Warning: This is a long post. The first part of this post, is a story. The lower part of this post is initial ownership impressions and my views and opinions of the car.
Today I finally had the time, after a few weeks of chaos at home, to write about the new Vehicle of Disdain. Though funny enough, disdain is something I feel anything BUT, for this car.
Some of you remember I traded out my Elantra GT N-Line last month, due primarily to the fact that I was paying the lease on a car I rarely drive, on a car I don't plan to buy out.
Without further ado, I present to Oppo... the new ride!
For months, I suffered over overthinking, obsessing, searching, and mental gymnastics to figure out what I really wanted. The N-Line was a vehicle that, while enjoyable most of the time, was the wrong vehicle at the wrong time. I didn't hate it, but I never bonded with it, and FWD performance is something I'm not really interested in these days. Top it off with the fact that I don't really get to drive it and used car values/offers being inflated (Carvana) meant I could get out of my lease with very little out-of-pocket. In other words: I had a rare window of opportunity to get out of my lease barely halfway into it.
For the longest time, I had my heart set on a CX-5 GTR, brand new off the lot on a loan, to be the "forever" car. Until looking at my personal finances told me that perhaps this wasn't the best idea. After all, just because you "can" afford something doesn't mean you "should". I am embarking on an IT career shift, having recently been accepted into a Mentorship program at work as well, and this career shift will result in an entry level position in Cloud Engineering that has a starting pay of what I make currently. In addition to that, it opens up my job prospects for 100% Work From Home jobs, immensely (my current tech support career path doesn't really lend to 100% WFH).
My partner, along with agreeing with a less expensive used car, also "approved" of me getting a project car if I so wished. But this makes no sense right now, financial or otherwise. I don't have the space. I don't have the tools. We don't have a garage. We're trying to save money. A project car doesn't compliment a "save money" ethos. I could have cut the difference with a used car that had tuning potential; I took serious looks at vehicles that depreciated hard but had good value. A CTS 2.0T being one of them. But again, that falls into the Money Trap. I want to save money, not burn it all on trying to keep up a modded daily no matter how little I drive it (also, if I drive so little, I can't really full enjoy it either).
Depending on how things go, we plan to leave California when the stars line up. Though we will miss the weather and the friends we made here, terribly. But retirement isn't possible, and a decent standard of living isn't tenable. A lower CoL is necessary to realize the sort of adult dreams we have. Or at least, the best we can eke out of it with us both now being in our 40s and not having much of a 401K to speak of due to living mostly in poverty for the last 10+ years. Time is ticking.
When we live somewhere cheaper, I can better afford a nicer DD, or a project car, but really... both. So I'll bide my time until appropriate.
All that to say, I started looking into plug-in hybrids. Niro/Ioniq PHEV, Clarity PHEV, and a few others. But they were all too ugly, too slow, or their hybrid systems were not as smooth. The Leaf was instantly disqualified due in large part, to the battery only having air cooling. Making battery temperature maintenance awful (the Volt will keep the battery conditioned when plugged in, and is actively cooled and heated via it's own coolant loop). I recalled my days working a Summer job some years ago, test driving pre-production GM vehicles; I've driven still about half of what The General has currently for sale. I remember once saying to myself that I would actually spend my own money on an ATS 2.0T AWD coupe (I still probably would) as it was one of my favorite cars of the bunch, and was a much more visibility-friendly alternative to it's Alpha platform cousin, Camaro. Swathes of Piano Black, and CUE, be damned. I've put no less than 60 hours of seat time into the gen2 Volt, and I recalled liking it.
I popped into the local CarMax and test drive one. Yep. Still liked it.
There was a bit of a misadventure with CarMax. One of my initial reasons for purchasing through them, was the 7 Day Money-Back Guarantee (since extended to 30 days), in case the vehicle had a problem but more importantly, in case I ended up not liking it. I had such a difficult time wrestling with my "wrong" decision on my Hyundai, that I strongly feared making the mistake again.
Well as it turned out, it took over 2 weeks to bring it up from SoCal, communication with CarMax was simply AWFUL, and when it FINALLY made it here and the salesmonkey deigned to even contact me about it, they mentioned it was now sitting at the Chevy dealer to take care of a check engine light.
