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
2023 BMW X7
Should Keep The BMW Faithful Coming Back For More
While BMW got serious about their SUV game around the same time as most other luxury brands, it took them until just a few years ago to deliver a 3-row example. This year, that X7 is updated with new style and new tech. So, let’s see if that makes it the ultimate premium 3-row family machine.
When it comes to utility vehicles, bigger seems to be better for a lot of people. So, for BMW, there’s none bigger or better than the X7 3-row utility, which for 2023 gets a comprehensive update after just 4-years on the market. That includes a facelift to bring it more in line with the new 7-series carline, which is to say joins the more vertical, aggressive grille party. Also, the actual headlights have been moved lower in the front fascia, with squinty DRLs above for the first time on a BMW. In back, taillights take on a 3D posture, with a new chrome bar connecting them.
There are also multiple new M Sport packages to choose from to spice up the exterior, with larger air intakes up front, high-gloss black trim, upgraded exhaust, cascade grille lighting, and 22-inch wheels, as well as M Sport brakes…
…and the interior too, with aluminum trim and exclusive steering wheel. But, by far the biggest change inside for ‘23 is a new dashtop curved display that eliminates the typical BMW well-hooded gauge pod and blends 12-inch Live Cockpit Pro into the 15-inch infotainment touchscreen, which now features iDrive8. Both a Head-Up Display and a large panoramic sunroof are standard.
Whether set up for 2 or 3 passengers, 2nd row seat room remains plentiful, and though the X7 doesn’t look ungainly large like many of its competitors, access to the 3rd row is quite good. Cargo space is reached through a fairly unique, Range Rover-style, split tailgate, which is quite oddly satisfying to watch unfold. There’s room for 48.6 cubic-ft. of goods behind the 2nd row, with a max of 90.4 cu.-ft.
The base xDrive40i has always been the sensible choice, even more so now with a new inline-6 turbo getting a significant bump in horsepower from 335 to 375, and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that results in a total of 398 lb-ft. of torque.
At our Mason Dixon test track, there was enough to blast this big beast to 60 in just 5.4-seconds. That’s only about half a second slower than the V8 did the deed back in 2019. Making that optional 523-horsepower V8 simply overkill at this point. Our best ¼-mile pass was 13.9-seconds at 100 miles-per-hour. All X7s get a quick shifting sport-tuned 8-speed automatic transmission, which adds a new Sprint Function that finds the lowest usable gear instantly and maxes electric boost with a hold of the left shift paddle. What fun!
New looks and updated tech are cool, but BMW has also addressed dynamics as well, with a retuning of all chassis systems, including the optional Dynamic Handling Package which adds adaptive suspension with roll stabilization and uses GPS and camera data to prepare for what’s coming. We’re not sure if our slalom course was anticipated, but the X7 sure felt well-equipped to handle it. All-wheel drive is standard on all X7s, along with comprehensive drive modes.
In our braking runs, the pads bit down hard quickly, stopping us from 60 in just 115-feet with very little nosedive.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the 6-cylinder are 21-City, 25-Highway, and 22-Combined. We averaged just 21.0 miles-per-gallon on Premium.
There’s an average Energy Impact Score; 13.5-barrels of oil yearly, with CO2 emissions of 6.5-tons.
Pricing starts at $78,845, and it’s a significant step up from there to $104,095 if you want the V8. Even more reason to stick with the 6-cylinder as far as we’re concerned.
It took the ultimate driving machine folks quite a bit of time to enter the 3-row family crossover segment, but when they did, they were able to create their largest utility ever and keep it consistent with their values. For 2023, the BMW X7 gets even more dynamic, embraces new tech, and looks better too. All things that should keep the BMW faithful coming back for more.
- Engine: I-6
- Horsepower: 375
- 0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 115 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 21.0 MPG
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 398 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 13.9-seconds at 100 mph
- EPA: 21 City / 25 Highway / 22 Combined