Ford Raptor SVT FULL HOONAGE Review

30 11 2011


NOTE – This is a 17 minute video, but pull your belts down tight, because you WILL be rewarded with LOTS of HOONAGE throughout. You may even learn something IF you can endure the review’ish’ parts. This has been a Public HOONAGE Awareness Announcement brought to you by the crazies at Team Hall & Nass and Motorama LIVE!

We got our hands on 2 brand spanking new 2012 Ford Raptors to HOON at will on a specialty offroad course under Ford’s supervision. Then, after showing Ford just how worthy we were in the dirt, they gave us a gently loved 2011 Raptor for two whole weeks (completely unsupervised) with permission to “go do our thing”. You can imagine how much sideways, dirt-filled, insane action followed (can you hear the theme song from the Dukes of Hazzard in your head yet?!?), and thanks to the magic of YouTube, we’re about to share what we experienced with you!

The Raptor surprised us in ways we truly couldn’t have imagined before daily driving it. So if you can bear to make it through the wordy parts (there are actually some surprising things to share with you about the Raptor we bet you didn’t already know), you shall be rewarded with some classic Team Hall & Nass HOONAGE!

Thank you to Ford Motor Company for you continued faith in the power of Team Hall & Nass and Motorama LIVE! We appreciate your support!

Join us for #Motorama LIVE, the best automotive enthusiast discussion anywhere online, every Wednesday from 9-11 PM Eastern on Twitter. Just search for the #Motorama hashtag and join in the madness!

Team Hall & Nass Drive the 2012 Ford Focus SE Hatchback

13 04 2011

Team Hall & Nass Drive the 2012 Ford Focus SE Hatchback


When Team Hall & Nass was given the opportunity to drive the all new 2012 Ford Focus for a week by our friends at the Ford Motor Company, we jumped at the chance! While small cars are not typically our forte, we have actually been anticipating the arrival of the Focus for many months. For us, this opportunity has been a long time in the making.

Our fascination with the new Focus actually began in the Fall of 2009 with the Ford Fiesta Euro-Spec Hatchback model our good friends at Burnout Radio let us drive as part of Ford’s Fiesta Movement marketing program. We were blown away at how impressive the Euro-Spec Fiesta was for the price. It was well built for a compact car, handled like a shifter cart, got incredible gas mileage, and was even stable on the road up into low triple digit speeds. More than anything, we couldn’t get over how surprisingly fun the Fiesta was to drive. To say we were impressed would be a massive understatement!

Shortly afterward, Ford signed rally driver Ken Block to drive a Ford Fiesta in Rally America and a Euro-Spec Ford Focus in the WRC for the 2010 season. As rally racers ourselves (albeit a slightly different style), that really impressed us. Then, Ford allowed us early driving access to a handful of US-spec Fiestas one afternoon in both hatchback and sedan form. The fit, finish and handling on the US versions were as well executed as the Euro-Spec Fiesta has been. Last, but not least, when Ford debuted their plans for the upcoming 2012 Focus ST for the US market at SEMA 2010, we decided if the new Focus was anything even close to the Fiesta, we just had to get behind the wheel of one.

Before we launch into our impressions of the 2012 Focus, we’d like to point out that this review also happens to be monumental for another reason. It is the first automotive review being prepared for our newly launched Motorama LIVE site. It will also be the first official car review we share with our audience live on our Wednesday night #Motorama LIVE enthusiast discussion on Twitter. So while this is technically a Team Hall & Nass review, it is also being conducted with our Motorama LIVE audience in mind. If you’re confused by any of this, visit both the site as well as the site for more information on what both entities are all about.

Be sure to check out our 2012 Ford Focus video (coming soon) on our Team Hall & Nass YouTube channel Yes, a bit of hoonage of the Focus does ensue!

The 2012 Ford Focus

The all new 2012 Ford Focus comes in four different trim levels – S, SE, SEL and Titanium, and comes in two distinct body styles – hatchback and sedan. All Focus models are four door cars and all come with a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine that generates 160 horsepower and 146 foot pounds of torque. All models also offer a choice of five speed manual transmission or six speed dual clutch transmission (which many will call an automatic, but technically, it’s not). Of course, most option packages can be added to various trim level cars, though the Titanium edition comes with all the goodies, and best of all, 18” wheels with optional Michelin Pilot Sport tires to further enhance the sport tuned suspension’s grip.

