In Beverly Hills, California, luxury cars like BMWs and Mercedes-Benz are the norm – so it was surprising to get so many oohs and ahhs when we rolled up in the 2013 Chevy Volt! Yes, California is also the land of hybrids, but the warm welcome we received in the Volt still caught us off guard and definitely should put a smile on GM’s face. Following the completion of the 2012 LA Auto Show, General Motors gave us the keys to the 2013 Volt, which even generated a few oohs and ahhs from us. Read on to find out why!
The Chevy Volt originally arrived on the market at the end of 2010. Since its release its lived through a safety recall, political backlash and at times production was even stopped due to rising inventory levels. Today things are looking up for the Volt. For the 2013 model year, the Chevy Volt got a few styling tweaks and even some updates under the hood to squeeze out more “EV mode” miles. Sales of the Volt have also increased steadily in the past few months, and in October sales of the Volt almost reached 3,000 units, which was a record month for the Volt.
So what did we like about the new Volt? Overall it’s a very impressive plug-in hybrid that overcomes many of the issues that detractors have with the segment. (Although hybrids are great on mileage, most are regarded as boring, appliances without an ounce of fun.) Even though the Volt is labeled as a “green” car, what we enjoyed most about it was how much it felt like a “real” car.
The 2013 Volt now has a body color roof, which replaces the blacked-out roof on earlier models. Under the hood, GM has made a few updates to the Volt’s powertrain to give it the ability to drive even further in electric mode. The Volt is propelled mainly by an electric motor, which supplies all the power until the battery runs out, at which point a range-extender engine supplies energy to the electric motor. For the 2013 model year GM has increased the energy capacity of the battery pack, which means that the Volt can now travel up to 38 miles in EV mode (which is up three miles from last year’s Volt). The Volt’s “miles per gallon equivalent” rating has also gone up from 94 MPGe to 98 MPGe. GM estimates that the Volt has a total driving range of 380 miles.
The 2013 Volt now features four drive modes: normal, sport, mountain and hold. The new hold setting forces the Volt to reserve most of its battery power and use the range extender engine to keep it moving. This setting is great for when you’re on the freeway, so that you can save the battery power for zero-emissions driving when you’re traveling at slower speeds in the city. The mountain setting tells the system to conserve part of its battery power, but also increases the amount of regenerative braking. In normal mode the Volt had more than enough power around town and in sport mode it actually felt a bit zippy. The transition from full EV mode to the range-extender engine was so seamless that if it wasn’t for the display change, you probably would never know which mode you’re driving in.
Of course, as with almost every vehicle there were a few things that we didn’t like. For example the navigation system experienced a few delays, its suspension could have been a bit sportier and its brakes could have been a bit stronger, but as a total package the Volt shows that it is possible to create a hybrid that gets great mileage and without compromising on the features we’re used to.