As many of you know (because we give each other “K” all the time!) I am a big fan of Klout … for those of you who don’t know, Klout is a website that rates your online influence and gives you a score. They also track the topics you wield your influence in and offer you “perks” in those categories. These Perks are either free products, services or experiences that they hope you will spread the word about (Keyword “hope”, they neither require nor punish you if you never mention them or give bad reviews… You are allowed, and in fact encouraged, to be totally honest.) Just today I claimed 4 tickets to Legoland, in the past I have received Trident gum, gift cards, Sony headphones, t-shirts and a bunch of other stuff. One perk I was awarded a few months ago was the opportunity to drive a Chevy Volt for a couple days… Well I finally had the chance to do it this week and I thought I’d tell you about it.
First let get some things straight: Chevy provided a 2012 Chevrolet Volt for me to drive for 2 days free of charge without any expectation of anything in return. I am basing my review on my non-expert opinion and personal driving situation. I think it is very cool that Chevy recognizes the power of social media and bloggers and made this available to me.
About my driving: Although I am a part-time Dad I happened to have my kids for the duration of my test drive, so I was able to see how they reacted to the car and how they fit. I commute from Burbank to Palmdale daily, leaving at around 2a and returning around noon (I think this is important because I had a chance to drive the car on wide open highways and normal traffic congestion) which is about 60 miles each way. In my 2 days I ended up driving the car 85.7 miles under electric power and 217.1 using gas (I didn’t do the math, the car gives you these stats!) and averaged 47.5 mpg (according to the car). I have never driven a Nissan Leaf or any of the numerous Hybrids which I would assume are this vehicles competitors.
About the Volt: The Volt is an electric vehicle. According to the paperwork provided to me, the car I was given to use has a base M.S.R.P. of $39,145.00, and is $45,170.00 as tested with extra equipment (It had premium audio, navigation, leather, heated seats, parking assist and rear view camera added.) Under gasoline power only it gets 37mph. It gets 36 miles electric driving on a full charge and they claim it takes about 8 hours to fully charge from a standard 120v home socket (half that time if you happen to have a 240v… it actually took a little over 10 hours to fully charge at my house.)
OK, so here I go:
It’s a very solid car, my Mom noted that the doors felt “heavy”. The interior was really nice, a far stretch from the cheap, crappy looking interiors American cars used to have. The added leather package made it feel very luxurious and gave it an extremely classy look. It is a four seater, there is a center council in both the front and backseat, which makes it not the best car for very young children (it was fine for my kids, but if I had babies no way… I mounted both my kids baby seats in the center of the backseat which is impossible with this seating configuration.) I mounted a child safety seat in the back for Bing, he seemed to have enough room and Lucy fit fine. The driver cockpit reminded me much of the BMW 328is I had only a little tighter. There was enough room to take the seat back, but it was a little narrow, my elbow would hit my travel cup in the center driver side drink holder, I had to keep it in the passenger side holder (minor, but kind of annoying.) The control panel in the center, which featured a touch screen nav system, had way too many buttons in my opinion (now I only had it for a couple days and I’m sure you would get used to where everything is, but in this test it wasn’t always easy to locate what you wanted to use… Better use of the touch screen menus would have been better than all those buttons.) It had a bunch of great features I just didn’t have time to try, like OnStar, bluetooth connectivity, Audio hard drive storage and lots of other bells and whistles. The radio was an upgrade featuring Bose Premium Speakers… To be honest it didn’t sound that good (which is weird for Bose) and don’t seem worth the $500 upgade charge… And we tested them out, Lucy and I rocked out while stuck on the 405, they just didn’t have any punch (I tried adjusting the bass, treble and balance, but it seemed like it needed a more powerful amp.)
The Volt drives really well, it’s a fun drive… The acceleration feels like what I would imagine sitting in a remote control car would feel like. Smooth and quick. It had great pick-up, I have heard complaints that hybrids are slow off the line… not this car, switch it to “sport” mode and it goes. On the way to work I was able to switch on the cruise control and enjoy the ride. It ‘s very sporty and handles well at freeway speeds (the fastest I took it was 85.) There was absolutely no change in the drive or feel when the car switched from electric to gas (remember the gas is used to generate power for the electric motor, so it basically powers a generator if I understand correctly.)
Charging it was fairly easy, you just need access to a plug… although, as I mentioned, charging was slow and the 36 miles a full charge gives you just didn’t seem like enough.
Now here’s the thing, would I recommend it… No. Well, not for anyone who drives more than 50 or so miles a day (or maybe 75 if you are able to charge it at work.) It gets 36 miles on a full charge and then takes about 10 hours to fully charge again, so if you drive a long distance or frequently and won’t always be able to let it charge (it does hold a partial charge, for example the kids and I got home and charged it for about 2 hours, it had about 6 miles of charge when we headed out… which we used up pretty quickly and then it was back to gas) you won’t really reap the benefits of this electric car. And if you do only drive short distances it doesn’t seem like (at least to me) the price of the car compares to the savings. (which they estimate at $1000 a year in fuel savings.)
You can take a look at their provided numbers on their site.
So to review, I really liked the Volt, but if I was going to buy a more environmentally friendly car I would probably go with a hybrid. I’m sure at some point technology will catch up… if it was less expensive, charged quicker and held a longer charge (100 miles would be great) it would be great, but as is I think there are better options.
The kids loved it, Bing wanted to buy it and was very upset I had to give it back! He felt the need to give anyone new who came by a guided tour of “the Chevy’… even his Mom and her husband, that was pleasant. Lucy was really into the navigation system and loved reading the screen whenever a traffic hazard would pop up. but all the bells and whistles they enjoyed are available on almost any other car and were not unique to this car.
Kids and Volt
Lucy and Grandma look at the controls
Bing and Lucy showing Grandma the car
Kids in the back
Rock on, Jack