2011 Chevrolet Volt
It was January of 2007 when General Motors first revealed its concept of an electric car with an onboard gasoline generator. It would be called Chevrolet Volt. Since then, we’ve been teased with numerous updates, and even had short drives in Volt prototypes. Well, now the time has come for the production Volt to greet its first real owners. And time for us to see if the Volt is really as electrifying as it’s hype.
General Motors has a lot riding on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. This five-door compact’s revolutionary plug-in system is the cornerstone of GM’s green car efforts for the next decade. But, there are questions about how to classify the Volt. Is it an all-electric car as GM insists? Or, is it a very advanced plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid, with more in common with the Toyota Prius than the Nissan LEAF?
The best answer is, it’s both, depending on how it is driven. The Volt’s primary power source is always electric, with a 16 Kilowatt lithium-ion battery tied to a 149-horsepower electric drive motor. It provides a commute-friendly 35 to 45 mile electric-only range. But, when the battery is discharged, a 1.4-liter gasoline engine automatically starts, and turns a smaller motor/generator that provides juice for up to 310 miles, or until you run its 9.3 gallon gas tank dry.
The controversy comes when you drive the Volt at speeds 70 miles an hour and above with the batteries depleted. Under this condition, the gasoline engine is mechanically linked to the drive wheels through the motor/generator. GM says this somewhat Prius-like feature boosts efficiency by 10 to 15%.
While GM kept this tidbit a secret waiting for patents to be approved, it does tarnish their all-electric claims. Still, we don’t think it matters. New car hype is just that. And we think owners will consider the Volt, first and foremost, an electric car, but one without pure-EV range limitations.
You can buy this vehicle and use it as a super-efficient, around town or commuter car, virtually never using any gasoline at all, or take it on a long family trip and know that you’ve got plenty of range to get to wherever your lunch stop or the next gasoline station might be.
So, how far does the Volt go on a gallon of premium gas? Well, again, it depends on how you drive it. If your commute is 15 to 20 miles, your MPG number will approach infinity. If you don’t recharge nightly, take long trips, or drive at high speeds, it’s more like 35-45 miles per gallon. But, then, you’re not the Volt’s target buyer. GM hopes the official government MPG-equivalent number will approach triple digits. We did see over 100 miles per gallon in two days of routine driving.
It takes about 10 to 12 hours to fully recharge the Volt using a 120-volt household outlet, about four hours at 240-volts. There’s even a smartphone apps to help to monitor charging and other Volt functions. Regenerative braking also helps replenish the battery. As to performance, Volt jolts from 0 to 60 in nine seconds. But it felt faster with strong throttle response. Top speed is about 100 miles per hour.
In all-electric mode, the Volt is smooth and quiet. Equally smooth is the transition from battery to gasoline power generation. Gas power sounds are muted until you bury the pedal. Then it sounds like most other four-cylinder engines under stress. There is also a Mountain Mode for sustained speed electric driving in hilly terrains.
Sharing a chassis with the Chevrolet Cruze, the independent front McPherson suspension and compound crank twist axle rear deliver a well-grounded drive experience. The ride is very solid. The Volt has a low center of gravity, so even going around tight corners, the car leans little. The steering is nicely dialed-in, and brakes are firm and linear. Most enthusiasts will be pleasantly surprised.
Although the production Volt has evolved since its concept days, most styling cues remain. A spit Chevy grille, tapered front corners, tight door seals, working front and rear spoilers, and low rolling resistance tires, that aid fuel economy, plus keep road noise low.
The Volt’s cockpit echoes the same clean look as the exterior. The upwardly swept dash houses an uncluttered instrument panel with unique readouts to help drivers maintain efficiency. The center stack has a large touchscreen display, soft touch switchgear, and a larger grabbable shifter.
Standard is a Bose stereo, automatic climate control, remote ignition and Bluetooth. Hard drive navigation and rear-view camera are options. The Volt offers comfortable seating up front, with lots of leg and headroom for a six-footer, and optional heat. Rear passenger room is ample also, but remember, it’s only for two. Under the rear hatch, cargo volume is limited to 10.6 cubic feet, but the seatbacks do fold for more.
Base pricing for the Volt is $41,000 before federal and state tax breaks. Most buyers will pay no more than $33,500. Even more attractive is the Volt’s lease option, at $2,500 down and $350 a month.
