The Chevy Volt: A Firsthand Review

Tuesday April 26, 2011
Posted at 08:17

Shawn Zurawski heads up Circle Public Relations, a PR firm we work with in Chicago. As indicated below, she had the opportunity to spend a week with the Chevy Volt. She was happy to share her experience with the car below. – Spark Energy Blog Editors

Chevrolet Volt firsthand reviewWhen Shawn Zurawski first learned that she would be participating in General Motors’ Ride and Drive Event in Chicago, she was excited about the opportunity to drive a new car around the Windy City for seven days in April. When she found out that GM was going to let her try out the all-new electric-powered Volt — while her friend was handed the keys to a Cadillac Escalade — she was a little disappointed. But a week later, when GM came to take the Volt back, she had a hard time saying goodbye.

“My husband and I are married to big vehicles,” said Zurawski, the head of a Chicago-based public relations firm and a mother of three who owns a minivan to haul the family and a full-size SUV to haul the family boat. “But we really liked the Volt. It was great. And after a week of driving it, we realized that a compact car could really work for us.”

The best part, according to Zurawski, was driving past gas stations without giving them a second thought. “The Volt was great for zipping around town, which we could do on a single charge,” she said. “We never once had to worry about buying gas,” which she said hovered around $4.15 a gallon in Chicago last week.

Closeup of Chevy Volt logo

How it’s Charged

Zurawski was skeptical when GM first dropped off her shiny red Volt. After all, it was small, electric, had a lot of new technology, and she wasn’t really sure how it worked or how it was charged. After a short tutorial by GM, however, she realized just how easy it would be to operate the Volt.

“It’s pretty simple,” Zurawski said. “The Volt comes with this device that looks like a power tool with a long extension cord. All you do is plug one end of the charger into the car and the other end into a normal 120-volt outlet. When we were done for the day, we just parked the car in our driveway and plugged it into the regular electric outlet on our front porch. The Volt had a full charge by morning.”

“If you have a 240-volt outlet and get the 240-volt charger from Chevy, you can charge the Volt in about four hours, but we found that charging overnight worked fine,” she added.

Despite forgetting to charge the car the first night they had it — which meant the Volt had to run on gas the following day — the Volt worked perfectly. Zurawski said her husband Mark drove the car every day to and from the hospital where he works. When he got home, Zurawski took the car to pick up her three children, who attend three different schools. In all, she said her family probably averaged between 30 and 40 miles a day in the Volt.

Chevy Volt dashboard display

“Like a Video Game”

“The kids loved it,” she said. “The interior of the Volt is like a video game, with lots of digital graphics, touch panels and noises like video games make. The kids also got a big kick out of OnStar; we made phone calls from it all the time. They’re very disappointed the Volt’s gone.”

The Volt’s digital environment wasn’t just all fun and games, though. Zurawski said that the feedback provided by the information center helped her change her driving habits.

“The best way I can describe the dashboard’s information center is that it’s like a Wii Fit,” Zurawski said. “There’s this very graphic, digital display with a green ball that you try to keep in the center during acceleration and braking in order to maximize your mileage. If the ball is too high or two low, then you know you’re either accelerating or braking too fast or two slow and it makes you want to modify your driving behavior to keep that green ball in the middle.”

“The information center is a real eye-opener,” she said.

In the end, Zurawski and her family were impressed by Motor Trend’s Car of the Year and were sad to see it go. But it was a neighbor’s commentary that perhaps best described what GM engineers were able to accomplish with the Volt. When the car first arrived, Zurawski’s grandmother showed it to her neighbor, Lois. “I’m 85 years old,” Lois said, “and I never thought I’d live to see the day they made an electric car.”

“They did it,” Lois said. “They actually did it.”

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