Team Hall & Nass Preview the All New 2011 Chevrolet Volt
By this point, it seems like everyone from Motor Trend to Bob’s House of Blogs has written something about the pre-production 2011 Chevrolet Volt. So what makes this piece any different? Well, if you know Team Hall & Nass, you know we never do what everyone else does. You are about to receive a three stage Volt blast, complete with pics and videos. Then, once you are all charged up (puns intended), we’ll hit you with a visual charge later this week that no one has brought to you … yet. Prepare to be shocked!
Stage One – Look inside an early pre-production Volt from January 2010.
Stage Two – Ride along on our first (heavily regulated) Volt seat time in September 2010
Stage Three – Peer inside the first factory modified Volt, the Z-spec concept at SEMA
BONUS – Strap in and hang on as we hoon a production Volt, Team Hall & Nass style
Team Hall & Nass Interest in the Chevrolet Volt
As many of you who follow us on Twitter already know, Team Hall & Nass are big self-proclaimed fans of the Chevrolet Volt. We have been vocal supporters of the Volt all the way from early concept to the actual launch. Why do we like it so much? While it is true that the Volt is far from the typical type of ride we usually rave about, the mere fact the Volt is so different is part of the reason we dig it. It may not be the end-all answer to hybrid or EVs, but the Volt is a step in an exciting new direction, and one we support.
Team Hall & Nass love going fast, but we also have a passion for technological advances in the evolution of the automotive industry. If those advances somehow equate to range extending technology, which may enable us to eventually go farther between rally stops at speed on a tank of petrol, while also helping advance the automotive industry toward using less oil (foreign or domestic), then of course we are interested. After all, when you are stopped at the pump, you are losing time, which is not conducive to Hall & Nass. So with that in mind, we dig the idea behind the Voltec technology.
Stage One – Pre-Production Volt First Look
Team Hall & Nass was lucky enough to get inside an early pre-production Volt way back in January of 2010 at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Chevrolet CES booth featured an early, pre-production 2011 Volt to accompany their announcement of an upcoming application that will allow owners to access many cool features inside the brain of the Chevrolet Volt via OnStar telematics. As an aside, that mobile app has since made its debut on the Volt platform-sharing 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, and is currently rolling out for use on many other 2011 GM vehicles.
However, we digress. After much begging, groveling, and our admission of real thoughts of committing grand theft auto just for a peak inside, we were allowed an after hours, fairly unencumbered preview inside, underneath, and all over the pre-production Volt.
While a few top automotive journalists in Los Angeles had been afforded a heavily supervised glimpse inside the same pre-pro Volt right before CES, we were actually the first (to our knowledge) in the automotive enthusiast world allowed inside the car with our cameras. The only bummer at the time was that while we were allowed to touch/taste/film all we wanted, we were not allowed to actually drive the car OR release any of our footage until a ‘TBD’ future date. Of course, we were just so happy to get into the car that we didn’t mind complying with the request. Thus, we stored those clips on a hard drive, awaited TBD notification approval, and never published them. That is, until now. But before we drop that footage on you, there is more to share!
Pre-Production Interior Analysis
Albeit this was our first impression of an early pre-production Volt, we must admit the interior looked a bit futuristic for a car about to see actual production. The gage cluster looked like something straight out of Buck Rogers. The layout of the center stack looked well executed (with the exception of the blinding white plastic) and the button indicating a ‘sport’ mode definitely got our attention. The same white plastic adorned the door panel inserts, albeit with the addition of an odd-looking circle and hexagon graphic across each insert. Different.
The shifter looked cool until you realized that it could potentially be a knuckle buster when you literally put your fist through the center stack to place the Volt in park. There is a true open area, side to side pass through behind the center console that is interesting. We found ourselves wondering if it was left open for improved interior air circulation, or it if was potentially created as a future front roll bar pass through (wishful/hopeful thinking on our part, perhaps)? The front bucket seats felt comfortable and the overall interior space felt quite roomy. The rear bucket seats, split by a true rear center console with dual cup holders, provide a nice break from the typical sedan bench rear seat. While it may have been necessary to create this combination as a measure to cover up the battery tunnel, in reality, it adds a sportier feel to the car. It is a bit reminiscent of the back seat layout in the former Holden/Pontiac GTO. The rear hatch, with its transparent rear panel, provides additional rearward visibility, and reminded us of the previous Honda CRX. It’s a cool touch. The hatch area itself provides a decent amount of cargo room. All in all, the interior looked well put together, if not yet entirely finalized.
