Test drove a ’16 Chevy Volt


Sorry about the stock pic.  Only got 1 blurry photo as it left.

I’m a gearhead, so the Volt has been super-interesting from the start to me.    I know all about plugin hybrids, GM electric cars etc.  So as I warmed the GM drop off person, I had a pretty good info about what was sitting in front of my house.  I knew more about it than he did.  At one point I had waited a year for the VIA motors Volt like van conversion and then just gave up and bought one of the last Ford e350 v10 vans before it was retired.

GM emailed me and asked if I wanted to test drive.  They bring it to your house.  All you gotta do is be there!  I am considering trading in my fragile and inefficient (but pretty, roomy and fast) 13 GMC Terrain for it.

The first thing I did was look for the Onstar unit.  It was not obviously over the passenger footwell like the outgoing model.  It may still be there as the fit and finish is very good so it’s hard to catch a glimpse of the guts behind the dash.

My son sat in the back.  His job was to report on the urge to puke.  Pleased to report the puke level was 0!

It’s a secret hatchback (it’s really subtle from the outside.) and the storage is pretty close to a GM Terrain/Equinox!   The vast cargo area is impressive with the back seats folded down.  You can put some junk in that trunk.

I was pleasantly surprised.  First it has a ‘sport’ mode.  Man it’s pretty fast.  Not supercharged v8 fast, but kicks the snot out of econo cars fast for sure.  Off the line was smile inducing and passing on the parkway is just fine (barring the well equipt lunatic.)   Braking was small car good and skidpad (curved parkway entrance ramp at full throttle) was controlled and completely dusted the SUV behind me.

Even better was despite all this pedal mashing (mixed with heavy traffic) the range clicked off miles accurately.  No range was lost to my jackrabbit starts.  Impressive.

The car is both normal, pretty and sexy all at the same time.  It all depends on how long you stare at it.  Road presence is GREAT!  Nobody got pushy with me during the entire 30 minute test drive.  I got more respect than I get in my GMC!  Weird and I am at a loss to explain it as of yet.  I can’t believe every driver recognized it.  It’s just too normal looking, and we are moving to fast to be stared at.

The dash controls are nice.  Same GM functionality, but more nicely and plainly laid out.  I love the LED in a dial climate/radio controls.  Best of tactile feedback and clarity of interface.  The hood is cluttered but well laid out.  This car was designed with love.

I want it, I intended to buy it. I have the money.  But I can’t.

Hey GM, the 1990’s want’s their satellite phone company back.  That’s right Onstar is the problem.

I have completely physically disabled Onstar in my 13 Terrain.  I lost nav (which I paid for but sucked anyway)and GPS to do it.  The right compromise for me was to disconnect the GPS/Onstar antenna and bag the Onstar unit in a mylar bag.    I was under the mistaken impression Onstar in my 13 terrain was going to be an autonomous unit that could simply by physically pulled from the car (truck?)  More on that saga here.

Before the weak minds jump into the arms of jackassery and presumption, It’s not because I’m paranoid about someone listening into my conversations (which can happen).  It’s not because my driving data has monetary value and I wouldn’t be compensated (a suit worthy copyright violation IMO.)   It’s because I KNOW it’s just a matter of time before internet connected cars are hacked and used at weapons in a terrorist attack on American soil.  Someone thousands of miles away disabling or even remote controlling cars of unwitting Americans probably while they watch in horror from the ‘drivers’ seat.  It’s going to happen, I refuse to help enable that with tens of thousands of dollars.
Darpa study
More explanation

It’s not an unsolvable problem either.   I proudly set up the Sync system in my Ford to call 911 in case of an accident.  Why is that safer?  There is no permanent hardware cellphone connection in the truck.  A hacker has to exploit my personal cell phone in order to get to the truck.  That’s WAY less likely.   If it did happen, I just turn the phone off.  Poof.  Like magic, I regain control.  You CAN’T do that with an attached Onstar unit.  It’s receiver is always on.

I would love to help reduce dependence on oil, lower my bills, and give GM a pile of money to drive a pretty nice, super innovative car.  But until someone, anyone,  documents how to disable Onstar in a 16+ volt without disrupting the CAN bus, I can can’t take the chance.  GM NEEDS to make the transmitter circuitry definitively removable from the car, not so much for me, but so they can crawl just above the very lowest bar that guarantees instant termination for any IT professional should they sink below it.  A  kill switch.

Just know, if the electric car dies on the vine again, this time it was a suicide.

Worst photo ever!


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