Test Drive Notes Library
- Pretty much eliminates range anxiety. The Rubicon has been crossed. Range is well over 200 miles on a charge. Very few people commute 200 miles a day. Even five days a week, that would be 50,000 miles a year! So, even if you can’t plug in at work, or in the parking lot of Quinoa R Us, you’d still be hard pressed to run out of battery power in the Bolt. Even without only a 240 volt outlet (like you use for your clothes dryer), you can fully recharge the Bolt overnight in your driveway. It’s a no-worries, fully-electric experience. Welcome to the intermediate future.
- Price. After the federal rebate, you’ll probably pay mid-30s for a well-equipped Bolt, with most of the up-to-date safety features you want. Blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert are standard on the highest trim (“Premier.”) If you opt for the Premier trim, you can then order the $500 Driver Confidence II Package, which includes forward collision warning and city-speed automatic emergency braking. Unfortunately, high speed automatic emergency braking is not available yet. Overall, the Bolt's not economy-car cheap. Before the $7,500 Federal Tax Rebate, our loaded tester lists for about $43,500. But it’s a reasonably well-equipped car and a game changer in terms of ease of electric ownership, and it seems fairly priced.
- Bigger inside than it appears on the outside. Because the battery is in the floor, the Bolt doesn’t need a large engine bay. So that space is given over to the passengers. The Bolt looks pretty compact when you walk up to it, but open the door and get in and it feels plenty spacious for four adults, maybe even five, considering the floor is completely flat. With it’s huge windshield, it also feels light and airy. And it’s easy to see out of, even without the Premier package’s surround view rear camera.
- Slightly higher ride height. It’s not quite a crossover, but it’s taller than a sedan. And people seem to like being higher up these days. It makes ingress and egress very easy, and gives you an elevated view of the road.
- Easy to drive smoothly. There’s plenty of power, but you can modulate the electric pedal easily, without the sudden jerky torque you feel in some electrics. You have the option of switching to “one pedal” driving—otherwise known as “golf cart driving,” where the car engages heavy regenerative braking the moment you lift off the accelerator pedal. We never quite got used to it, and left the car in normal “coast” mode. But one-pedal driving was useful in places where you’re constantly on and off the gas and brake…like on the ramp of a parking structure.
- Great turning radius. We’ll also attribute this to the electric architecture, too, as GM front wheel drive gasoline cars are notorious for huge turning circles. The Bolt can pull a u-ey almost anywhere.
- Comfortable around town. The suspension is soft, and the center of gravity low, making the Bolt comfortable and easy to maneuver. And it’s available with such butt pampering devices as heated front and rear seats, heated outside mirrors, automatic high beams, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, rear USB ports, and a Bose sounds system.
- Volume control on the back of the steering wheel, where we love it. It’s perfectly placed there, where your fingers are already resting when you’re holding the wheel. Mini and Fiat Chrysler do it that way. We’re happy to welcome other converts.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Vicious reflection on the windshield from the dashboard. The windshield is large, which is great. But when your Bolt comes with the light colored dashboard plastic, you get a terrible reflection on the windshield when the sun shines. If you live in Portland, or in an underground bunker, don’t worry about it. But if you live where the sun ever shines, for the sake of all that is holy, get the dark dashboard. With the light gray dashboard, it’s like looking through a haze at the road all the time. It’s dangerous, and they really shouldn’t even off that as an option.
- Shifter is finicky. Chevy has gone all Prius on us, and made it hard to find Reverse. Everybody wants their shifter to stand out these days, but you know what a shifter really needs to do? It needs to be intuitive. So when you’re making a three point U-turn, you don’t futz with the shifter trying to find Reverse while a UPS truck is bearing down on you.
- Floaty on the highway. The Bolt is tuned for comfort, which serves it well in town. Out on the highway, if you hit a bump, prepare to float up and down. It seems like it should handle better, given the low center of gravity, but it’s no sports car.
- A friend of Car Talk who owns one says the wheels can break loose pretty easily. This is not a guy who does donuts—although he admits to playing around with Sport Mode. It may be due to the low rolling resistance tires that improve fuel economy, or the suspension tuning. Caution is called for, especially in wet weather.
- It’s still harder to take long road trips in the Bolt than it is in a gasoline vehicle. It IS easier than it used to be. The Bolt should make it from Boston to NYC, for example, on one charge. And longer trips will probably get easier over time with fast charge stations. But it’s not as quick or as ubiquitous as filling a tank with gasoline. So if you really want to drive from Akron to Ames, you’ll still have to rent a car. Or plan to stop at the Museum of Corn and use their outlet while your inspecting the historic kernels.
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