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First Drive (sort of): 2011 Chevy Volt

Posted: Apr 15, 2009 10:52 a.m.

The Chevy Volt feels "particularly muscular" up to about 30 mph, CNN reports, though its actual zero-to-sixty time is "about average for a modern car."

The network's Peter Valdes-Depena was given the chance to test drive a Chevy Volt test mule - an incomplete version of the production car.  This mule had components of the "Voltec" drivetrain that will power the Volt, worked into the body of the 2011 Chevy Cruze, the new small car GM hopes will battle the Honda Civic sometime in 2010.  Autoblog explains, "The vehicle looks nearly identical to the Cruze that will go on sale in the U.S. soon, but the powertrain is reportedly 80 percent Voltec. Reporters haven't yet gotten the true Volt driving experience, though, since, as CNN's Peter Valdes-Depena reports, the Cruze vehicles operate in EV-only mode."  The test drive did not include the chance to drive the Volt with its gasoline engine active.

CNN reports, "Under full electric power, which is how most owners will experience it most of the time, the Volt proved surprisingly potent."  Volt vehicle line director Tony Posawatz told CNN the electric drivetrain was tuned to offer "performance comparable to a 250-horsepower V6."  After the test drive, Valdes-Depena said, "That seemed about right."  The car's handling, however, was not yet ideal.  "The first time I drove the front wheel drive test vehicle into a turn, the weight came as a surprise. It felt almost like the small Cruze had turned into something more like a Cadillac the moment I turned the steering wheel," he reports.

The Volt's T-shaped battery pack, mounted down the center of the car, weighs nearly 400 pounds.  Engineers told Valdes-Depena that the suspension settings of the car had not been finalized, so handling could change.

Other media outlets are expected to test drive the Volt mule in coming weeks.  We'll bring updates as we get driving impressions from more sources.  In the meantime, General Motors has posted its own video of the CNN test drive on YouTube.

If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.