Pre-Production Exterior Analysis
The outside of the pre-production Volt underwent many changes from the early concept images we saw back in 2008/2009 to what we were looking at in January of 2010. The body, we were told, was very close to what we would see when actual production began. The car looked good, with minimal body gaps, clean lines, and an overall nice flow and feel to it. The wheels even looked great for OEM pieces. However, the solid pattern grille, the front air dam, the black non-body colored lower panels and the lower portion of the rear bumper all looked like items we hoped would see tweaks before final assembly. They just gave an otherwise amazing looking car a bit of an unfinished look.
Again, this was our pre-production Volt analysis in early January 2010. We wondered at the time if touches such as the white plastic and futuristic interior graphics would be replaced by more conventional or sportier materials, such as solid colors, carbon fiber‘esque’ plastic or leather, and if the exterior pieces we mentioned would be actually “finished out” (all matching paint color) once the actual production cars were prepared. We would have to wait almost nine months before getting our next glimpse of the Volt to find out.
Stage Two – First Drive of the Volt
Fast forward to late September 2010 at the Texas State Fair, where GM treated us to an exclusive Texas media preview of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. This was our first chance to get behind the wheel and actually drive the Chevrolet Volt (albeit in a heavily controlled environment), as well as our chance to see what, if anything, had been changed on the car in the development process throughout 2010.
Volt Driving Instructions
Before sliding behind the wheel, Team Hall & Nass were given very specific instructions on late pre-production Volt driving etiquette by one of our very good friends inside of GM communications. The instruction set went as follows:
“YOU. Yes, you. NO BURNOUTS! Do you hear me? Yes, of course the car will do it, and no, I am not kidding. NO BURNOUTS, no squealing of tires, no getting the car sideways, and none of that usual crazy Team Hall & Nass foolishness that you like to pull.”
Basically, we were given the oh-so-subtle impression that if we got one inch out of line in the Volt, it was going to be our burro on a skewer. Hmm. It seems as if they are on to us!
After a good laugh, followed by a very somber promise NOT to turn the tires over or break traction in the corners in any manner, we got behind the wheel and drove many laps around the tight, constricted, low-speed parking lot course. With cameras rolling, we were joined by our good friends Adam Barrera of HighMileage.org and Charlie Brumfield of BurnoutRadio.com (who also received the same stern driving instructions).
We were accompanied by a couple different GM folks who did a great job of explaining the car’s capabilities in detail (as you’ll see on our video), as well as kindly reminding us not to get out of hand with the car after we insisted on leaving the Volt in ‘sport’ mode before attacking the course. Along the way, we learned that a local DFW Chevy dealer decided to treat the course like an autocross earlier that morning before the event, so maybe it wasn’t us that had them on the “no burnout” edge after all? Perhaps.
Driving the Volt
So how does the Volt drive? Well, strict tire squealing prohibition aside, it was a treat and a privilege to finally get behind the wheel of the Volt and actually pull the car into gear. With the electric power plant allegedly capable of delivering an instantaneous 273 foot pounds of torque in ‘sport’ mode, we could just sense how much more there was on tap under our right foot to launch the car than we were allowed to use. Even babying the first tight corner at a mere 25 MPH, we couldn’t help but squeal the tires a bit, as the special compound for the “rolling resistance in the name of improved fuel mileage” in the Volt-specific Goodyear tires is so hard that tire chirps are inevitable on just about any type of tarmac unless you are sitting still. The drive train was ridiculously quiet in operation. The ride was smooth. The scene was serene. But we could tell the Volt was hungry for so much more than simply tooling around a parking lot. Thus, it is truly hard to describe what driving the Volt is like, just yet. At this point, all we can say is that we behaved uber well in the hope of getting a future crack at actually driving a Volt in an unleashed environment. More on that in a moment.
Well, there is some good news, and some not so great news on the styling updates. We’ll cover the latter first. It doesn’t appear as if much, if anything, has changed with the exterior of the Volt since January. We had hoped for at least body-colored lower panels instead of the unfinished looking black bottom. Same goes for the front air dam and the lower portion of the rear bumper. Also absent is an updated grille treatment. Not that these are necessarily bad things, but we do have to admit, they are a bit disappointing considering how well the rest of the detail on the body of this car is finished out.
