MILFORD, Mich.--It was brief, but my ride in a Chevy Volt was decidedly fun, even exciting.
On Tuesday, I visited the sprawling Milford Proving Grounds in southeastern Michigan, where General Motors vehicles have been put through the paces since the 1920s.
I was one of the lucky few who got the last ride of the day in a pre-production version of the Volt, which was "almost stolen" from the car's development team by Frank Weber, the global vehicle line executive for the Volt, to give journalists a taste of the upcoming plug-in electric sedan.
In addition to being a key figure in the Volt's development, Weber clearly has got a car engineer's love of driving. His high-speed tour around the track gave me a feel for the "driving experience" GM executives tout with the Volt, which is due late next year.
I was prepared for the zippy acceleration. Models will vary of course, but electric vehicles can boast great acceleration--the Tesla Roadster is faster off the line than many sports cars, for instance--and they deliver their full torque at all speeds.
What surprised me though was the handling. As Weber dipped around the couple turns we took, the car seemed to really stick to the road, and I didn't slide off my seat at all.
It makes sense that it felt like the car "hugged" the road. The large, 400-pound battery pack, which is positioned under the back seats, gives the Volt a low center of gravity, and the car has a good weight distribution, GM executives said.
During the drive, Weber--obviously enamored with its performance--said that you feel much closer to the electric car when you drive because of the responsive acceleration. "It's more like flying than driving a vehicle," he said. And, of course, the ride was very quiet as the car was running on batteries.
I've never taken a Lamborghini or Ferrari around a test track, but I can say the Volt's acceleration and handling are noticeably sportier than sedans like the Prius or the alternative fuel SUVs I also drove at Milford.
Watching the video, you can get a feel for how Weber showed off the Volt's acceleration and, on the last turn, the handling.
Under construction Earlier in the day, I took a tour of GM's pre-production facility at its Tech Center in Warren, Mich., where I gained a bit more insight into the interplay between the Volt's two power sources--its batteries and the internal combustion engine. … Read more