2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Episode 3008 , Episode 3021
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

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.

Specifications

  • Engine: 16 Kilowatt Lithium-ion Battery1.4-Liter Gasoline Engine
  • Horsepower: 149
  • 0-60 MPH: 9.0 Seconds
2024 Lexus GX550

2024 Lexus GX550

It’s A Land Cruiser With A Lexus Badge

Episode 4344
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When most people think of Lexus SUVs, they tend to think of the RX, and for good reason. The RX was a key player in popularizing the luxury SUV market as we know it today. But, the Lexus SUV world is much bigger than that, of course, including something for adventurous, rugged, off-road types.

We’re not about to claim that there’s some kind of body-on-frame SUV resurgence happening, but it’s clear that car-like crossovers haven’t fully taken over the SUV world just yet; and more than any other brand, Toyota seems on a mission to make SUVs truly great again. Even when it comes to their Lexus brand with this new 2024 Lexus GX550.

When the first gen GX arrived for 2003, it seemed to go out of its way to disguise its substantial off-road capabilities behind some very soft-roader sheet-metal, but those that knew… knew that underneath, the GX was based on the rugged J120 Land Cruiser. Fast forward to this third-gen GX, and it looks like Lexus is fully embracing that Land Cruiser kinship going boxier and bolder than ever before. Square lines, chunky fenders, wide track, short overhangs, highly vertical windshield; all hallmarks of serious off-roaders.

The GX is also the first Lexus to benefit from their Overtrail Project which encourages Lexus owners to get out of their comfort zones and experience what their luxo-ute is actually capable of. So, Overtrail models are outfitted with 33-inch all-terrain tires on 18-inch wheels, a locking rear diff, and an Electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that can independently unlock both front and rear stabilizer bars for more wheel articulation.

2024 Lexus GX550 3/4 Front
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2024 Lexus GX550 3/4 Rear
2024 Lexus GX550 Wheel
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2024 Lexus GX550 Grille
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Just like the recently released Toyota J250 Land Cruiser, the GX is built on Toyota’s Tundra truck frame, but instead of a four-cylinder turbo-hybrid, it’s launching with a 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 with 349-horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque. That’s 48-horsepower and 150 lb-ft over the previous GX’s V8. Max tow rating shoots up from 6,500 to 9,096-lbs. The GX works exclusively with a 10-speed automatic transmission, with full-time four-wheel-drive and a two-speed transfer case standard. Lexus says a hybrid option will be available later, but no word on if it’s the Land Cruiser’s 2.4-liter I4 hybrid or the V6 hybrid that’s currently available in the Tundra pickup.

It doesn’t take much time behind the wheel to appreciate the high seating position and great visibility of the GX; as rugged as it looks outside, it still feels plenty luxurious inside, and is highly functional too. There’s a big control center in front of the dash with a high-mounted 14-inch touchscreen, and dedicated knobs for temperature and volume just below. A third row of seating is available in most trims, providing space for six or seven passengers. But if you go Overtrail, Lexus assumes you’re not the big family type and would rather have the space for packing adventure gear, so it’s the only trim that is five-passenger only.

As rugged as it looks outside, it still feels plenty luxurious inside, and is highly functional too.

While the double-wishbone front and rear multi-link suspension of this Overtrail is clearly off-road inspired, it held up well enough in our Mason Dixon Dragway handling course. Slow and steady definitely won the race here, as the GX felt big and heavy, with notable weight shifting on transitions through the cones, and light steering. Stability systems were eager to kick in well before things could get out of sorts.

Buyers can add Lexus’ Adaptive Variable Suspension for smoothing things out on the highways without sacrificing off-road capabilities. It launched quite aggressively off the line in acceleration runs; again, sturdy and truck-like, with all four wheels biting into the pavement and propelling us forward harder than we were expecting, hitting 60 in 6.5 seconds.

2024 Lexus GX550 Dashboard
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2024 Lexus GX550 Infotainment
2024 Lexus GX550 Shifter
2024 Lexus GX550 Front Seat
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Lots of grip and no drama, as this turbo-six puts plenty of power down instantly. It sounds good too; powerful, with a nice throaty exhaust note that was more of a V8 rumble than V6 trumpet. Quarter-mile completed in 14.9-seconds at 94 mph.

Braking runs were a little inconsistent, with the off-road tires seemingly gripping and pulling us in different directions. But stops averaged a great 114-feet from 60 mph, so we’ll accept the slightly unsettled feel.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 15-City, 21-Highway, and 17-Combined; we averaged a respectable 20.1 mpg of Premium. But it garners a worse than average Energy Impact Score of 17.5-barrels of yearly oil use, with 8.3-tons of CO2 emissions.

Pricing starts with Premium grade at $64,250, ranging to Luxury at $77,250, with Overtrail in between at $69,250. All trims can be plus sized for additional features.

The 2024 Lexus GX550 is clearly not just another luxury saturated soft-roader. It’s a real deal Land Cruiser with a Lexus moniker, and this Overtrail is the most off-road capable Lexus ever. That not only makes it appealing to traditional Lexus buyers, but to a whole “range” of new conquests as well.

Specifications

  • Engine: 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic
  • Horsepower: 349
  • Torque: 479 lb-ft
  • EPA: 15 City | 21 Highway | 17 Combined
  • 0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.9 seconds at 94 mph
  • 60-0 Braking (avg): 114 feet
  • MW Fuel Economy: 20.1 mpg (Premium)
  • Max Tow Rating: 9,096-lbs