The interior appears to have received at least one additional color choice for the center stack and door panel inserts other than the aforementioned blinding stark white. However, as witnessed on the two different color combinations made available for our viewing pleasure, neither the stark white nor the black gloss plastic lost the odd graphics overlays on the panel inserts. Couple that with an odd neon green on black color combo and you honestly begin to wonder what they were thinking. Futuristic, yes. But more in a $17K Ford Fiesta kind of way. Even the simplest of the multiple trim level option door panels in the platform-sharing $20K Chevy Cruze are superior in look, feel and design. It is just not the type of surface finish you would expect to find inside an all new, state of the art, well designed $41K vehicle.
Then again, keep in mind that the three Volts we saw at the Texas State Fair media day were technically still pre-production models (albeit 11th hour pre-pros). So maybe there is hope yet for better interior color option treatments and solid body-colored exterior panels available at the time of the production Volt launch. We shall find out very soon.
In addition to our first drive of the Volt at the Texas State Fair, we got to spend quality time talking with Jon Stec, a lead engineer on Project Voltec. Over dinner, we spoke with Jon in depth about many of the tweaks we find ourselves wishing Chevrolet would make to the Volt. Not only did we discuss the aforementioned interior and exterior tweaks, but since Jon seemed to be a true car enthusiast, we shot the moon. We discussed simple mods that we feel would make the Volt appeal more to the enthusiast community. Items such as larger diameter wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport tires for improved launch and cornering grip, larger brake calipers and rotors, a lower suspension stance, coil over shocks, a better front splitter and improved rear fairing for improved downforce, racing-style seats, a more aggressive grille and full body-colored exterior trim to finish out the look. While it was a fun and spirited conversation, we had no expectation that anything we suggested would ever see the light of day. Not in this segment, and not from an OEM.
Stage Three – Volt Z-Spec Concept
When we walked into the GM Performance Parts booth at SEMA, we were visually stunned. Just when we thought we knew everything one could know about what the Volt will be, we got broadsided by mods. Behold, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt Z-Spec Concept.
The Z-Spec is much closer to what every Volt could and, more importantly, should be. For starters, it is much more exciting to look at. The mods already make the car look faster, even sitting still. Part of this comes from the full body-colored panels, an enhanced spoiler out front and a trick grille upgrade. Sporting 19” wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport tires not only helps with the look, but should improve handling and grip. There is a slick rear bumper modification out back with what appears to be aero-enhancing treatments, a better body-colored rear panel treatment, and even cooler tail lights than stock.
Peering inside, we found race-inspired stitched leather seats with harness pass throughs, a much improved steering wheel for improved grip and style, a more palatable color and graphic scheme on the front door panel inserts, actual solid color rear door panel inserts, Z-Spec themed logos tastefully embroidered into the floormats, placed on the wheel, and embedded elsewhere throughout the car. The result is a much sportier overall look and feel throughout the car.
Best of all, we were told by GM booth personnel that many of these mods are direct bolt-on pieces from the Euro-spec GM Opel mark. If true, this just goes to show that sometimes a better solution is already waiting for you inside your own global parts bin. You just have to search, swap and enhance. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
We’re not sure if there are any performance modifications lurking under the hood, but we hope the exterior mods are a sign of things to come in performance enhancements as well. As revolutionary as the all new Voltec technology and design are, the Z-Spec gives the Chevrolet Volt a more exciting, actual finished product look that the platform deserves. For $41K, the Z-Spec delivers what every production Volt should.
We do not know if our conversation with Jon had any influence on this car, or if the Volt engineers were already way ahead of the game in the design room. Either way, we’re VERY excited about the prospect of a production Volt Z-Spec seeing the light of day. After all, when was the last time you can recall an automotive manufacturer already adding mods to a production car before the first one even hits the showroom floor? Talk about progressive. All we can say is that if this is the way the new GM rolls, we are impressed. Oh yeah, and GM, release the Volt Z-Spec. Please!
BONUS – Team Hall & Nass Hoon the Volt
Last, but certainly not least, we have an exclusive treat coming up for you, our loyal fans and followers. As you no doubt are already aware, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is being launched in a select handful of markets around the United States on Tuesday, November 30th. Fortunately for us, Texas is one of those markets. As mentioned above, many outlets have already covered the pre-production Volt from a basic looks, stats and drive under strict supervision perspective. But we’re not going to leave you hanging with just some restricted parking lot type of driving footage just because of tightly controlled, limited access by GM. Oh no. It wouldn’t be a Team Hall & Nass post or video series if there was not some type of hoonage involved. So pull those belts down tight and get charged up, because what comes next is what you have all been waiting to see!