The car Ford delivered to the Team Hall & Nass garage was a 2012 Focus SE Hatchback with a five speed manual transmission, in Sterling Grey Metallic with Tuscany Red Leather trim (MSPR $18,065). Our Focus was equipped with the Rapid Spec 203A package ($1,385), but most important to us was the SE Sport Package ($1,130), which gave us the sport tuned suspension with rear disc brakes, and the Interior Style Package ($795) which provided the impressive two tone leather interior with two tone accents. With discounts for the SE Sport Package (-$235) and Rapid Spec 203A (-$190), and a destination delivery fee ($725), total MSRP on our Focus was $21,675.

Of course, we were secretly hoping for a Titanium edition for maximum performance and style, and to try out the new Ford MyTouch system in conjunction with the Ford Sync, but honestly, we were just thrilled to get our hands on any 2012 Focus, especially this early in the media rotation. Thank you Ford!

Describing the 2012 Ford Focus

The 2012 Ford Focus is a game changer. It’s a rare car that, unless you’ve driven the new Fiesta, can quite literally sneak up on you when you least expect it. Even if you have driven the new Fiesta, the Focus may still surprise you as they’ve stepped everything up a notch. The more time you spend inside of one, the more you begin to understand just how significant a hand the Focus will likely play in shifting today’s automotive landscape. In short, the Focus could actually cause a paradigm shift in how you view small cars.

From the edgy exterior styling and well executed interior layout, to the impressive handling, ride quality, fuel efficiency and overall build quality, it’s hard to find fault with the all new 2012 Focus. We’d really have to nitpick to come up with things that aren’t laid out or executed in a way we’d like them to be. In fact, there are so few, let’s just go ahead and get them out of the way.

The interior is very well laid out, save for a few items. The power windows (except for the drivers’ window) are not express one-touch down. None of the four windows have express one-touch up, either. In an interior that is so well done, it’s an inexpensive convenience option that is glaringly absent. Granted, one-touch express windows may be an option on the SEL or Titanium models, but we’ve not seen it listed anywhere on We believe they would likely be present in every model if they were available. We’ll report back on this issue when we test the Titanium model, coming up soon.

Also in the interior, there are two 12 volt power outlets, but neither is located anywhere near the dashboard. If you wish to use a radar detector (which is the first thing Team Hall & Nass adds to every car we drive) or a GPS unit, you’ll unfortunately be routing those cords all the way back to the center of the car underneath the center armrest and/or to the rear of the center console. Because of this, cord routing directly interferes with the shifter. In a manual car, this is a considerable inconvenience, if not a potential safety issue. It would have been easy to just place one (or both) of the power outlets somewhere in the center stack, or up on top of the dash like the previous Mustang did. Just a thought.

While we enjoyed the enhanced visibility of the fog lights and the automatic headlight setting, there is no way to tie the fog lights into the automatic headlight actuator. Thus, you have to manually turn on the fog lights whether the headlights are set to automatic, or not. It would be nice if they were able to activate automatically with the headlights every time.

So express one-touch windows, misplaced power outlets and manual fog light switching aside (we said it was nitpicking), the interior of the 2012 Ford Focus is nothing short of jaw dropping, especially in the small car segment. The center stack is well laid out for when you do wish to interact with the buttons, knobs and switches from either the driver or front passenger seats, the Sync display and menu is pretty straightforward, and the HVAC does a great job of heating and cooling. The center armrest is in a comfortable position. The console is deep and houses both a ‘line in’ and USB jack. In short, Ford nailed it.

The door and dash panels are cool in their shape and flow, and the gauge cluster layout is highly visible and easy to read on the fly. The rich, two toned leather seats are both very comfortable and supportive, allowing a proper seating position for even a large framed, six foot four inch driver within perfect arm reach of the tilt/telescopic steering wheel, gear shift lever and pedals. (That said, with tall front passengers, rear seat legroom is reduced to being sufficient for either small children or infants at best.)

