This past week I had the pleasure of testing out a new 2014 Chevy Volt four-door sedan. The Volt came in White Diamond Tricoat – a pearlescent white paint job, which is a very popular color for this model vehicle. The Volt is a version of the Chevrolet Cruze, but dressier with fancier mirrors, extra trim, and a substantial tail fin on the rear. And of the course the ground-breaking hybrid drive train.
The Volt I had possession of had a base price of $34,185.00, with premium interior trim ($1,395), rear camera/park assist ($575), navigation system ($895.00), frontal vision camera ($595.00), Bose premium speakers ($495), and the upgraded paint ($995). With freight and a cargo net, that brought the M.S.R.P. to $39,945.00. Such a price screams “pride” on the part of General Motors , but reportedly a federal tax credit of $7,500, along with a Colorado state tax credit of $6,000, serves to knock off a third of that sticker price.
Now that we have the purchase price back down to earth, let’s talk about driving the car. I took off for Denver to visit relatives last week, and the trip down there was 52 miles each way. Leaving town with a charged battery and full fuel tank, the computer said I obtained 46.5 miles per gallon, but my calculations came out better. The car ran on electricity alone for about 38 miles, and then imperceptibly moved to gasoline engine power. Actually, it was gas power generating electricity to power the front wheels. It was impressive. Coming back to Greeley, I bucked a wind and didn’t do as well on gas, 45.2 miles per gallon.
That premium trim package on the car included black and white leather seating (seats four), leather trimmed steering wheel, and heated buckets up front. I didn’t suffer discomfort driving the Volt; the ride is sumptuous. The car weighs about 3,800 lbs. with its big battery, and that gives it a luxury ride. Handling is great, as well. All the electronics were on board – backup camera, nav, Bluetooth, 30g audio storage, DVD rom, pushbutton/remote start, and Sirius XM radio. The dual 7” screens on the dash are dazzling, and the sound system is superb. To charge up the car, you use an extension cord that is about 20 ft. long and plug it into a 120v outlet for ten hours.
The gas engine is a 1.4 liter, 83 horsepower four, and the Voltec electric motor provides 149 horsepower and 173 lb. ft. of motoring torque. The alloy wheels are 17”, and are shod with 215/55R17 Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires. The warranty for the lithium-ion, 16 kWh, rechargeable battery is 100,000 miles or eight years.
My first car was a 1957 Chevy four-door BelAir, and I thought it was terrific in all respects. Back then I couldn’t have imagined a vehicle such as the Volt (or me at the wheel.) I must admit I would have thought it was a pretty neat deal.
This past week I was presented a new Chevy Equinox crossover to test. It was painted Tungsten metallic (dark bronze) with a light titanium and black leather interior. The combination resulted in a lot of compliments during the week, although personally I’m a fan of red, white or black vehicles.
Chevrolet was founded 100 years ago last fall and globally they sold nearly five million vehicles in 2011. The Equinox was brought out as a 2005 model and is classified as a mid-sized crossover. The 2013 model is considered a second generation Equinox, and features a new “high-feature LFX” 3.6 liter V-6 with 301 horsepower and 272 lb. ft. of torque. It replaces the old 3 liter V-6 without sacrificing fuel mileage and is rated at 16/23, city and highway. Zero to sixty acceleration with the new Equinox is reportedly 7.2 seconds in this all-wheel drive model. I liked the engine and its pep, and found the transmission (six speed automatic) to be OK.
The Equinox is a five-passenger vehicle with fold down rear seat (not quite flat), providing 63.7 cubic feet of cargo space in such a position. It also slides 8” fore and aft; great for kids. Put it up, and you cut the cargo space in half. It’s still adequate, though, and the power up and down tailgate is a luxury feature. So are the two-tone front leather buckets, which I think would keep the driver comfortable on a long trip. With the center stack slanted so far forward, I found the driver needed to lean forward to tweak the radio or navigation controls.
The Equinox carried an M.S.R.P. of $36,385, and that included $1,500 for V-6, $1,000 for the chrome-clad aluminum 18” wheels, $795 for the nav/MyLink system, and $825 for freight. The LTZ came standard with a luggage rack, fog lights, power seats-mirrors-windows-locks, tilt/telescope, rear camera and premium Pioneer stereo. Also on board were radar cruise control, lane departure warning system, Bluetooth, XM satellite radio, and a USB connector.
