My first post to this forum! I've learned (the hard way) I can read a thousand posts, reviews, sit in cars at car shows (all of which I've done) and it makes little difference until I actually drive the car. I post "BMW M5 owner" in the title not to brag or anything (please, it is an '02 model which I purchased a little over 2 years ago for much less than a new Volt), but just to provide a point of reference. I am a BMW fan - not for their "image" - but for their performance. In particular, BMW absolutely EXCELS at ride/handling balance. Great, non-punishing ride that still handles wonderfully. For the E39 M5 (2000 to 2003) Motor Trend indicated things like "Simply the greatest super sedan ever produced" and "Moreover, steering response and feel are spot-on, and the brakes beyond heroic. Even the ride is luxury-sedan-appropriate, despite the ultra-short-sidewall tires. Uncanny.". Luxury features like the full-leather (seats, door panels, console, dash) and alcantara interior don't hurt either.
I've had the M5 for a couple of years and am always on the lookout for my next car. I'm not afraid to buy used and am an enthusiast and DIYER (i.e. I do all the work on my M5), so most issues don't intimidate me. So where do I go from here. I cant afford $100K for a new M5 and even if I could I'd be hard-pressed to. New CTS-V (pricey)? Current gen M3 a a couple of years old? New X3 sport ute? Old School E36 M3? Prius? New Ford Focus ST? Arghhhhh...
Anyway, I've read about the Volt in the mags, am aware of the awards, etc. I started loosely considering a Volt a couple of months ago and started reading here on the forum a week or so ago. I was surprised when I started reading comments like "fun to drive", "best car I've ever owned", and "don't miss my BMW!"
So...the test drive and my impressions:
It is what it is - you either like it or you don't. I'm not in love with it (is anyone...I mean it isn't a "beautiful" car), but it isn't offensive and has some "interest". I like cars with interest.
The leather seats were nice and felt reasonably upscale. They were not too firm or soft, and I was able to get comfortable immediately. Lack of power seats is disappointing at this price point, but given that my wife is only about 3 inches shorter than me we usually have a similar seating position. The fore, aft, recline and all-important HEIGHT adjustments were fine.
Overall roominess was fine for front and rear seat passengers (note: I am 5' 7", under 200 lbs so the driver's seat was positioned accordingly). A/C felt decent (90 degress, humid and partly cloudy here today)...I am concerned about ANY car's A/C here in Texas heat (and 90 degrees is a lot different than 100+ we'll be experiencing shortly) - still, no issues today so that's good.
You can see the economy car roots in the hard plastic door panels, center dash panel (orange peel? really?), cheap switches (steering wheel switches), steering wheel trim, and nav screen. Trunk space behind the rear seats was smaller than anticipated - dissapointing. However, I do realize the flexibility of a hatchback design (esp with the rear seats folded).
Low speed acceleration is fine, especially in sport mode. Is it an M5? Um...no...not even close really. However, I knew that going in. It feels very much like a modern small turbo engine where all the boost comes in way early.
Freeway acceleration is adequate - not great, not awful - but it definitely suffers here as compared to say my M5 or my wife's Volvo XC60 (325hp turbo 6).
I'll be honest. I was expecting better here. So many of the comments here tout how quiet and luxurious the car is. Certainly at low speeds on smooth roads that is definitely the case...heck, it is practically silent!. However, in my experience NVH is most important in freeway cruising and on less than perfect roads. The overall noise level on the freeway wasn't silent by any means. It actually seemed louder than my M5 (which admittedly has heavy upholstery and lots of factory sound deadening). Much of that noise seemed to be associated with (in order)"
1. Tire thunk on bumps, expansion cracks, etc.
2. General tire noise
3. Wind noise
4. Electric motor "whir" this one surprised me a bit
For someone coming from a Honda Civic or Prius, the Volt might seem awesome in this area, but it is all relative. The Volt is NOT HORRIBLE by any means, please don't get me wrong - just my perspective.
I'll admit it. Sometimes I get tired of the taughter rides of the sports-oriented vehicles I chose to buy (case in point - we bought the sporty R-design Volvo XC60 for my wife 2 months ago and I'll be spending several hours on Monday swapping in the softer springs and shocks from the base model!). Maybe I'm just getting old. Regardless, I did not expect the Volt to handle like a BMW sports sedan, and it doesn't. In all honesty, it is a little more wallowy than I expected. It wasn't some 70's luxo-barge, but just less taught than I expected. It is definitely valved more toward the luxury side of the equation (tire thunk not-withstanding) than sport. Along those lines, short of some sharp impacts it rode reasonably nice and didn't beat me up at all over some less than fun road surfaces. I'm a bit sensitive to this after the XC60 experience I note above. Not bad assuming you go in expecting more luxury than sport.
OK, this one was weird for me. The low speed brakign felt a bit unpredictable right as I was coming to a stop. Most of us probably let off the brake pedal a tad right as we get close to stopping so we don't jerk to a stop. In the Volt it seemed like the car was trying to mimic the at idle pull of a regular car with an automatic transmission. At one point it actually felt like it surged forward as I let off the brake (when I expected a coastign roll)! I think some of this would come down to getting used to the car's behavior, but it wasn't "natural" feeling to me and had me jerking the car to a stop more than once.
I'm used to blaise steering feel from most cars these days and the Volt is no exception. I definitely would have preferred a heavier feel though - the Volt's is somewhat loosey goosey compared to a lot of cars.
First, no one is going to confuse the Volt with a 3 series (or used 5 series) BMW in terms of solidity, ride/handling balance, steering feel, etc. This car simply isn't in that same league. The car drives amazingly normal given that it is an electric car - stunning first attempt from GM - and is definitely the short term future of electric technology.
That is part of the problem though... it drives so normal I was somewhat disappointed if that makes sense. I was expecting this totally unique driving experience, but didn't get it.
I said the Volt is not in the 3 series league, but in some ways it is like these two cars are playing different sports (football vs. golf, etc.). The Volt (as most of you already know) offers something unique. I am not even considering cars like the Prius, Leaf or other "high mpg" economy car alternatives so that alone says something about the Volt
My impressions are ying and yang. I am still intrigued by the car despite its differences and disappointments relative to what I drive now. I looked at BMWs upcoming wave of EVs and immediately dismissed them (because of their "pure electric" nature). I drive an M5 because it is a "super car" you can drive every day...the Volt offers a similar attraction in the "electric world"...an electric car you can drive every day in any situation. If I adjust my priority from sports sedan to something completely different then well...
How much of my infatuation is the "novelty" factor? Not sure honestly. I can tell you that despire what probably seems like a harsh review to most of you, the car is still "on my list"...and that says a lot.
Later and heaven help you if you read this whole thing!