Driving the redesigned 2017 Chevy Volt is like listening to Lady Gaga croon with Tony Bennett. It’s a beautiful thing, a pleasure to behold, but you somehow miss the edgier Gaga that rolled out on Oprah sitting atop a giant shoe, or was carried about Hollywood in her egg-shaped womb-vessel. Gaga has been tamed, a little more normal. Like the Volt.
While it looks a little less “special”, the new design is much more dynamic – a design that will please more mainstream buyers while keeping current fans singing praises. It’s still clearly a Volt, but with a more wedgy shape sporting silver grille inserts, signature LED driving lights, deep body sculpting, chiseled wrap-around taillamps, and sporty 17-inch alloy wheels. Handsome as it is, you’ll have to blink twice to make sure it isn’t the redesigned Cruze.
An equally updated interior trades concept car magic for everyday convenience. Gone are the touch panels, replaced by actual buttons for the automatic climate control and audio. There’s also a touchscreen to access navigation, audio, and vehicle computer. A large LCD screen behind the steering wheel shows battery charging/discharging and driving range on the left side and gasoline engine performance and fuel level on the right. It still feels high-tech, but is easier to use.
Safe and Luxurious
And, there are plenty of luxuries. Heated leather seats front and rear, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Bose audio came with our car – as did Apple CarPlay compatibility, wireless device charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and two USBs. It’s a car of the future. A deep console, fold down rear seats, and hatchback add utility.
Safety is enhanced by rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, blind zone alert, forward collision alert with automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control. The car can even semi-autonomously parallel park itself, but getting the A/C to blow cold is a challenge given its array of eco modes to conserve battery charge.
Explaining The Powertrain
But, how to explain the powertrain?
Imagine a continuum from pure electric like Teslas or the Nissan Leaf on the left and a gasoline-evaporating HEMI-powered Challenger Hellcat on the right. If the Toyota Prius is dead center, then the Volt is a little left of hybrid. Chevrolet calls it an extended range electric. It’s electric because it is (almost) always driven by electricity from its lithium-ion batteries. It’s range-extended because it initially runs purely on batteries, but when they’re depleted, a 101 horsepower 1.5-liter gasoline engine fires up to continue the fun as far as your underside can stand. It’s an electric commuter car that can drive cross-country on gasoline.
So, for the digits. The first generation Volt traveled about 40 miles all-electric, but the new one extends that to 53 miles – a 33 percent improvement. By EPA figures, the Volt achieves 106-MPGe on electricity, 42-MPG running gasoline, and can travel 420 miles from plug to vapors. Typical owners who plug in daily will go 1,000 miles between gas stations. Expect charging to take 13 hours on household 120v or 4.5 hours on 240v.
Driving in electric mode is as elating as sweeping the dancefloor with Gaga or Bennett. Stomp the throttle and you hear nothing as instant torque whooshes the car smoothly up to speed. GM claims the Volt will run 0-60 mph in 8.4s – not bad for a heavy compact car. Top speed is limited to 98 mph.
Additional features help owners get the most out of their Volts. A drive mode selector configures the powertrain for Sport (more sensitive throttle, quicker battery depletion), Winter (less sensitive), and normal driving. There’s also a “hold” feature that preserves the battery level for future use (like, when in the city instead of high-speed bonsai Interstate runs). Owners can also set location-based charging preferences for “home”, confirmed with the car’s GPS system, to take advantage of optimum charging rates.
Teaming up with Tony Bennet showed Lady Gaga’s substantial range, insuring her superstardom for decades to come. As with Gaga 1.0, I still have affection for the first-generation Volt. But, the new one shows it can dance, sing, run on electricity, burn minimal fossils, and stretch is styling wings to look cool doing it. It’s a better Volt for those who love Volts while drawing in drivers who never before liked its music.
A base price of $33,220 - $39,930 as tested – makes it a bright deal against the Nissan Leaf, Prius Plug-In, and upcoming Tesla Model 3.
See Casey’s video review of the Chevy Volt; follow him on YouTube and Twitter: @AutoCasey.
Send questions and comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com.
2017 Chevrolet Volt
- Five-passenger, FWD sedan
- Powertrain: 18.4 kWh Li-ion batteries, 101hp 1.5-liter I4
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Torsion beam
- Wheels: 17”/17” alloy f/r
- Brakes: regen disc/disc fr/rr
- Must-have features: MPGs, Style
- Driving range: 53/420 miles elect/total
- Top speed: 98 mph
- 0-60 mph: 8.4s
- Fuel economy: 106/42 mpg elect/gas
- Assembly: Detroit, MI
- Base/as-tested price: $33,220/39,930