Nuts & Bolts: 2012 Chevrolet Volt

July 6, 2012

Bottom line: I’ve driven one pre-production and two full-production models of the Volt — in 2010, 2011 and 2012. My bottom line remains the same: It is an essential effort in the development of personal transportation that has more long-range importance than it does immediate payoff. That might make it less appealing in the marketplace considering its rather hefty price. But the payoff with this one could be more than dollars and cents.

Ride, acceleration and handling: The ride is a tad hard. But it’s adjustable with Normal (softer feel), Sport (hardest feel) and Mountain settings. Acceleration is surprisingly fast — but only to those who don’t understand that an electric motor means instant torque at the drive wheels. Whoosh! Handling is quite decent.

Head-turning quotient: This one has sharp, appealing styling. It turned heads everywhere.

Body style/layout: The Chevrolet Volt is an electrically powered, plug-in, front-wheel-drive midsize four-door hatchback. It is designed to handle most local and regional commuting on battery power only. An onboard 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine helps it to generate electric power for longer trips.

Power system: Think of it this way: Lithium-ion battery plus front-drive electric motor assisted by an internal-combustion engine to help generate electric power for longer trips. Maximum total output is equivalent to 149 horsepower and 273 foot-pounds of torque. The power system is linked to a one-speed direct-drive transmission.

Capacities: Seats for four people with tight space in the rear cabin. The fuel tank holds 9.3 gallons — premium gasoline is required.

Mileage: It depends on you. The Volt can be driven for months without using an ounce of gasoline. Stay within the 35-to-50-mile battery-only commuting range. Plug in post-commute. Resume. Gasoline alone yielded nearly 41 miles per gallon city-highway in my real-world driving.

Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes, four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability and traction control, side and head air bags, and OnStar emergency communications system with trial subscription.

Price: Base price on the 2012 Chevrolet Volt is $39,145. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $37,549. Price as tested is $43,675, including $3,680 in options (onboard navigation, rearview camera, Bose premium sound system) and an $850 destination charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $41,669. Consumer’s price can be offset by possible federal and state tax rebates up to $7,500.

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