With its unique extended range approach to green motoring, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is impressive. No matter if you call it an electric car or a hybrid, it combines the best gas-saving, plug-in technologies yet available for an uncompromising driving experience. We think the Volt was well worth the wait, with or without the hype.
- Engine: 16 Kilowatt Lithium-ion Battery1.4-Liter Gasoline Engine
- Horsepower: 149
- 0-60 MPH: 9.0 Seconds
2024 Subaru Outback
The Outback Continues To Deliver
In a world that’s SUV crazy, it’s easy to forget that the Subaru Outback has been delivering capable and comfortable all-weather and all-road capabilities to adventure-loving Americans for years. In fact, it’s now well into its 6th generation. So, it’s time for us to check in with the latest Outback and find out what’s new.
Almost 50-years ago, long before all-wheel-drive became an option for just about every car on the road, Subaru released the first four-wheel-drive passenger car in the U.S. Immediately, they knew they had a good thing going with that wagon, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the marketing folks got on board and helped launch the Subaru Outback Sport Utility Wagon.
While the 2024 Outback is approaching the end of its 6th generation, its not slowing down when it comes to delivering tons of value to adventure-minded families.
The Outback is the sole remaining wagon available here in the U.S. from a mainstream brand, though even Subaru doesn’t use the “W” word anymore.
Now strictly referred to as a mid-size SUV, when it comes to selling any vehicle, attractiveness is always a bonus, and the Outback’s unique blend of rugged and refined has set the tone for many followers over the years. The exterior was recently updated, and while it looks big and more like a true SUV than ever, it’s only about 5-inches longer than the 1990’s original.
Some trims do get additional standard content for ’24, but our top Touring XT showcases everything Subaru has to offer, with an 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment screen that controls more features than ever, includes navigation, and pumps tunes out with Harmon Kardon sound. EyeSight Driver Assist Technology remains an Outback standard.
Cargo capacity is a great 32.6 cubic-ft., 75.6 with rear seatbacks folded, and despite the high ground clearance, the floor is lower than SUV typical, which makes for easier loading.
Outback seat comfort has improved greatly over the years, and despite the increased reliance on the touchscreen, everything about the cabin is simple to operate and logically placed.
The XT part of our Touring XT means there’s extra power under the hood with a 2.4-liter flat-4 turbo engine which rates 260-horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque. It’s a big upgrade over the standard 182-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.5-liter.
Both engines are unchanged and work with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT; all-wheel-drive is of course another Outback standard.
At Mason-Dixon Dragway, our XT had plenty of grip off the line, hitting 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. That’s a couple of tenths quicker than our last time out with this turbo-4. We’ll chalk that up to better weather this time around.
Like many Subarus, it doesn’t feel overly fast but it’s snappy off the line, and perfectly adequate from there.
Power delivery stayed very consistent down the track; the CVT definitely keeps engine revs maxed out the whole time, but noise is far from annoying. Our best ¼-mile time was 14.6-seconds at 97 miles-per-hour.
The Outback boasts 8.7-inches of ground clearance, which is more than many mid-size SUVs; and while it felt plenty competent through our slalom course, there was noticeable body roll and understeer to deal with. Yet steering was light and predictable, plus Active Torque Vectoring and Vehicle Dynamics Control are hard at work to keep you stable and safe no matter what.
In panic braking, there were only moderate amounts of nosedive, and mild ABS pulsing. Stops averaged a fine 115-feet from 60 miles-per-hour.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22-City, 29-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a great 27.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular; a feat most SUVs can only dream of.
That’s an average Energy Impact Score; with use of 11.9-barrels of oil yearly, with 5.9-tons of CO2 emissions.
Base Outbacks have plenty of standard content, and remain a real bargain, starting at just $30,240, top trims, including Wilderness, take you into the low 40s.
Decades of loyal Outback owners have helped Subaru grow the 2024 Subaru Outback into what it is today; a highly capable and comfortable, thoughtfully designed, adventure-ready family truckster that’s as adept at backwoods exploring as it is soldiering through the daily grind. Your family activities may not take you far off the beaten path, but life itself is an adventure, and the Subaru Outback is outfitted for your adventure better than ever.
- Engine: 2.4-liter flat-4 turbo
- Horsepower: 260
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 27.9 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: CVT
- Torque: 277 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.6-seconds at 97 mph
- EPA: 22 City | 29 Highway | 25 Combined