Speaking of the steering wheel, it is nothing short of a total command center. You can control the front and rear wipers, cruise control, stereo functions, and the Ford Sync with an easy flick of your fingers while never having to remove your hands from the steering wheel. The driver information menu screen in the dash cluster is easy to see, and even easier to navigate, thanks to one of two four way toggles and center actuator ‘OK’ buttons on the steering wheel spokes. The toggle on the left allows easy access off the information center, and the toggle on the right is for the Sync menu. (As an aside, the right toggle works with the Ford MyTouch system in the Titanium model. We’ll have more on that when we test the Titanium Focus.) Even the voice activation and telephone send and end call functions are easy to do without removing your hands from the wheel. From a safety and convenience standpoint, it is all very impressive. More to the point, it is NOT what you expect to find in a car that is this inexpensive, no matter what the brand or mark. This is yet another area where this new Ford Focus really shines.

The Ford Sync system was both wonderful and a bit frustrating. True to its name, it was ridiculously easy to ‘sync’ our Motorola Droid telephones to the system. What was frustrating was the voice-activated calling feature. If I tried to call ‘Charlie’ I was suddenly connected to ‘Holly’. A call to ‘Jennifer’ was somehow connected to ‘Information’. I suspect the Sync may have been struggling with my Southern accent, but then again, if you’re going to sell Sync in Texas, you’ve got to have a fiddle in the band. Repeated wrong number dialing aside, answering incoming calls was a breeze! The hands free system through the car audio system was clear on both ends of many calls. It came in quite handy, especially driving a manual shift car, where there is no such thing as a free hand to hold the phone. All the technology and information access in the world is only as good as how it helps you while actually driving a car. Again, Ford is keeping you safe by keeping your hands where they belong – on the wheel.

We were looking forward to trying out the many cool features of the Ford MyTouch system that we first learned about at CES in 2010, but alas, our Focus SE was not equipped with Ford’s latest infotainment center. But when you realize that Sync comes standard on every Focus, and that MyTouch is even an option on a $20k car, you have to be impressed that Ford is making such technology available at an economy class price.

We activated the Ford MyKey system to scroll through and test some of the options. MyKey is essentially an electronic nanny for your car when others are in control of it. It seems like a great system if you want to limit the capabilities of many vehicle functions for valets and/or teenage drivers. You can disable the ability to turn off traction control, limit the max speed of the car to 80 MPH, disable certain Sirius satellite radio content, etc. However, there is one small, but highly annoying safety feature that once activated, we couldn’t disable since we did not have the second (administrator) key to the car. With Ford MyKey active, you MUST fasten your seat belt if the car is running to play the radio or use the Sync system. Period.

Now, we always drive with our seatbelts on. We also wholeheartedly agree that if you’re in gear or the car is in motion, you should absolutely be belted in. Everyone should always buckle up before driving. Safety first! However, if you happen to enjoy playing with the many radio or Sync features while parked on a hot day, which requires the car to be on to use the air conditioning, but wish to have the freedom to move around inside of said car while playing with its many options, good luck. The screen will just flash incessantly until you buckle the seatbelt. But it gets even more interesting. The second the system senses weight on any of the other seats, even if the driver belt is fastened, off goes the radio and Sync, and up pops the incessant flashing screen. It’s enough to practically trigger seizures in those prone to the strobe light effect. So while Ford MyKey may be a great thing for some, we wish we had never turned it on without having the second key to then disable it. Thank goodness we didn’t try out the speed limiter!

Even with the few little nitpicks that we managed to uncover after spending hours inside of the Focus, you simply won’t find a nicer quality interior or exterior in any car built for this price point. And we haven’t even gotten to the best part yet – the Focus driving experience. Let the real fun begin!

Driving the 2012 Ford Focus

There are two ways to drive the all new 2012 Ford Focus. There is the “how much fuel economy I can possibly achieve” game, and then there is the one you’ll likely find yourself playing more often, which is the Ken Block inspired “HOONIGAN” game. You can guess which one we spent most of the week playing. HOON ON!

As soon as the Focus was delivered, we jumped right in. We started out babying the throttle to get a clear picture of just how little gas it could consume. By shifting 1/3/5 and lightly using the throttle in uber fuel miser mode, we saw a 33.8 MPG average in the first 10 miles of city-ish driving. That is well beyond the EPA rating of 26 city or 30 “combo” and darn close to the 36 highway rating for the five speed manual.

Speaking of which, we were a bit surprised the Focus had a five speed manual gearbox, and not six forward gears (like the DCT has). We wondered if that may have a negative effect on the fuel economy we would see. After some research on, we discovered the Focus equipped with a DCT is estimated to get 2 miles per gallon better than the five speed. Wow.

