“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!”
– Matthew 3:3 NLV
In scripture John the Baptist comes as a prophet to “prepare the way” for the presumed Savior everyone was waiting for. With the approaching release of the Chevrolet Bolt, it seems that the Chevrolet Volt may simply have been the John the Baptist of cars. The Volt was released by General Motors as a prophet to show that they were serious about “green” vehicles while asking for a bailout from the government. The initial car was one of the first range-extended electric vehicles and we really enjoyed it. But with only slight improvements to this second generation we have to wonder if the car has served its purpose. Is this 2017 Volt still worth looking at or is it simply preparing consumers for the savior that GM has in store?
The biggest change on this new Volt can be found on the exterior. The older model was reminiscent of the Toyota Prius and this 2017 model retains some of the shapes while taking on the face of a Chevrolet Cruze that has been to Space Camp. The chrome grill pattern extends to the interior shifter and helps tell owners “you are driving a car made for the future.” Despite this attempt, the rest of the interior is rather dull as the Apple-like white plastic interior trim has been replaced by more black plastic standard GM fare.
The model we tested was just under $40,000 and featured an updated 8″ Chevrolet MyLink media system. With this system, owners can expect Android Auto and Apple Carplay which worked well and was a welcome update from the past generation. Those familiar with the older Volt gauges and the media display showing items like charge times, efficiency, and range will be at home as this new model maintains similar formats. The driver can change the way the information is displayed slightly by switching from Classic. Classic Enhanced, Modern, and Modern Enhanced modes. Similar to other newer Chevy models the Volt has 4G LTE Wi-Fi available with plans starting at $10/month for 10GB a month through OnStar.com. Our model was also equipped with all the safety features you can handle including Lane Keep assist Assist, Forward Collision Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alerts.
The update to the Voltec powertrain gives this new model a larger 18.4kw battery that is good for a range of around 53 electric miles. We hovered around 50 and got a high of 58 miles in our week with the car in some serious LA traffic. The 9.3 gallon tank from the last Volt has been shrunk down to 8.9 gallons but overall range has increased to 420 miles – up 40 miles over the outgoing model. GM has found that most owners rarely use the gasoline extender, so a slight increase is adequate for most buyers.
Many were hoping that the second generation Chevrolet Volt would upgrade the internal charger from 3.3 kW onboard system to a more modern 6.6 kW charger. Unfortunately, the team at GM simply updated the onboard system to 3.6 kW simply to give it the same slow charge time as the outgoing model. This is because most users will charge overnight at home but shows that GM may be doing the bare minimum to make the Volt relevant to most EV shoppers. We plugged the 2017 Volt into a Blink charging station while we were out to dinner for an hour or so and found a disappointing gain of 12 miles at a cost of around $3. Admittedly, all other range-extended electric vehicles have similar charging limits but it would have been nice to see the Volt lead the pack by offering DC fast charging or 6.6 kW for those who want to avoid using gasoline on longer trips.
In EV mode the Chevrolet Volt is as smooth and quick as we have come to appreciate from the older model. When switched to gasoline the car is noisy and a stark contrast from the EV driving modes. The popular regenerative steering wheel paddles from the Cadillac ELR have now made it to the Volt and are extremely useful to avoid using the brakes in stop-n-go traffic. The Volt retains Sport, Mountain, and Hold driving modes in addition to the Normal mode. Hold mode worked well when cruising for long periods at highway speeds to allow us to only use the battery in more ideal situations within town.
It seems then that while the 2017 Chevrolet Volt is still a one of the better range-extended EVs on the market, it no longer represents the future of the GM brand. The Volt showed consumers how easy it is to live with an electric vehicle, but also gave the comfort of a gasoline backup for those too timid to jump into a full EV. With the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt, General Motors will be the first mass-market auto company to offer a long-range EV. As the Bolt EV is priced only slightly above the Volt, we expect Volt prices to drop drastically and it should be a great buy as the car seems to depreciate much less than full EVs on the market. So while the Volt may have simply prepared the way for something greater, it is still a great buy for those who haven’t seen the light of an all-electric vehicle.