I was furious. I eviscerated them, in text, and imediately went on a local search where I found a beautiful Cajun Red Tintcoat 2018 Volt Premier; a year newer with half the miles, dealer certified, for the same price as CarMax (I was willing to give up the return policy at this point, considering how much more car I was going to get for the money). One owner, fleet lease, 23K miles, all for just under $18K. The only thing it didn't have that the CarMax Volt had, was the apparently-uncommon Adaptive Cruise Control package which included Active LKAS (versus passive). I didn't care. I barely get to use the ACC in our Hyundai(s) anyhow, active LKAS/Lane Centering is take it or leave it, and it was the only option this car didn't have.
Unlike CarMax, it only took me 3 entire days to go from initial inquiry, to driving it home. It had just hit their lot, not even photos up yet. The salesperson was nice enough to take a thorough video of it before it went in for prep , inspection, and detail. It was in better shape than the CarMax car too with the added bonus of already having tinted windows (I would later discover the numerous scratches this car has, but most will buff out and a paint correction was already planned). I did the vast majority of the paperwork from home. I went in, scooted through their required sales pitches and FI Manager dance, test drove the car, and was out of there in just over 1.5 hours; probably the quickest car purchase EVER, in my life. And I was thankful.
The best part of the purchase was linking OnStar/MyChevrolet to the car, and discovering one of the most important statistics that, strangely, you can only find out with these cars when connected with the MyChevrolet APP and NOT in the car's Infotainment: Electric Miles and ICE Miles.
The car had 15,000 all-electric miles. That's right, the ICE only ran for -5,000- of those miles. It was always plugged in. Meaning it was likely garage kept (and the paint shows). Nice!
Initial Impressions and First Few Weeks of Ownership Experience:
The drive? Well, hey.... dem electrons, tho.
This vehicle, I will say, is probably nearly the exact opposite of what I would normally aspire to, much less purchase. It's NOT fast. The interior, while decent, is NOT luxurious. It's not RWD. It handles well enough due to lower center of gravity of the battery, but in the turns, it feels like a hippopotamus on ice skates (tires). It has a beam axle. It can't be modified. It's a[n extended range electric vehicle] Hybrid. In terms of colors, I bought it in red which, while I like it a lot, blue is my preference.
Many reviews on the web regarding this car, but the basic stats are this: The vehicle is first and foremost, driven by the electric motors. It has a combined 149 HP and 297 TQ to push a 3,600lb compact vehicle. With the exception of low-rolling resistance (read: no grip) tires, the 0-30 on this car can't be beat. You get the jump on someone, and you're off until they catch up and run right by. A 7.5 second 0-60 is only a second slower than my N-Line, and is more than sufficient. But more importantly, it's MARKEDLY faster than any other affordable, mainstream PHEV currently out there. Response is IMMEDIATE. There's no spool, no shifting, no waiting. The pedal is pushed, it moves. End of story. It's relatively quiet, the vehicle in general is relatively quiet, and the heft of the battery makes it feel planted and solid. I like it.
Rear visbility sucks due to the hatch being so high up. I don't care. It ends up blocking out a lot of SUV headlights as a result, and I consider that a net-positive. No more do I feel the same weight of trucks stopped behind me, in my Hyundai, looking like they are practically perched upon my rear bumper. And with the added weight of the battery, a collision with a truck won't send me careening too far, if hit. The car, aside from the "acceptable" rear view camera with movable guide lines and pedestrian/cross traffic alert (no worse than the rearview cam in the Hyundai) also has front and rear ultrasonic parking sensors. They work decently. The front not nearly as good as the back.
The car also has parallel-park assist. It turns the wheel. You brake or give it throttle. I'm not the biggest fan of this method. I tried it once, and wrote it off as useless. I do a fairly decent job on my own anyhow.
But overall, driving the vehicle makes me smile. I feel calmer when I drive. It feels solid and cushiony enough that I can drive in a more relaxed manner. The immediacy of the electric motors, and the prodigious torque-from-0-revs it has, is satisfying and doesn't make me feel stressed about power. Only on the freeway do I wish for a little extra shove.
The interior, while nice enough, doesn't have the interior of a car originally nearly $40K brand new, and the back seat is criminally small. But a 5'6" slim friend of ours found it OK, and appreciated the rear heated seats. The front seats are flat but well-cushioned, the infotainment is snappy enough, and the Bose system has copious amounts of bass... until you turn it up past halfway and everything starts to fall apart (the bass is a bit boomy, generally, and it rolls the bass off as volume goes up). There's ways to correct this. The remote functions are an odd mix; unlike the Hyundai, you can't remotely set the HVAC. But you CAN see the tire pressures. You can remote start the car from the app or the keyfob; the keyfob remote start being something the Hyundai lacked. It has a WiFi hotspot, that I don't care about. There's way more to it, but, the interior to me is FINE.
