On The Road

Getting a charge out of the new Bolt

With so many new high-performance, all-electric cars on the market, it’s understandable that auto journalists may not place the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt high on their list of electric vehicles to test-drive.

We approach it like the kale salad that we should eat for lunch when we’d rather have another helping of the shrimp or a third chocolate chip cookie.

After driving the Bolt, however, we realized that it has a lot more appeal than that kale salad. We were surprised by how enjoyable the new General Motors EV is to drive.

During the Western Automotive Journalist Media Days in Monterey recently, regional automotive journalists drove a succession of new cars – including the Bolt – from Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in a loop that included the always-interesting Laureles Grade.

We discovered that the massive lithium-ion battery pack under the floor of the Bolt does more than enable it to go more than an astounding 230 miles between charges – it also stabilizes the car in fast turns. Coupled with the acceleration of the best-in-class instant-torque 150kw (200 horsepower) electric motor and smooth steering and brake response, the Bolt becomes the first practical sports compact of the EV class.

What we drove: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt all-electric five-door compact car, with seating for four adults, 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space and an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 238-mile range. Price as tested for the preferred Premier edition (including roof rails, leather trim and wide range of electronic options) is $43,000, but the three-year lease packages in California should total approximately $350 per month.

What we liked: The two to three days of driving range without recharging; the practical design with lots of visibility and interior space; the electronic rearview mirror that provides visibility to the rear even with the backseats folded down and the car stacked to the ceiling with cargo; and the six-speaker Bose audio system that makes the playlists on your smartphone sound great.

What we would change: The interior looks like you’d expect in what is essentially a cellphone on wheels – there’s a big screen (front windshield) and lots of hard plastic in bright colors, though the seats are comfortable and supportive. There is no built-in navigation system, but the Bolt pairs easily with Android or Apple smartphones to use online map systems.

Where this car is going: Near-term, the Bolt begs the question, “Why are people still waiting for the Tesla 3 when GM has just introduced this car?” Longer term, we can see millennials borrowing one of these cars from a check-out rack on a nearby street corner to run errands for a day and never bothering to buy a car of their own.

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