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This is our last full day with the Chevrolet Volt. It's taken about this many days to settle into the car and really start to appreciate the simplicity of its execution. Obviously this is not a simple car underneath but to the driver, its exactly what it should be. Easy to drive, fun, luxurious and quite well-appointed.
Today, I did the typical I would usually do, 28 to 29 miles in the car. Started with a full charge and returned home with about 12 estimated miles of charge remaining.
Since my wife and I have been highlighting all of the great features about this car over the last week I thought I would take this time to highlight some drawbacks. Some of these are specific to this application others are things that would bug me about any car.
The 120V charging cord is great, especially if you have a permanent place to mount it. We didn't have a permanent place and we probably won't if we were to purchase a Volt since we rent our residence. The charger is rather stylish, fits nicely into its cubby in the trunk and is easy enough for the average person to use. But perhaps too much time was spent making it stylish because I still feel its a bit clunky. The cord is pretty thick and the housing only has two flat parts so its hard to stand up without falling.
The driveline and braking system, obviously, are great. But my wife and I noticed that when approaching a stop during the last 3-5mph the car feels like it accelerates. The amount of braking force applied to get it to that point now is no longer enough so additional force is required. As a student of engineering, I can only assume this occurs because the transmission at this point decouples the wheels from the drive/regeneration motors and puts the car essentially in what feels like neutral. Not really a big issue but for the new Volt driver it can catch you off guard.
Now, the styling of the Volt was really well thought out. The rear seats have a lot of room considering there is a T-shaped battery pack down the middle of the car. The interior was well appointed with soft touch plastics and leather seating surfaces. Nothing, aside from the center entertainment console and plastic door panel inserts, felt cheap.
But one big thing stands out to me. Let me preface this by saying GM put a lot of thought into the systems in this vehicle including how to figure out how to make them work on electricity only. Part of these considerations is power saving. For instance the AC has two modes, Eco and Comfort. Eco is intended to keep you cool but not use too much power. My question is since GM put so much thought into all these things, why did they overlook the top of the dashboard. It is BLACK! Since I don't own the car I didn't bother to buy a sunshield for the front window. Anytime I was parked in the sun when I came back to the car it was pretty warm and stayed that way for awhile even with the AC blasting. Is this something GM can change. A different color dash, more UV blocking in the windshield, a heat rejecting material in the dash? I do realize this car comes equipped with a pre-conditioning feature which preconditions the interior and battery for up to 10 minutes before getting to your car. It's like a remote start, but there is no engine to turn on. Unfortunately, if you are not plugged in it uses battery power.
Lastly, and this is a safety feature, the brakes. Rather, I should say not the brakes but the regenerative brakes. Previously I spoke about the L driving "gear" and how you can regenerate more power by using this when coming to a stop. It essentially acts like a brake. The drawback, to me, is that when lifting your foot off of the go pedal completely gives you 100% of the regenerative force of the electric motors which includes a noticeable negative acceleration but it does not activate the brakes lights. I understand why that isn't a feature but on the other hand, I don't really understand why it isn't. On a number of occasions, when in traffic, I would feather the go pedal and be able to quite accurately control my speed. But because I never touched my brake pedal the brake lights never turned on and the people behind me would get noticeably frustrated. My worry is one day someone isn't paying attention and doesn't see any brake lights and plows into the back of my fancy Volt. That would break my heart.
These are just some nagging things, none of them are deal breakers. I still really love this car. Let's just say, this car gets my 98% approval rating. If these things weren't there, it would be over 100%. I would be standing on the street corners offering people rides just to show them how awesome the car is!
Stay tuned, my Epilogue is coming soon!