Wheelbase of the Equinox is 112.5”, width is 6’, height is 66.3”, weight is 3,889 lbs., and overall length is 15.5 feet. Ground clearance on this not-really-made-for-4-wheeling crossover is 6.9”.
Ruth and I took off up the Interstate to find some breakfast in the Chevy, and the guidance and ride were excellent. Road noise was not remarkable
and the hydraulic steering seemed to make the car light on its feet. Visibility is nothing special, but not an annoyance. Styling is a hallmark of most Chevrolets, and the Equinox is no exception. An improvement was the result of the 2009 re-design, and it and its sister, the GMC Terrain, make up a stylish tandem in this category. It allows General Motors to charge a little extra for this series of vehicles.
Sales of Chevrolet’s Equinox has always been brisk, approaching 200,000 units in 2011. After spending several miles and a week with the car, I can understand the public’s acceptance of the Chevy, and could see myself driving one on a daily basis.
Don McLean’s magnum opus (best work), “American Pie”, was written and performed in 1971, thereafter becoming the No. 1 U. S. hit and staying in that position for four weeks during 1972. When asked, years later, what “American Pie” means, McLean responded that it “means I never have to work again.” The song’s lyrics bring out McLean’s life story through the idealized 50’s and on to bleaker 60’s – and two deaths; Buddy Holly’s (1959) and America’s innocence (JFK assassination in 1963). Several deaths, more accurately, because Richie Valens and The Big Bopper died along with Holly, and John Kennedy’s brother Bobby was assassinated in 1968, as was Martin Luther King that same year. With the overhang of Viet Nam and the college campus unrest, even the glorious Apollo 14 moon landing in February of 1971 failed to lift America’s, or McLean’s, spirits.
“American Pie” contains lyrics that are dissected even to this day; lyrics such as “I can’t remember if I cried, when I read about his widowed bride, but something touched me deep inside, the day the music died”. He’s referring to, of course, Buddy Holly’s death on February 3rd, 1959, in a plane crash in Iowa. And that also accounts for the lyrics “but February made me shiver” in the first verse. Analysts are less certain, however, of what McLean meant by “the three men I admire most; the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost”. The three performers that perished on that plane? JFK, Bobby, and MLK?
One thing is certain, though, and it’s that “Drove my Chevy to the levee” is in every chorus, and that the levee (in the song) was dry in every instance. I was in Florida last week driving a 2013 Chevy (Malibu Eco) to the levee; several levees, in fact. They sure weren’t dry, as the Miami area received ten inches of rain in the two days I was driving around with my latest test car. Earthen levees protect Broward and Dade counties in South Florida from waters that come out of Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida, the seventh largest freshwater lake in America that serves as the headwaters to the Everglades. Approximately 1.5 billion gallons of fresh water ooze out of southwest Florida into the ocean each day – wouldn’t that be nice to have in Weld County?
I didn’t just drive the Chevy to the levee last week; I also attended two Marlins/Rockies games and drove the car to Everglades City on the Gulf of Mexico. The Chevy Malibu Eco proved to be quality transportation, and is the only 2013 Malibu currently for sale. Two more powerful four cylinder Malibu’s will be available in a few months, one with a turbocharger. The Eco is electrically assisted, with a 15 kilowatt motor-generator providing the assist. One might call it a “hybrid hybrid”, because the car cannot get by on electric power alone. Transition from electric power to gasoline (2.4 liter L4, 182hp with a six speed automatic) is not as smooth as a Chevy Volt, but this car is bigger than a Volt and much less expensive. Mine was metallic black with black leather interior and listed for $28,632.00, as equipped. Pretty much all luxury options were present, with the exception of navigation system (it has OnStar, though) and a moon roof.
Wheelbase is shorter than last year’s Malibu at 107.8”, but length is about the same at 191.5”. Mileage estimates are 25city/37highway, and the tank holds 15.8 gallons. The trunk is a battery-restricted 14.3 cu. ft., but I had no particular problems with my luggage. Ride and handling are suitable.
I had no quibbles with the styling of the 2008/2012 Chevy Malibu (I own one), but do not think this 2013 model suffered a setback in this department. It is a beautiful mid-size automobile, and provided a nice ride to the levee, even though the levee was very wet. The Marlins rained on the Rockies’ parade, as well, winning both contests.