A testy test drive in Chevy’s new Volt

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“How did you like it?” Bob Lutz asks me. It, in this case, is Chevrolet’s Volt, the electric –drive vehicle that the company is introducing this year.  And this is a loaded question, since Lutz is GM’s soon-to-retire vice chairman, a Detroit design deity who put style back into GM’s line, and the ultimate car nut. Volt is the product GM’s on-again, off-again affair with electrics, but the company will put Volt into production later this year and, needless to say, GM has a lot riding on every new vehicle it introduces. So do you, since as a taxpayer you are a part owner of GM. Chevy hasn’t announced pricing on the Volt, but Nissan just said that its new all-electric Leaf will be priced at $32,780, before the $7,500 federal tax credit. Chevy brought Volt to town for the New York International Auto Show, so I got my first test drive today.

“It’s pretty good,” I tell Lutz, in answer to his question. Wrong answer. “Whaddya mean, pretty good,” Lutz yells. What I mean is this:  when you drive the electric-powered Volt, you aren’t giving up anything. It accelerates well, unlike some hybrids, because you get immediate torque. It’s nicely styled because the lack of engine noise means that Chevy had to compensate for things like tire noise and wind noise by creating a more aerodynamically efficient body—“keeping the air attached to the car” as Chevy design director Bob Boniface put it. And there’s actually room in the back seat for humans taller than than fire hydrants. Volt goes 40 miles per charge, which is okay for city folk, but it has a gasoline tank that carries enough fuel to power the electric engine another 300-miles, so there’s no worry about running out of juice.

That’s a pretty good car, in my book.