Once a plug-in hybrid gets over 50 miles of range, can you call it an electric vehicle? Considering how you’ll burn down the Smart Electric Drive’s battery (68 miles) into the 50s with just a bit of highway driving, we say you can and should call any such plug-in an EV.
So we’ll refer to the 2016 Chevy Volt from here on out as an EV that has the benefits of a gasoline engine. The advantage is significant but, considering drivers will probably take 90% of their excursions on pure electric power, it ends up being more of a fallback for drivers of the next-gen Volt.
Improved battery power is not the only thing Chevrolet upgraded in the redesigned Volt, which is looking more and more like the ideal green car for the masses ahead of its late 2015 launch. Here are five ways the new model is better than the original plug-in pioneer.
1. Greater efficiency
If you are interested in a plug-in vehicle like the Volt, efficiency is undoubtedly a priority, and Chevy made sure the 2016 model delivered a big upgrade over its predecessor. Rated by the EPA at the equivalent of 106 miles per gallon on electricity and 42 miles per gallon combined on gasoline only, the 2016 model trumps the 98 miles per gallon and 37 miles per gallon ratings, respectively, of the original edition that landed in 2011.
2. More power
A Tesla it’s not, but the new Volt offers a power upgrade over the outgoing model that offered a puny 83 horsepower as the 1.4-liter engine’s peak output. For 2016, the 1.5-liter DOHC I-4 engine provides a maximum 101 horses. Combined with the electric motor, drivers will have a total of 149 horsepower and 294 pounds-feet of torque (up from 273 pounds-feet). That delivers enough power and pull to get the Volt to 60 miles from a standstill in 8.4 seconds — into the realm of respectability.
3. Curb appeal
How do you describe the outgoing Volt’s looks? In a word, “boring,” but the redesigned model got a major boost in the style department. There is only so much you can do with a small-to-midsize car predicated on efficiency, and for our taste Chevy did excellent work giving the 2016 model more personality. The new front fascia showcases a great deal more chrome, lending it a futuristic-gone-retro tone. Side profiles are more angular and attractive as well, signaling a departure from the GM boringness of the original. This Volt can sit parked next to a Civic without embarrassment and packs tons more curb appeal than Prius ever did.
4. Total range
Have you ever experienced range anxiety? If you’ve ever done something as ludicrous as driving a Focus Electric to multiple New York beaches in the same weekend, you understand what we mean. Get yourself a plug-in hybrid and you take that fear factor out of the equation. The outgoing model offered 38 miles on electric power and 380 miles total range, but the 2016 pushes the envelope much farther. Redesigned Volt specs include 53 miles electric and 420 miles of combined range. It’ll get you there and back. In fact, GM says it’ll take you 1,000 miles between fill-ups at the gas station.
5. The price
When the original Volt appeared, it had an MSRP of $41,000, which today seems shockingly high. GM has a much better strategy for pricing of the 2016 model, set to be released at $33,170. Not only is it affordable after the federal incentive ($7,500) and various state rebates, but the redesigned and improved edition is actually less expensive than the 2015 Volt ($34,170). That’s how you get people’s attention.
Our requests to get behind the wheel of a 2016 Volt have yet to be granted, so we can’t speak to the car’s real-world performance, but on paper there are many things to celebrate about this extended-range electric vehicle. We’ll keep you posted on how they play out on the road.