Sunday, March 30, 2014

2 Day Volt Review

My vacation did not start off so well...instead of being on a plane to Italy I am home frantically filling out a passport renewal form because of some rules/laws I was not aware of, and my travel agent didn't tell me about. Anyway, at least I am getting to enjoy the Volt for a few more days! I drove for 17km total and I spent about an hour configuring stuff inside the car. Here's a quick review:


The Volt is probably the smoothest car I have ever driven. Today's automatic transmissions are incredibly smooth and the gear changes are barely noticeable, but it's nothing like the smooth, linear acceleration of the Volt (or any electric car for that matter). The steering wheel weight varies with speed, or at least to me it seems lighter at low speeds, and a nice solid heaviness at higher speeds. It reminds me of the solid drive of my 2001 BMW 740i (that was hydraulic though so it was heavier). Precise, smooth and hefty.

As for noise, only under acceleration from a stop do you barely hear a tiny whine. After 2 seconds or so you just hear the road noise. I haven't been at highway speeds yet so I can't comment on wind noise.

The biggest change for me is the complete (and I mean COMPLETE) quietness when you come to a stop. There is no noise (except for the HVAC fan). When backing out of a driveway or my parents garage everyone around finds it cool, but also weird that the car is silent. I love it. I can imagine feeling more refreshed during my commute with the Volt.

I played with Sport mode and the throttle response is noticeably snappier. I also tried "L" and it provides smooth, regenerative braking. When in "D" mode, it really coasts like any other car (actually more than my Mazda3). I find the little animated leaf-ball is always happy with my acceleration, but not happy with my braking since I except the car to coast less than it does.

I agree with and fully understand what Volt owners have been saying for years. This car drives wonderfully!


I have the Premium package which includes the rear armrest, leather seats, dimming review mirror etc. My wife won the battle for the trim color: dark grey. I think the interior is beautiful! The quality of 99% of the panels is top notch (soft touch), the look is clean, the fit-and-finish is perfect and the style looks fresh and modern.

The touchscreen resolution is great too and easy on the eyes. It is not a Retina display, however the graphics are smooth and it responds quickly to commands. It is highly configurable, and I really like the fact that I can move icons around so that the Home page has the features I will use most often.
The seats are very supportive and comfortable, although the lack of lumbar support might be an issue for some. The seats are 100% manually adjusted (i.e. not electric) which is disappointing for a car in this price  range. I know it is to "save on battery power",  however it will become annoying re-adjusting the seats when my wife wants to drive it. I LOVE the look of the rear bucket seats though. Everyone that has seen the car agrees that the back seats look fantastic.

I chose the upgraded Bose sound system with Navigation and after configuring the bass/mid/treble for each source, I think it sounds fantastic and worth every penny as an upgrade! The bass is smooth but not head-shaking, the clarity is excellent and it just plain sounds great to me! I got a free "Encore" CD from the car dealer and the Jazz tunes sound great.

I was in the passenger seat when I configured everything. I noticed that the car did not "swoosh" when I entered the car and thought it was strange. When my father sat on the driver's seat, he got the "swoosh" introduction. Looks like the Volt only cares about drivers hehe.

I am getting used to the touch-sensitive center stack and it works quite well. As it is now, I do not feel it is gimmick like some people believe. It is very functional, and it looks great lit up.

Currently on a full charge it shows a range of 50km. Apparently this estimation is based on previous driving so I need to "undo" how the service guys were driving the car. I am expecting at least 60km range in the summer (people get closer to 70+). 50km is almost 3 full days of commute for me if I do not use any HVAC so that alone is fantastic. 70km and I can almost do a full workweek without charging! CRAZY! Once I am able to charge at work this car will cost me about $4 per month of electricity for my work commute (instead of the current $150)! I did not get the Volt to save money (you would buy a $2000 car for that) but this is a serious amount  savings.

Anyway, 2 days in and I love everything about the Volt! I hear this awesome feeling lasts forever with the Volt and I definitely believe it now!

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Volt is home!!!!

I picked up the Volt today, March 28, 2014. The day before my birthday!!! I had another issue with the dealer (they did not charge the Volt, or fill the gas tank). They filled the tank and I squeezed about 1.5 hours of charging while I was there. I only drove the car a few km to some colleagues and to store it at my parent's house (while I leave for vacation). But I never drove a car so solid, so smooth and so quiet! It just feels this is the way a car is supposed to feel.The regenerative braking (when on "D") is completely invisible. You can coast forever. The regenerative braking in "L" is certainly more aggressive, but less than your typical engine braking when downshifting in a manual transmission. I'm sure it's works well in traffic. I did not play with the heating much, but putting it on "Comfort", 23 degrees and Auto means full cabin heat in virtually no time at all. The heated seats warm up very quickly as well. I like the driver information center, and the icon that displays instantaneous kW usage. You can see home much more the HVAC takes when you blast the fan, heat and defrost. The low rolling resistance tires are the only thing you hear when driving. Only on acceleration do you here an extremely subtle whine, almost like a turbo charger whine, but we are talking barely audible. When you come to a complete stop and it is completely silent, and I mean COMPLETELY silent (when HVAC is off), it just feels so serene. Honestly it feels freakin' weird, but in a super cool, "this is amazing" kind of way. I will write more, but for now here is cellphone picture. I totally understand the love and passion of Volt owners.