However, once we determined how well the Focus could sip fuel in uber gas miser driving mode, it was time to get down to the business of why we wanted to drive this car in the first place – to find out if the new Focus is as much fun to drive as the Fiesta.

Shift Points – The Ford Focus redlines at 7,000 RPM. The rev limiter comes into play shortly thereafter. What we quickly discovered is that the first four gears have nearly equal shift point increments. 1st is good to 30 MPH, 2nd is good to 60 MPH, and so on. If you try to gain more than 30 MPH in any gear, you will bump up against the rev limiter. However, you can get an honest 30 MPH per gear without encountering the limiter if you’re a quick, hot shoe shifter. When going through the gears at wide open throttle, the horsepower level feels greater than 160, while the torque curve feels relatively flat throughout the range. This translates to the Focus pulling through each gear quickly and crisply, and before you know it, you’re in fifth gear going faster than you may have planned if you’re not watching the speed dial. It is quite spirited!

Handling – Our Focus SE had the sport tuned suspension option and was an absolute blast to drive! Our Focus was every bit as much fun to pilot as the Euro-Spec Fiesta we drove in 2009 and the US-Spec Fiestas we drove last year. Though keep in mind, our Focus was rolling on 16” Continental Conti-Sport all weather tires, not the 18” Michelin Pilot Sport ZR speed rated tires that are an option on the Titanium edition. The Contis had more grip than we thought they would, and in most situations on the street they were more than adequate, but in slalom testing and closed parking lot hooning, we discovered the limits of these tires fairly quickly. In our humble opinion, the Focus has more suspension under it than it has tires to hold it in line. It would be very interesting to see how grip would differ in all situations on the Pilot Sports.

Also, it is significant to note that due to the tires we were running, we did not attempt a closed course top end run. One thing Team Hall & Nass knows a lot about is tire safety in both racing and normal street conditions. You should never overdrive the ratings of the tires, no matter what. We do believe the Focus actually has enough power and aero to potentially stretch its legs deep into 5th gear with the right tires mounted on it. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t the car to test that theory in, so we erred on the side of safety.

What’s truly amazing is how well the Focus handled, not just in parking lot hooning, but when driving at speed on the freeway. We did get up into the bottom of 5th gear before we elected to level off and cruise. At that speed, the Focus was smooth and well planted for a small class car. Even with light cross winds, the Focus was fairly solid. By contrast, the Fiesta was well balanced up to a slightly lesser speed, where it began to feel light and wanted more downforce. The additional six inches of wheelbase, and the eleven and one-third inches of additional body length the Focus hatchback has over the Fiesta hatchback enable greater high speed cruising and overall ride smoothness. You could liken the comparison in many ways to the difference in ride between a short and long wheelbase pickup truck. Longer equals smoother.

Of course, the Focus would most likely need more downforce for optimal grip and safe cruising to see its full speed potential, but outside of closed course events or driving on the Autobahn, most owners won’t need to be concerned with such things.

The larger driving experience question we set out to answer was if the Focus, with its extra length and weight, would be able to handle the twisties without losing any of the sporty fun feel we loved about driving the Fiesta. The answer is a resounding YES! In fact, in the 2012 Focus, you get Fiesta-like handling with the added benefits of 40 more horsepower, 34 more foot pounds of torque, similar fuel economy (1-2 MPG estimated difference), independent rear suspension, additional cabin and cargo space, far more options, a higher level Titanium trim package option, smoother highway ride, higher speed cruising stability, and overall just a slightly better package than what the Fiesta offers. Best of all, pricing between the Focus and the Fiesta is close enough to be competitive without really taking anything away from one another. If you want an economy car, the Fiesta is a great choice. If you need a bit more room, the new 2012 Focus delivers the same level of driving fun without sacrificing the space you or your family need.

Of course, you can expect that Team Hall & Nass would like the Focus to have more power, bigger brakes, and more front and rear downforce for higher speed stability. While the 160 horsepower 2.0 liter four cylinder does a good job of propelling the Focus down the road in a spirited way, we are absolutely salivating at the prospect of the upcoming Focus ST with its 2.0 liter sequential turbocharged EcoBoost engine. If it comes anywhere close to the 250 horsepower target that was shared with us recently by Ford, then go ahead and sign us up for one in full rally trim so we can start hooning – NOW!

