2011 Chevrolet Volt First Impressions Review – Driving the Chevy Volt

Chevrolet Expert Reviews hybrid

By contributing editor David Colman


  • Breakthrough engineering tour de force
  • No driving sacrifice needed to validate green passport
  • Interior design top notch


  • Even with tax rebate, pricey
  • Not the package for the driving enthusiast
  • 35 mile battery radius seems hardly worth the extra cost and weight

You’ll be reading reams of technical information about this car in the months to come, but what’s it really like to drive? Based on a 100 mile round trip between Sausalito and Marshall, the Volt offers a workable solution to everyday transportation for 4 with the added bonus of 25-50 miles of gas-free operation daily. Volt operates in 2 different modes. There’s battery power, which is good for that gas-free 25-50 mile romp, plus gasoline power for an added range of about 350 miles. If you drive short trips every day, it could be months before you need to refill the Volt’s 9.2 gallon gas tank.

2011 Chevrolet Volt Information Display 2011 Chevy Volt charging cables

Of course, you’ll need to recharge the batteries every night, a 10 hour job if you use 120V household current. If you want a 3 hour home recharge at 220V, you’ll need to install a special battery charger which costs $600. Chevy will do a free site survey to assess what the installation of this charger will entail. Labor and parts can run the job as high as $2,000.

The combined range estimate of 379 miles means you never have to worry about getting stuck with a dead battery, because the Volt’s diminutive 1.4 liter gas engine immediately comes to the rescue when the lithium-ion battery pack runs out of charge. So unlike the electric-only Nissan Leaf, which will stop dead after just 118 miles, the Volt will travel 4 times as far without giving you “range anxiety” ulcers.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

The best part of owning a Volt is staying green without being a dolt. Unlike the Leaf’s ToonTown caricature face, the Volt looks slick and futuristic without pandering to stylistic digression. The Volt’s shape cheats the wind like few other cars on the road. With a Co-efficient of Drag (CD) of 0.28, Volt is actually a slicker shape than Porsche’s slippery Cayman sport scar (CD 0.30). Everything about Volt is tailored for exceptional mileage, like its model-specific Goodyear Assurance tires (215/55R17), which come with a standard tire pressure dashboard monitor to insure proper inflation. Of course, you still have to monitor the monitor, and add air as needed, but Chevy eases the job by providing a neat portable pump in the hatchback’s trunk. Volt carries no spare tire, so the Goodyears are run-flat specials.

Chevrolet Volt InteriorChevrolet Volt Center StackChevrolet Volt back seats

Inside the cabin, Volt is a work of art, with dash-top pads that flow seamlessly into the door structures. The junction between these disparate surfaces is so tight the Volt looks like a Bentley inside. You can festoon the door panels with leafy green inserts that match the “New Mown Grass” stripes on the seats, or you can fore go the New Age look for a more subtle combination of cloth or leather. The center stack of the console which mounts the standard 7 inch navigation screen is a model of computer keyboard design, with touch activated areas controlling every needed interior function from HVAC to communication to navigation. If you need gratification for your green keen, the screen can be configured to display the state of regenerative braking, your efficiency as a driver, or your mileage on the current run. Another 7 inch wide screen directly in front of the driver contains pertinent information about state of battery charge, range to battery expiration, and a slew of other minutiae (like tire pressures), all at your beck and call with the twist of a dial.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

The Volt is a remarkably mature product. It handles well on the secondary roads of Marin County, despite the hard rubber compound which makes the Goodyear tires squeal in tight turns. In full power mode (“Sport” setting with Low gear selected), Volt is just adequate for passing slower traffic on 2-way roads. You won’t have your heart in your throat, but you won’t feel overly confident until the 3,781 pound Volt is back in its proper lane. 0-60mpg runs take about 8.8 seconds, and top speed is governor-limited to 100mph.


  • ENGINE: 1.4 liter DOHC in-line 4, gasoline/electric hybrid
  • HORSEPOWER: 149 hp
  • TORQUE: 273 lb-ft
  • FUEL CONSUMPTION: 93 MPGe (all electric), 37 MPG (gas only), 60 MPG (combined composite)
  • PRICE AS TESTED: $43,485/ $35,985* (*includes $7,500 federal tax credit)


David Colman has been writing vehicle tests for 24 years. His work has been featured in AutoWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Marin Independent Journal. In 1987, he helped start Excellence, The Magazine About Porsche, which he edited for many years. He has been an active participant in racing and Solo events since 1961. More car reviews written by Colman can be found at autoeditor.com


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  • Bob says:

    So after you drive to work and have paid the electricity to charge your car, then you only get 37 mpg on the gasoline powered charge engine…. i’m not impressed, now your electric bill has gone up at least $50 a month or more, and you still have to buy gas…. I can do better with an old honda civic, and it won’t cost me 40 thousand dollars to buy it.
    There is also the batteries, when your warranty is up, so are you batteries, and even before your warranty is up, they tell you that you will lose up to 30% of your battery efficiency. Could you even imagine how much it will cost for these batteries….that bunny is going to kill you…..so in about 100,000 kms there will be a lot of these for sale.
    Think about it…..for a few more dollars you can buy a little BMW…..or, 2 honda civics that get 40 mpg, that covers anything you would gain from the chevy volt, and you have 2 family cars to boot.
    Personally, i’m a Pontiac man, not a honda fan, but when chevy comes up with this crap, it’s disappointing at best.
    GM makes some fine fast cars, the last pontiac G8…..niiiiice….the new Camaro….mmmm…..
    But i think if there going to make an electric car that impresses us with it’s fuel economy, then thats what they should do, and not mask it with a less than economical redesigned chevy malibu.
    Hey, GM, I have an idea…….Take a smaller version of one of your cars, perhaps gm metro size for example, throw a couple of electric hub motors in it at the wheels, (more efficient) plop a couple of solar panels on the roof, trunk, hood, wherever, toss in an efficient small gas engine to charge the battery when needed, double the size of the batteries, and make them rebuildable batteries (if that’s possible) or at least not to costly to replace, then maybe you will have a car that you can boast about.
    Heck i would buy one to go to work with, then drive a G8 on the weekend….mmm….
    That’s just my opinion.

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    Love it but the price is steep but it is much more useful then the all Battery choices.

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