GM claims the new Volt weighs about 200 lbs. less than the outgoing model, and there is a lightness to how the car feels on the road. There’s no surplus of grip from the Michelin 215/50R17 all-season “Energy Saver” tires, but the Volt carries its weight low in the chassis, and that produces a sense of stability most cars in this size class can’t simulate. The steering isn’t particularly communicative, but the ride motions are well controlled, and there’s little impact harshness over road divots. GM’s chassis tuning skills have improved markedly over the past few years, and the Volt is only the latest example.
Using the “Regen On Demand” system that was introduced with the Volt’s brother, the Cadillac ELR, it’s almost possible to never use the brakes in normal driving. Just use the paddle behind the steering wheel to engage the regenerative braking system, and the car slows as the electric motors become generators to send current back into the battery pack.
The power delivery of the Volt isn’t as massive or startling as in a Tesla, but it’s still distinctly an electric experience. And for many buyers, that sensation of easygoing torque will be superior to that of a conventional combustion engine. What’s most satisfying about the Volt is how that seamless experience continues even after the battery is depleted and the gas engine kicks in. It’s virtually impossible to tell when that transition happens.
There’s still not too much room inside the Volt, even though it’s now rated to carry five people instead of four. And it’s still tough to justify its $33,995 price considering that it shares so much with the Cruze that starts down near $17,000. But the future is going to catch up with the Volt real soon.
We’re in a weird automotive moment right now. Internal combustion engines have reached a new peak in efficiency and performance, and we’re reaping those benefits right now. But just a few years from now, that won’t be enough as new fuel economy regulations kick in. The electrification of the automobile needs to blast off whether consumers or the manufacturers like it or not. The Volt is increasingly looking like GM’s head start on that job; the Mercury and Gemini preludes to the full Project Apollo effort that’s coming. And regardless of its total sales, the Volt is an impressive proof of concept that’s going to pay off big time for GM across its future product range.