In Summary

The more time you spend driving a 2012 Ford Focus, the more time you’ll want to spend driving the Focus. Even though past segment products and/or conventional wisdom wouldn’t cause you to think so, we’re telling you a bold new truth. There is something about driving this car that is addicting. Why? Well, it handles better than it should. It goes through the gears quicker than it should. It feels better at higher speeds than it should. It has a nicer interior than it should. It has more options available than it should. All the while, it is getting better fuel economy than it should. It’s funny to say, but after years of driving poorly built small cars in the US market, this car delivers everything your brain says that it shouldn’t, and more. The only thing you’ll find “cheap” about the new Focus is the price. In the end, you’ll be boggled to discover that it may actually cost a bit less than your brain says it should. Yes, the all new 2012 Ford Focus is just that good.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about all of this is that Ford, not Honda, not Toyota, not Nissan, not one of the European marks, but one of the US Big 3 is building true high quality, low priced small cars for the US market. They are loaded with amenities you’d expect to find in cars that cost twice as much, they are fuel efficient, and of most importance to us, they are fun to drive. No one could have predicted this five years ago. Like we said – the 2012 Ford Focus is a game changer. Paradigm shifted.

Be sure to check out our 2012 Ford Focus SE Hatchback video (coming soon) on to see first-hand just how well executed the all new Focus is inside and out and, of course, to witness how much fun it is to drive. The new Focus truly surprised us, and we guarantee it will surprise you. Read, watch, and go drive one!

Team Hall & Nass Buy, Wait or Skip Rating

Based on our impressions after one week behind the wheel of the all new Ford Focus SE Hatchback, coupled with those of other enthusiasts, friends and neighbors to whom we showed the car, we’re going to give the all new 2012 Ford Focus a ‘Strong Buy’ rating.

We typically like to see a new platform shake out for a year or two before recommending it, but the Focus has so much in common with the already proven Fiesta, we’re going to go all out on this one. If Ford hit a home run in the small car segment with the 2011 Fiesta, then they hit a grand slam with the 2012 Focus. It’s one of those rare cars that the longer you drive it, the more you want to stay behind the wheel. It is just that well executed. Do yourself a favor and buy the Titanium model if you can, or add the sport suspension and the upgraded interior treatments to an SE or SEL model. No matter which model you chose, the Focus is so much fun for so little money!

When you visit your Ford dealer to test drive the 2012 Focus, do us a favor and tell them Team Hall & Nass sent you. If you do buy a Focus, please let us know! We always love hearing about our fans’ rides, and so does Ford when we tell them about you. In turn, it makes them feel better about giving us cars to review. We all appreciate your support!

Team Hall & Nass and Motorama LIVE Ford Focus Coverage

We hope y’all have enjoyed our Team Hall & Nass and Motorama LIVE coverage of the 2012 Ford Focus SE Hatchback. Be sure to check out our 2012 Ford Focus video (coming soon) on our YouTube channel at Also, be sure to check out our gallery of Ford Focus pictures on the Motorama LIVE Facebook page. If you like our coverage, be sure to ‘Like’ our page.

We’d like to publicly thank Becky Chesshir and all of our friends on the Ford South Central Media Communications Team for allowing us to hoon their car. Without their kind, good faith invitation, we wouldn’t be able to bring you, the wonderful fans and followers of Team Hall & Nass and Motorama LIVE, the incredible story of the 2012 Ford Focus SE Hatchback. Stay tuned as we prepare to share our experience of what life is like behind the wheel of the Focus, and other exciting new vehicles on both and!


Due to FTC guidelines, please note that Ford 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! We sincerely thank the Ford Motor Company, and all of you, our amazing fans. We appreciate you all!

This site entry has been approved by Pirate Pig, official mascot of Team Hall & Nass. Learn more about Pirate Pig at 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!” :@)~

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Team Hall & Nass Preview the All New 2011 Chevrolet Volt

1 12 2010

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 and Charlie Brumfield of (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.

Styling Updates

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.

Volt Feedback

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, followed by an updated photo gallery on our Facebook page and a comprehensive write up of the entire experience here on

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 (@BerryLowman on Twitter), (@AtkinsJennifer) and on (@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 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 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!” :@)~