrolet Volt deserves much more appreciation. It blames dealerships, who don’t make enough money on the car (especially its maintenance) for the unwarranted neglect that it believes has victimized Volt sales.   But the best indicator of the Volt’s value is the opinion of Volt owners.   If you peruse Chevy Volt owners groups on social media and websites, you’ll have an exceedingly difficult time finding a Volt driver that doesn’t love it.   And that, more than anything, affirms the solid engineering and outstanding value proposition offered by the 2017 Chevy Volt.

One word of caution,like most electrics, the range on all-battery power drops when the outside temperature gets over 90 degrees, but it is not drastic.  If you live in Minnesota or Arizona, you may want to plug that factor into your shopping equation.  

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