Sunday, February 17, 2013

Updated Chevy Volt Review - 2 Years and 36k Miles

The car has torque.  At least that's what they told me.  What it means to me is that when I put the pedal down, it reacts.  It doesn't whine or complain or ramp up, it just does it.  For the longest time, I wanted to floor it, but I was scared to.  Even pushing it a little bit, the Volt is so responsive I have to back off almost immediately.  I finally put the pedal to the metal tonight entering the 101 freeway.  It wasn't as scary as I thought, but man is it fast.  After driving it pretty aggressively on the freeway, the only word I could think of was "zippy".  It's incredible.  It feels like driving a high-end performance car, never mind that it's electric.

The body is fun and sporty - I'm a total hatchback girl!  I'll admit it's a little plain for my taste; I was a big fan of the Pontiac Aztec (and settled for the Pontiac Vibe when the Aztec was vetoed by the parental units), and I've always been a fan of those boxy cars like the Scion xB and the Honda Element.  Of course, I would have loved the original concept Volt body Chevy showed us, but we all know that was impractical and not aerodynamic.  I'm told the Volt is now more aerodynamic than a Corvette, which sounds pretty darn sweet. 

My favorite physical feature is the hatchback.  As I said, I'm a total hatchback girl; my Vibe was very good to me and I really loved it.  I was afraid I'd miss it, but the Volt definitely stepped it up.  The hatchback door is so futuristic, sci-fi-like (at least I think so, does anyone else feel this way?), it tickles me every time I open it.  It's a little reminiscent of the old Honda Insight, in my opinion, and I love it! 

The technology in the car is amazing.  I've never driven something with so many buttons to push, and not one, but two screens.  I'm not even sure where to begin, it's so overwhelming. 

The Bluetooth connects with my phone so I can make and receive calls through the speaker system.  I love how the volume of the music goes down when I'm receiving a call, so I won't miss a call if I accidentally leave my phone on silent.  Not to mention it also means I don't have to hold the darn phone to my ear the whole time; I never knew how great that would be!  Through my five-year OnStar plan that came free with the car (unheard of), my car even has its own phone number that can be used if my phone is not getting reception. 

The Volt also has that feature where you can rip CDs (mp3's, etc) and store them so you don't have to keep your CDs in the car.  I keep my musical soundtracks on there, because when I want to listen to Rent, I want to listen to Rent.  I also update it with my latest favorite pop songs from time to time; I just stick them on a USB and rip them off the USB, no need to burn a CD or anything like that.  The Volt came with a short XM subscription, which I have since extended, although I miss the data plan that came with it (weather and traffic updates).  I mean, I could get those things on my SmartPhone now, which is why I can't justify paying for it, but it was cool to show that my car knew the weather.  The idea of forecasting weather on the route in your nav was phenomenal, but living in Arizona, so not necessary.  The radio presets are really nice, and the volume controls on the steering wheel are sweet.  It also has cruise control on the steering wheel.  Love it!  One of the coolest things (that I didn't even know existed) is that I can rewind live radio, just like with a DVR.  Just when my new favorite song is finished playing, then they start talking, I rewind it to the beginning of the song and listen to it again.  Then I fast forward back over the talking to get to the next song.  I had no idea you could do that with FM or XM radio! There is also a USB and auxiliary port, the latter of which I have literally waited YEARS for!  With my SmartPhone, I can download audio books and play them over the speaker system while I'm on road trips.  

Let's talk about fuel economy.  After 2 full years, including scorching 115+ degree summer days and near freezing temperatures from time to time in the winter, I can proudly say the car does exactly what it is supposed to do - get me to and from work on all electric, while giving me the option to go further on gas.  That was my main goal in buying this car, I wanted to commute on all electric, but be able to go to Tucson in one straight trip.  I've gone roughly 24k miles on electric and 12k on gas, giving me a lifetime average of 102 MPG (the "G" of course assuming electricity is free, which I know it is not).  My favorite part is when I am running only on electric, it can't divide by 0 so it says my fuel economy is 250+ mpg. 

