torsion beam (rear)
The Chevrolet Volt has been called such disparate things as “the most technologically advanced car on the road today at any price” and “an utter, miserable failure.” Clearly, we had to get one for ourselves.
Actually, this purchase has been coming for a while. We’ve wanted to do a hybrid project for some time, and when we recently got a couple Volts in the press car rotation—and the lease rates dropped to a point we couldn’t resist—we pulled the trigger. “Flipped the switch” may be a more accurate metaphor.
We have a simple motivation for doing a hybrid project. At some point, enthusiasts need to ask, “Will the future suck?” As technology marches on, alternative drivetrains are an inevitability, not a novelty. And just like the periods following the advent of ABS, fuel injection, OBDs I through III and paddle shifters, there’s currently a strong sentiment out there that moving away from strict internal combustion may signal the death of fun times behind the wheel.
There are several hybrid and electric options to choose from on both the new and used markets right now. Why did we choose the Volt? First, we think it represents the current state of the art in alternative drivetrains. Now, the question of just how good that state of the art actually is still remains, but that’s all part of the exploration process. Second, we’ve simply never encountered a car that engenders such a reaction in people the way the Volt does. It’s a conversation piece, a political lightning rod and a giant question mark about the future of the automobile.
So this is as much a research project as a wrenching project. We intend to engage in some actual journalism and explore the Volt’s deeper significance in the motoring community. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be getting our hands dirty. This is a performance magazine, after all.
We understand that we’re not going to set any lap records in a 3800-pound golf cart, but we’d still like to know if there’s more fun and performance available than the factory has provided. Can we increase the fun-to-drive quotient of a car designed mainly with fuel economy in mind? Does the hybrid experience have to be sterile and soulless, or can these cars be enjoyed on more visceral level? Honestly, we don’t know, but we’re taking one for the team to find out. We’ve signed on the dotted line, and we’re ready to silently cruise into the future (or at least until our lease runs out) in our latest project car.
Look for installment to start in the print edition of Grassroots Motorsports shortly.
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