If you are reading this on December 1st or 2nd, then Team Hall & Nass are currently deep in the rolling Hill Country outside of Austin, Texas attending a special event where GM is launching the all new, actual production model of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt to select members of the Texas media. This is a GM driving event, held on twisty Texas Hill Country backroads, covering supposedly long distances over a two-day period. If you are among the early folks reading this post, then there is a very good chance that while you are reading this, we are out on the road somewhere hooning the Volt right now.
We are honored to be one of the first automotive enthusiast race teams on the planet invited to do a full on, non-restricted, multi-day backroad driving session in a production 2011 Chevrolet Volt. We intend to find out how well it will corner, how quickly it will accelerate, how hard it will brake, truly how fast it will go. Best of all, we plan to finally put to rest all of the speculation about how this car will perform in the wild, not based on some corporate marketing or green-friendly message, but according to what our cameras capture as we put the Volt through real world driving paces. We’ll also be looking to see what kind of real distance the Volt’s battery pack will allow it to go, what kind of fuel mileage the Volt’s gas engine will get under duress, if said gas engine really does have to “kick in” under WOT at higher speed conditions to assist a battery sapping right foot (or if that really is just an urban myth), and most important of all, just how well this all new vehicle will perform in the hands of non-Prius loving true driving enthusiasts like us.
Until we get that highly anticipated footage in the can and posted online, we hope you enjoy viewing our picture gallery and videos of the evolution of Volt over the past year from concept to reality on our Team Hall & Nass Facebook and YouTube pages. We encourage you to watch our Volt videos in the following order: Chevy Volt Early Pre-Production First Look, then our Chevy Volt Late Pre-Production First Drive. Then go check out our 2011 Chevrolet Volt pre-production and Volt Z-Spec photo gallery on Facebook by searching for Team Hall & Nass or Berry Lowman.
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to check back later this week to view footage of our actual production model 2011 Volt hoonage on YouTube.com/TeamHallnNass, followed by an updated photo gallery on our Facebook page and a comprehensive write up of the entire experience here on TeamHallnNass.com.
Of course, if you like instant gratification, follow our Twitter feed Wednesday, December 1st and Thursday, December 2nd as we Tweet our impressions and a few action shots live from the road at Twitter.com/BerryLowman (@BerryLowman on Twitter), Twitter.com/AtkinsJennifer (@AtkinsJennifer) and on Twitter.com/TeamHallnNass (@TeamHallnNass).
“We’re SO Not Worthy … THANK YOU GM”
We’d like to publicly thank Adam Dension, Craig Eppling, Donna McLallen, Jon Stec, Kamea Shows, Otie McKinley, Phil Colley, Vicki Cosgrove and everyone on the GM Volt and GM Communications teams for inviting us to these events, tolerating our foolishness, and allowing us access to the Volt throughout various stages of development through the actual product launch. Without their kind, good faith invitations, we wouldn’t be able to bring you, the wonderful fans and followers of Team Hall & Nass, this incredible tale to enjoy.
Team Hall & Nass Chevrolet Volt Coverage
We hope y’all have enjoyed our Team Hall & Nass 2011 Chevrolet Volt Preview coverage. Check out all our 2011 Chevrolet Volt videos on our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/TeamHallnNass. Be sure to stay tuned as we prepare to share our amped up experience of life behind the wheel of the all new 2011 Chevrolet Volt as we charge the remote backroads of Texas Hill Country this week in an actual production model.
Due to FTC guidelines, please note that GM did not pay us to write or film any of this, nor did they ask us to. (After reading this and/or watching our videos, they may even prefer that we hadn’t)! They simply provided food, drinks, and access to their cars. In turn, we had quite the experience. We sincerely thank everyone at GM, Chevrolet and GM South Central Region marketing who made this possible, and all of you, our amazing fans. We couldn’t do this without you. We love you all!
This blog entry has been approved by Pirate Pig, official mascot of Team Hall & Nass. Learn more about Pirate Pig at TeamHallnNass.com. Pirate Pig offers hamthrax protection for all, and would like to remind you, “IF YOU’VE JUST BEEN PASSED, THEN YOU’RE NOT HALL & NASS!” :@)~