I've been known to miss things from time to time.  Rick and I flew all the way to New York and stood outside in the cold for eight hours to watch the ball drop for New Year's, and in all the excitement, I neglected to actually - get this - watch the ball drop.  I also managed to miss the complete frontal nudity scene in the musical Hair, even though I was anticipating it (ironically, also with Rick).  This is the first time "missing" something has been an incredibly beautiful thing.  Dozens of times, I've watched in anticipation as the gauges of my car switched from electric to gas.  I've even turned my music off and gone driving on a surface road so there was minimal road noise.  Yet, I miss it everytime.  It doesn't feel different, it doesn't sound different.  Had I not watched the gauges, I would have had no idea that it had switched from electric to gas.  It is so anticlimactic, I was initially disappointed.  That was it?  You almost want a hum or a vibration under your foot, or something!  Wait, no, I guess you don't.  That is a beautiful thing to miss!

Some guy in the parking lot at work made my day, and I will never forget it.  As I was driving quietly through the parking lot, he saw me coming and must have recognized what the car was.  He cupped his hand to his ear as if he was listening for the engine, and, upon hearing virtually nothing, gave me a big smile and a thumb's up.  I have no idea who he was, but I burst out laughing.  Other people have seemed to take notice, especially in parking lots, where I can virtually sneak up on somebody without them knowing there's a car behind them.  When the car gets recognized, I feel a little bit like a celebrity, and that of course, makes me happy. 

My main complaints about the car are minimal.  The blinker is the first thing I didn't like - it is very quiet and the little arrow on the screen is so small, it could easily be missed while driving.  In my daily commute, I have exactly two turns that are so wide my blinker doesn't turn off on its own.  In my Vibe, the blinker was obvious and noisy, which I liked because it would remind me to turn it off right away.  It's nice on the one hand: sitting in a turn lane with it on, it is less annoying, so there is a positive side to this complaint.  My concern about forgetting to turn it off has also been mitigated; I discovered that if the blinker stays on for an excessive distance, the car alarms you and provides a pretty clear message on the screen.  Nice.  

There is a white light in the back of the car, just below the center of the bumper.  Somebody asked me what it was for, and I didn't know, and I couldn't even figure out how to turn it on.  So that's a little strange.  I would guess it is to aid in backing up, especially because one of the few options for the car was a back up camera.  It seems to stay on for a bit, right after I turn the car off, but again, not really sure why.  Now, I just tell people it's the car's way of saying hi.  

The nav stinks.  I know I have the OnStar option, but with my anxiety of calling people, I don't think I'll be utilizing that unless I'm desperate.  I really liked my Garmin, and although it's getting old and the sound doesn't work anymore, it is still superior to most navigation systems I've seen, whether they are on smart phones, in the car or OnStar.  There are some cool features, like being able to send a location to your car's nav from the SmartPhone app or from Mapquest on a computer, so that makes it a little less irritating.

As far as size, I have mixed feelings about it.  Early on, I bumped my head getting into the car on numerous occasions, so it's obviously a little smaller in that respect than what I was used to, but it hasn't been a problem lately.  Some of my friends get in the front seat and say its roomy, and some get in and say it's small.  The back seat is a little tight if the front seats are all the way back, but there is room for compromise and I think it can comfortably seat four adults, so long as they aren't overly large.  I will admit, too, that I was a little concerned about the lack of visibility out the back and side of the car.  Coming from the Vibe, which my parents selected for its maximum visibility, the Volt is limited.  The good news is in less than a week, I got used to where to look and haven't had any problems or near-misses scares.  I feel good driving it now, so I think it might just be that it was a big change for me.

At the end of the day (literally), I love pulling into my garage, hitting the power button to turn the car off, and plugging in my car.  I'm sorry, that is just bad ass!  It even gives me an estimate of what time it will be fully charged.  Cell phones don't even do that!  I started out with the standard 110V charger, but felt the need to install at the 240V charger pretty quickly, since I'm rarely home long enough to charge for 10 hours.  I love driving the Volt, I love idling and not wasting gas, and I love making my commute on all electric! 

Volt #492

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