By the way, the Corvettes in the background are not driven in the snow, we just moved them out of the way to get the Volt in my parent's garage (the vettes will stay under a car port cover)! They are both 1971's that my brother, father and I restored. We love Chevy...does it show? Honestly, I am a car fan, not just a Chevy fan. But Chevy does make cool cars!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Issue with Volt delivery! Not a good start...but a good ending!

So my anticipation burst into a million fragments of pain when I went to pick up my Volt yesterday. My salesrep told me to go setup OnStar, my seat settings etc. while he finished with another client. With keys in hand, my wife, brother and I went to see the Volt. Honestly, it is freakin' beautiful. It looks great in black and I am really happy to also have the polished wheels (I did not order them on the original Volt). They go perfectly with the black paint and they are not a tacky chrome. We sat in the Volt and immediately we all agreed that the bucket seats are incredibly comfortable. Missing a 5th seat could be a turn-off for some customers, however having 2 bucket seats in the rear looks really sharp. Anyway, I proceeded to configure OnStar, which involved speaking with an advisor and getting a quick tutorial on how to use the system. The whole process took about 5-7 minutes but was a great experience. The advisor even uploaded the coordinates of my home to the Volt's navigation system! That's a slick way to end the call! However I noticed I could not remote start the car. My gut told me something was wrong. I played with a few settings and configured some features like Bluetooth. The optional Bose sounds great, and the bass is pretty smooth. It is much better than I thought it would be after reading some online posts.

My salesrep came to give me some training on the car, even though I read the owner's manual twice. He tried remote starting the car and it didn't work. I then started the car and.....the check-engine-light stayed on. It was then that I did not feel so good anymore. The salesrep was genuinely disappointed that this happened. The Volt/OnStar emailed me a diagnostic report and said there was an issue with the Lithion-Ion batteries in the Voltec system. Wow this is not a good start. We went back to the salesrep's office and I, remaining totally professional, said that this was not a good start. I did not sign any papers and will not until we diagnosed the problem. Today the dealer called me and said the issue was a defective coolant pump. The Director called GM Canada and they gave me a few options:

  1. I could wait for the car I originally ordered. This means I would lose the optional mags, possibly the $250 gas credit and the interest rates could change. But I would get a brand new Volt without 472km. The car would arrive in mid-May barring any more delays. 
  2. Take the current car, but with a full GM Canada bumper to bumper warranty of 5 years, 60000km (this is $2100 here in Montreal!)
  3. Pay the difference if I want a longer warranty (ex. 7 year warranty with 80000km and $100 deductible is about $510 more than the 5 year warranty
Now we are talking about a full GM bumper-to-bumper warranty. I.e. They are extending the full 3 year warranty to 5 or 7 years. My wife really wanted to wait for the new Volt. I polled some friends and and colleagues and they all would jump on the extended warranties. I haven't decided which warranty to go for but I managed to convince my wife that having these super long extended warranties would provide incredible peace of mind. I will let you know what I decide. By the way the new coolant pump means a delay of 1-2 days before getting the Volt.

Back to reviewing the short experience with the Volt. I honestly find that in person, the center console is much LESS busier than it looks in pictures. The layout is pretty logical (HVAC controls are along the upper portion in an upsidedown "U", the radio controls are in the center with Navigation controls below). The touchscreen LCD resolution is great and it responds surprisingly fast to touch-inputs. The navigation screen looked crazy busy but I am used to a very old Garmin GPS so I believe all that information will be easier to parse as I get used to it. I found myself using the knob for some menus, and the touchscreen for others. Setting up my lowly iPhone4 and Bluetooth could not have been easier or smoother. Within seconds my contacts were stored in the Volt. The steering wheel has lots of buttons to control the cruise control, the lane departure warning system, the collision avoidance system and the radio/voice commands/phone. The heated seats warmed up incredibly fast! The touchsensitive center console worked perfectly when you I eventually used it properly. I kept hitting the little guide indentations instead of the area above the guides. 

Getting the seat adjusted is straightfoward, and having a tilt/telescopic steering is always a nice bonus. The cabin feels nicely finished, solid and definitely more upscale than your average Chevy. The leather seats look fantastic! As for the driver information center, it also has a good resolution LCD and I especially like the option of choosing how much or little information you want to see. 

