2016 Chevrolet Volt Driving Impressions

The 2016 Volt is heavy for a compact, at 3540 pounds, hardly lithe, but its steering is fairly lively, and the roadholding decent. It’s actually enjoyable to drive on twisty roads: quiet, smooth, and not fussy, while the delivery of its electric power is consistent and soothing.

We drove the Volt for two days around San Francisco, and found the all-electric range of 53 miles to be realistic. But even when we ran out of battery power and the car switched to its gas engine, it was quiet. We drove about 100 miles on the engine, and barely knew it. The friction brakes and regenerative brakes blend imperceptibly.

When the battery pack is depleted, the engine uses one of two motor-generators to flow electricity to the battery pack at up to 45 kW. The engine assists the electric motors in powering the front wheels when that is most efficient. Or the motors can power the front wheels together, or one motor can drive the car while the other recharges the battery, depending on what uses the least energy. What the motors and engine are doing is usually invisible.

Fully recharging the batteries takes 4.5 hours, says GM, using a 240-volt Level 2 charging station. But only a 120-volt cable comes with the car, and a full recharge can take as long as nine to 12 hours, depending on temperature, the quality of the circuit, and other factors. DC quick-charging isn’t possible with the Volt. The charging system is rated at 3.6 kilowatts; more would charge faster, but Chevrolet says that overnight charging is most common among Volt owners. Owners who work long hours may not always get a full charge, but they will have the gas engine as a fallback and will still use only a small amount of fuel.

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