[ad#post_ad]Matt Lauer of NBC, speaking of NYC’s weather, said “Of the 13 yrs I’ve been here this is one of the worst days ever!” Temperatures dropped into the low 40’s/high 30’s, rains were causing street flooding and winds gusting to 45mph turned umbrellas inside out. The traffic-cone track GM had set up for our test drives at New York’s Pier 92 stayed soaking wet from the endless rain —and it was as slick as a 42nd street huckster. I thought, ‘hey, this slippery track should be a great test for the Volt’s handling and its FuelMax tires‘. It sure was!
I arrived 15 min early and informally met and chatted at some length with John Hughes (Chevrolet Marketing Manager) and Bob Boniface (Volt Lead Designer). I gave each a copy of my 26 questions and tried to discuss the questions with them (to little avail —another GM staffer later told me, “I can’t ever remember in reference to other new car introductions being told so many times by management that we can NOT answer questions, except for those based on already-released information)”. I therefore have NO formal responses to any of these 26 questions, and GM people all made it clear that I couldn’t expect one. However, I’ve formed a few opinions/educated guesses based on their collective reactions to certain questions that I’ll share here.
But before going into that level of detail, let me give an overall impression of the test drive…..
THE VOLT IS BY FAR THE EASIEST TO DRIVE, THE MOST RESPONSIVE & THE MOST EXCITING CAR I’VE EVER DRIVEN!!! It’s impressive from the getgo! Just a touch of the accelerator starts the car rolling without even the slightest hesitation or jerkiness like I’ve come to expect from any ICE-powered car. From a replay of the video I shot, I blurted out, “Oh man! ….talk about torque!!!“ at the first nudge of the Volt’s ‘go pedal’. We turned the first short-radius corner so sharply that my new HD video camera, on its normally very-secure dash mounting rig went careening across the dash —and as I grabbed for it the Volt ignored my ‘panic antics’ and continued smoothly around the sharp turn on the wet, slick pavement with no detectable leaning or sliding —it felt like it was on rails!
By the way, our own “Harrier1970”, an ARMY Major and overall essay contest winner from California, shot HD video with his new Nikon from the back seat while our GM host helped hold my camera to the dash (so I’d keep both hands on the wheel). Next on the course was a long straight stretch, and our GM host said, “go ahead and accelerate and I’ll put us in ‘sport mode’ about half way down this stretch“. Again, the camera’s audio caught my surprised reaction when sport mode kicked in: “OH BOY, I REALLY DO FEEL THE DIFFERENCE!”
After several more sharp turns on the slick surface (thru which the FuelMax tires felt glued to the surface), we came to a fairly steep, sharp down ramp typical of parking garages & our host suggested dropping the car into “Low” as we approached it. Once again I was pleasantly surprised at how docile, yet effective the “braking effect” was. The Volt —still seeming to be on rails— negotiated the steep, sharp turn so perfectly I thought, “WOW, I’m driving like a pro!” There were 3 full, fast stops on the course from fairly brisk speeds, and on this very wet pavement the hard braking needed to get stopped quickly gave me a great demonstration of the solid, user-friendly feel of the regenerative brakes —no grabbing and smooth as silk, yet extremely fast stops without the tires loosing their firm grip on the very wet surface! I doubt even these fast stops ever made the brake pads even touch their discs.
At the end of the run, we all stayed seated in the car for about 3 times as long as we’d been on the track, discussing/re-living the test drive —too excited to want to climb out!
Now to my questions……
Q1 – May I see under the hood? If not, why not?
C1 – GM says, “sorry, it’s not allowed” —but see my “naked chassis” photo
Q2 – A few days ago an automotive writer in Houston was told the gas tank is 8 gallons. Is this correct?
Does the tank include a “spare” tank section — what size?
C2 – I argued with GM at some length that competitive new cars (e.g., Ford Fusion hybrid) have ranges up to 700 miles
Q3 – I know the 0-60 time is about 9 secs in sport mode. What is the approximate passing time (40-80)?