On a cool note, to support OnStar means the Volt has a cellphone built in (it comes with its own phone number!). If I forget my cellphone. I can literally be reached by dialing the Volt's cell number. As a computer engineer, I find this way too cool! I ordered 60 minutes of talk time for $9 (after Quebec's 15% sales tax). I could have ordered 300 minutes for 14.99 (plus tax) but I honestly will never use the 60 minutes unless it is for fun. Apparently the 2014 Volts can read back text messages from your smartphone and even respond with generic answers. Insane! 

Anyway, allllll this to say that the Volt is really well though out. I was truly devastated yesterday with the whole CEL issue but I like the options provided by Hamel. It shows they are confident in the car and that GM Canada stands by their product. Let's face it, if the Volt ends up being perfectly reliable for the next 7 years then everybody wins. No costs for the dealer to handle warranty requests, and no frustration on my part to deal with problems. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Picking up the Volt tomorrow (Tuesday March, 25)!

I went to the Chevy dealer to finalize price details, new promotions and to see the car! It has 473km on it, and it is 100% perfectly brand new. I looked it over inside and out. Smells new! The polished wheels are thankfully not as shiny as I thought they would be. In terms of promotion/deals, they were thrown at me left and right! Here's the list:

  • Conquest rebate of $750 for having a Mazda but buying a Chevy
  • The 40cent/800litre gas card actually became a $250 cash downpayment instead. I prefer this instead of the card since I will never put 800 litres in the Volt in 1 year. 
  • Free oil changes for 2 years but really only 1 change for the Volt
  • $8000 government instant rebate
  • Schneider Electric GM Supplier discount (dealer cost +1%). Thanks =SE= !!! 
  • Finance interest rate for the Volt is 2.99%. Much better than the original 4.99% but not the 0% for select GM cars. I won't complain! This car ended up being $15 per biweekly payment cheaper than the one I ordered in December. That translates to $1560 of savings in 4 years!
  • The warranty will extend to 60480km.
This does not include the $1000 government rebate for buying/installing a home charging station. I will have it installed next month at my parents' house for sure. The dealer offered extended warranties and I was tempted but they are more expensive than in the U.S. and must start right away.
I usually feel a little exhaust from the day's work by now but not tonight! It will be a looong night. I will take pics of the car tomorrow (should be home by 7:30pm).

I also want to thank Hamel Chevrolet and my representative for an excellent, no-pressure, no-hassle experience! I think the positive experience was mutual since I knew exactly what I wanted, and therefore was one of the easier clients to deal with. I walked in, met with the representative, ordered what I wanted and left. Expect some pictures tomorrow! Can't wait!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quick update about the Volt arriving next week

My Chevy rep called me and said they should receive the car next Monday or Tuesday. I have an appointment with my rep on Monday at 1:00pm to finalize details. The only thing that is bothering me a bit is that the Volt has 500km on the speedometer. The warranty will be adjusted to 60500km so it is still brand new. Baah it's a small price to pay considering I am getting the optional ($695 + tax) mags and getting the car 2 months sooner. I thought about the promotions (gas card of 40 cent rebate per litre up to 800 litres) and the free oil changes. In total it will save me $400 or so. Hey, it's free money but they need stronger promotions for the Volt considering I will not use 800 litres of fuel in the Volt, and there will only be 1 oil change in 2 years! Ahhh marketing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Getting Volt next week!!!

I got a call from my Chevy dealer and the bad news is the Volt I ordered was delayed until the end of April! The good news is another Chevy dealer had already ordered a Volt with the exact same features and colors, with the addition of the chrome mags. I can get that Volt, with the current lower interest rate (2.99%), a gas card that saves 40 cents per litre of gas (up to 800 litres) and free oil changes for 2 years (i.e. 1 oil change for the Volt) for less than my original quote! The original interest rate for a 4 year loan was 4.99% so the savings are definitely noticeable! I should get my Volt next week (possible Monday)! This is beyond exciting! I can't wait!!!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Range/fuel consumption in colder weather

I asked a simple question on regarding the Volt's range/fuel economy in very cold winter weather, and under normal driving conditions. There are lots of ways to cheat the system (ex. replacing the Volt's outdoor temperature sensor to avoid ERDTT) but I just wanted to know how the Volt handles a properly heated cabin (i.e. Comfortable) and no hypermiling. Apparently it handles things really well, with battery power allowing 30+ Km while on winter tires and heavier steel wheels. This is perfect for me since my commute is 8km each way and I will have a charging station (Schneider Electric of course :) ) at our new site. I am glad that even without charging I can do a full commute in pure comfort. I just wish I had the Volt to confirm it!