Driving the Chevy Volt was a revelation for me in many ways. As most of us, I mainly relied on second hand information, especially reviews from the usual suspects like Edmunds.com or Car and Driver, to form my opinion about a car that, not too long ago, was hailed as the savior of GM. With a $23 billion IPO, GM may not need a savior anymore, and the excitement over the Volt seems to have faded. There are plenty of complaints about its price, its disappointing drive train and its limited availability.
So it was time to check it out myself. GM has been very patient with me as we had planned testdrives before and it never really worked out. This time it did and I am somewhat glad that I spent a few miles behind the wheel of a mass-production Volt in downtown Chicago last week. It changed my perception of the car as well as my thoughts on GM's ability to think out of the box. I noticed that the best way to judge the Volt is by finding out what it is not.
It's just an expensive Prius
A few weeks ago, I inquired with GM about a reportedly high power consumption cost of the Volt and was surprised to be told that those who are working with a budget should be buying a $2000 junker or a Prius. I found that quite arrogant, but - on the plus side - the test drive actually showed that the Volt is everything else but a Prius.
Down the road, there ought to be a better solution - like a cable that is already connected to the plug in the Volt and can be pulled out and automatically retracts itself when you unplug it from a power source. Wireless charging may be the destination we are heading to.
It's difficult not to be smiling when you drive the Volt. It's not just about the looks you get virtually on every street corner, which I found, by the way, quite surprising. The design of the Volt is very conservative and if you aren't aware of this very specific shape and car, you would not notice it in moving traffic or when it is parked on the side of the street. What makes the Volt special is that you are under the constant impression that this is the concept of how most cars will work in the not too distant future. When you sit down in the seat, it feels very much like a near-luxury mid-size sedan. When you push the start button and you silently start moving - and that silence becomes an expectation over time - you know that you are getting a glimpse of the future and you have the privilege of driving a special car.