The exterior, well, my favorite part of the Volt is the simple fact that it looks like a conventional LIFTBACK sedan (YES folks, it's a LIFTBACK!). I don't like odd-ass looking shit like the fucking Prius, and even the Clarity was borderline ugly to me. My partner is on the fence about the Volt's looks, but doesn't find it entirely ugly. I originally wanted blue but this Cajun Red Tintcoat is so NICE looking that I looked specifically for this relatively-uncommon color. And the 17" wheels are actually quite nice! The tires. Well, yeah 215.50.17s. But the wheels can accommodate up to 235.45.17s, which I will likely be throwing some Potenzas on this sometime in the Spring. I will take the 5-8% range hit, for better handling.
Over the next few months, I will be working on the paint with a friend of mine. I look forward to showing a photo of it reworked, AND I WILL post a photo of it next to my friend's Valencia Red PMC TLX.
The one thing I do NOT like, is all the chrome. It doesn't look bad on a RED car, but, I hate chrome and bling. Since purchasing the car, I already plasti-dipped the front.
First attempt went OK. It's not perfect. I know there's corrections to be made. I also dipped the rear Chevy badge, because I hate the GOLD bowtie.
I currently only have access to an outdoor 120v receptacle. An electrician is coming by this week to double check the circuitry and to possibly convert it to a 240v so I can charge at Level 2 (3.6kw max, 2019 for the 7.2kw the Bolt has). Right now, I can charge on the 12A setting just fine. From "flat" it does take about 12 hours to charge to full. There are on-board settings for time-of-day and you can set your rate schedule so it pauses charging during peak hours, and resumes at off-peak. Which I did program.
Having the OnStar subscription means I can check charge status in the app, and it also texts me when it finishes charging or charging is interrupted. I learned early on how the anti-theft works of the charger- if you try to unplug it without unlocking the car, about 3 seconds later the horn goes off.
Sorry neighbors! Scared the shit out of me, too!
Charging in public was easy. I tried a ChargePoint and EVgo charger. The ChargePoint was in better condition and was easier to use. Fees vary quite a bit depending on the vendor and location. Target offered free charging for the first 2 hours, then $2 per hour after. WholeFoods charged about 2c a minute. It varies.
It's a novel experience that will wear off and feel normal, soon. But what I think I'm going to enjoy for a long time to come, is the fact that I'll rarely ever visit a gas station. "Filling up" at home, fucking rocks.
Due to the regen ability, it's unlikely I'll need brakes before 100K miles... and will probably only need annual or bi-annual oil changes. Tires will probably need replacement due to dry-rot, before they hit miles. Warranty in California for the Voltec system components, is 8/100K so the battery is covered for about as long as I'll care about the cost of it. Due to depreciation and low anticipated maintenance, I will probably keep this car long after it is paid off.
Also: It felt good to just plug in, and sit in my car while my partner and our friend did shopping. It felt good to not burn gas doing nothing. It felt good to have a silent car with no NVH to speak of, because the motor wasn't doing any range extending. I didn't expect that feeling. Sure, the environmental effects I can appreciate but I didn't buy this car to save the planet (necessarily...). I bought it because it's economical, inexpensive to maintain and power, and dirt cheap for what you get.
Final Thoughts... For Now
For a post that's already overly long, I'll leave you with this: A PHEV is my gateway to future ownership of a Full EV. While we will have an ICE powered vehicle for some time to come (my partner still loves his 2018 Elantra GT Sport, and we DO plan to buy it out when the lease is up this Fall) I'm confident already at this point in time, that my N-Line was, and probably will BE, the last gas-powered DD I'll own. Especially when the field widens and there's more choice to be had outside a Tesla (Teslas don't interest me and I don't want one), and solid state batteries - and thus range and charging times - improve further. Instant torque and linear acceleration is addicting. Reduced complexity and maintenance needs is appealing. Driving what I consider to be "an overgrown R/C car" is novel and enjoyable to me. Silently creeping up on people, and then blaring my modified 128dB+ highway horns, is an evil little pleasure I'm working on implementing.
I will have my project cars on the side. This clears the way for importing my S15 Silvia, or my Pulsar GTi-R, or my coveted R33 GTR, and many others I crave. Because I'm saving money, and putting toward a better future.
Electric Feels. Feels good.