C3 – GM said the passing time is “more than adequate” but gave no numbers
Q4 – Is Sport Mode automatically activated for hard acceleration 1) from a standstill or 2) for passing?
C4 – GM said sport mode is not activated automatically, but responds instantly to the dash sport mode switch
Q5 – We know Volt has a very low c.g. that should give it great handling –are any skid pad g‘s known yet?
C5 – GM offered no skid pad numbers but I noticed no body lean in sharp cornering during the test drive
Q6 – Will GM take advance deposits like Tesla & Leaf?
C6 – No comment
Q7 – Approximately when will MSRPs be announced?
C7 – No comment
Q8 – Can the driver activate the extended range mode?
C8 – No comment, but I could see no dash control to do this
Q9 – What is the recommended inflation pressure for the new Goodyear FuelMax Tires? Is a spare included?
C9 – GM has no comment, but Goodyear says it can range from 28-35psi and is to be determined by GM
Q10 – Will GM offer either a) “run flat” tires (like BMW) or b) 18” tires/wheels?
C10 – No comment
Q11 – Does the “Start/Stop” button also act as a “Kill switch”? If the accelerator stuck open, what fail safe
features exist that would override it?
C11 – GM has long used brake fluid pressure sensors to kill their car’s ignition under emergency conditions
Q12 – Does the Volt share the design, the housing or any components of GM’s 2-Mode FWD transmission?
C12 – I believe the Volt borrows several features of GM’s FWD 2-mode transmission including the housing
Q13 – Is active noise suppression used like in Acuras?
C13 – GM isn’t saying, but subjectively the car is extraordinarily quiet even under hard acceleration
Q14 – Are innovative materials such as laminated polymerics used for passive noise suppression?
C14 – GM doesn’t say, but I think it’s highly probable because they’ve very effectively hushed the ICE’s “throbbing”
Q15 – Will GM offer a SS (super sport) model with a race-tuned suspension or other performance features?
C15 – GM only says they plan offering only a limited number of models/trim levels for Gen I Volts
Q16 – What is the estimated mpg in CS (ER) mode?
C16 – GM still won’t say, but I still believe they’ll get above 50mpg
Q17 – Is the backup camera that engages in Reverse an optional or standard feature?
C17 – Not discussed, but the camera itself should be pretty inexpensive to add & the video screen(s) exist now
Q18 – Are the engine RPMs in ER mode limited to fixed settings depending on battery depletion and/or
charging rates? What are those rpm settings?
C18 – Not discussed, but I believe the ICE/Gen will be limited to several fixed rpm ranges
Q19 – Is the HVAC a special high-efficiency design? Are heater strips or a heat pump design used for heating?
C19 – GM said it is highly efficient, but could not say whether heater strips or heat pump are used
Q20 – Does the Volt use low-e window glass thruout?
C20 – Not discussed, but I’ve read a review that says low-e glass is used in several if not all windows
Q21 – Does the Volt use any special thermal insulation?
C21 – Not discussed, but I believe it’s a good bet they do (and perhaps rely on it for noise reduction as well)
Q22 – Will a complete (or quick-start) searchable Volt manual or tutorial be available on either LCD screen?
C22 – Not discussed, but I know they have a small tutorial on the driver display & it would be easy to do more
Q23 – Are IP, dome, etc interior lights all LEDs? Are all ext. lights LEDs (marker, tail, stop, DRL, hi/lo beam)?
C23 – GM says most lighting (tail/stop, trim/turn sigs, DRLs, dome light, etc) are LED; exception is projector headlamps
Q24 – Will GM offer optional sun roofs or solar roofs?
C24 – I argued for both with GM Marketing, but they won’t say
Q25 – Why has GM told the world the 2011 Cruze will be available in ECO, RS, LS, LT and LTZ trims, yet
remains silent on trim levels the 2011 Volt will offer?
C25 – GM says they will deliberately minimize the number of trim levels/models for Volt Gen I
Q26 – What special trim/color options will GM offer?
C26 – GM says the Volt itself is what they want customers to focus on rather than a wide range of options/trim