Friday morning after avoiding the commute traffic, we arrived at the dealership for our 10 am appointment and found our fully loaded (DC Fast Charging, Infotainment, Driver Confidence II packages) Premier Bolt parked in front of the dealership, ready to go.
Kevin, and Phil Benavidez, the finance manager, made the paper(less) work for our lease easy, and after a thorough training session which included pairing of our phones, Karen took the wheel. We noted that the average range estimate showed 239 miles. As she took off in the Bolt, I followed behind in our Audi Allroad. Twelve miles later at the summit of Highway 17, some 1800 vertical feet higher, we switched cars. The average range estimate showed 196 miles. I put the Bolt in Drive mode and headed down the hill. Once in the city, I switched to Low mode and tried the single pedal driving. It only took a few stoplights to get used to it once I realized that the car continued to regen even with my foot lightly on the accelerator.
We arrived in downtown Santa Cruz after a trip distance of 23 miles and the range estimate showed 216 miles - exactly 23 miles less than when we'd started!
That afternoon, my son-in-law and I made the trip into Felton to play a round at Black Mouse Disc Golf course and we travelled the windy Highway 9 to get a sense of the Bolt's handling. Yesterday morning, I made my first Bolt surf trip up the coast, and later we did a few errands around town. Upon returning, I spent some time going through every feature of the Bolt. We're planning a trip to San Luis Obispo (170 miles each way) next week and I'll do another post on our experiences with the Bolt on a longer range trip, but here's what we've learned so far:
Driving and Handling
Whether it's the smooth curves of Highway 17, the tight winding Highway 9, or the open road of Highway 1, the Bolt is a pleasure to drive. The steering is tight and reminds me of our Audi. The low center of gravity gives the car a solid road-holding feel and when you step on the accelerator in a tight curve, the Bolt sits down and grips the road.
There's no slipping on starting up (as there was with our Ford Focus EV), and the acceleration is again, comparable to our Audi - very impressive! As with other EVs, the instant 100% torque availability makes passing a breeze. The turning radius is excellent - much better than the Focus EV where we often were forced into 3-point turns.
What we perceived as excessive road noise when we test drove a Bolt a few weeks ago isn't there in our production model. The car is quiet and the ride is smooth. Visibility is great with large windows and clever fold-down headrests.
I also now love the single pedal driving. I haven't used the brakes in quite a while and will likely only use them in critical situations. I don't see any reason to drive in anything but Low mode.
Surprisingly Cool Features
Range and Energy Usage Displays - In addition to the more detailed energy reports on the center console, I really appreciate the Driver Information Center. On the left side of the speedometer, there's the expected, optimal, and 'worst case' range estimates. To the right is a real time energy usage meter that tells you how many kw you are using (in yellow) or gaining through regen (in green).
Surround Vision Camera - Go to the home menu, touch Camera, and in addition to a a choice of front or rear view, you get a bird's eye view of the Bolt showing everything around you. The camera will operate at up to 8 mph. This also appears whenever you're in reverse.
Side Blind Zone Alert - The Audi has it and I've always appreciated it. The side view mirrors include an indicator which lights up when there is a car to the side of you and which flashes if you hit your turn signal with another vehicle nearby.
Pedestrian Detection - Driving down a narrow road with no sidewalks in dim light, I was pleased to see a pedestrian icon light up indicating an individual dressed in dark clothing walking on the side of the road.
Forward Collision Detection/Avoidance - We have this feature on the Audi too, but on some very windy roads, it mistakenly detects imminent collisions with trees in tight curves. The Bolt lets you adjust the distance for the collision detection.
Interior Night Lighting - The Bolts surprised us on our first night drive. The picture above doesn't do it justice, but the thin blue LED trim that caresses the dash is very cool.
Storage - You've heard about how roomy the Bolt is, but we were surprised by the amount of storage. There's plenty of space in the back near the hatch where a spare tire could have been placed, a surprisingly deep center console, and Karen's favorite, a space in front of the shifter, below the dash with plenty of room for a large purse.
Heated Steering Wheel - Particularly with an EV where you may not want to run the climate control too much, this is much appreciated on cold mornings when you first get into the car.
Heated Rear Seats - Our passengers (and there's plenty of room for them in the back seat), have always been jealous when we turn on our front seat heaters. Now they've got seat heaters too.
Intellibeam Headlights - I've always appreciated auto-dimming rear-view mirrors. The Bolt has added intelligent headlights. If it's really dark and there are no cars ahead it (optionally) puts on the high beams. If a car approaches, or you catch one from behind, it dims the lights. I've always felt guilty if I didn't dim my high beams quickly enough. Now the Bolt does it for me.
Rear Hatch Width - We haven't really needed it yet, but the rear hatch is the full width of the Bolt with tail/brake lights on the hatch itself. This will be useful in loading wide objects. However, watch out for low clearance to the side, the tail lights wrap around and extend downward. I hit my head on one, not noticing it was lower than the rest of the hatch.
Not as Cool as I Hoped
Rear View Mirror Camera - the rear view mirror operates in two modes - a standard mirror with auto dimming, and a camera. I was really looking forward (or backwards) to this. I'd seen them in car rental shuttles where the back was blocked and thought it would be very useful. However, on the Bolt, it has a couple of problems. 1) The image is smaller than reality so you can't judge distances very well - cars are MUCH closer than they appear. 2) It's a video. Surprisingly, looking at your side view mirror, then up to the rear view plays tricks on your eyes. The reflections are not created equal. However it will be useful when the back is fully loaded and the rear view mirror is blocked. It could also be useful in parking or backing up as it gives you a bit of a surround view - almost into your blind spots.
Seats - While comfortable and roomy, it seems a bit unusual that the seats are manually adjusted. In a Premier model, I would expect electronically adjustable seats with memory. Perhaps it was a space/weight issue.
Infotainment - Great Bose sound system and intuitive radio controls as you'd expect in most modern vehicles. I like the sound level adjustments on the back side of the steering wheel. It also includes a WiFi hotspot.
Lane Keep and Following Distance Indicator - The Lane Keep will ensure you stay in your lane. There are display icons to indicate your lane position and following distance.
Phone Pairing - Easy to set up and use for multiple phones. Voice commands work well. Android Auto does the trick for navigation, phone, text messaging, and other phone apps.
MyChevrolet App (and MyChevrolet.com) - Allows you to monitor your car's location, battery level, range, energy usage, and to perform remote start/stop (e.g. to warm up the interior before you leave while still plugged in, saving energy).
There are many other features including scheduled charging, scheduled start and stop (for warming/cooling above), top off - leaving the battery partially uncharged to take advantage of regen charging on a descent after starting. Many of these we'll probably never use.
I've heard some people complain about the shifter. I'm not sure what they're complaining about. It makes sense to me. Of course I haven't had to put it in neutral for a car wash yet. Per the owner's manual, that looks more complicated than it needs to be.
The Bolt comes with 2 free maintenance visits and free roadside assistance, 5 years of Basic Onstar service with 3 months of free full service, a 3 month SiriusXM satellite radio subscription, a 3 year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty, a 5 year/60,000 powertrain warranty, and an 8 year/100,000 mile electric propulsion warranty.
A Few Negatives
No Battery Level Indicator - Maybe it exists, but I couldn't find a battery level indicator. Sure, the Bolt provides great range estimation, and several customizable reports on energy usage and efficiency, but I really like to know how much battery is left (as a numerical percentage of the capacity). While this is available through the MyChevrolet App, it really should be in the car itself.
No Navigation - Okay. We do use Google Maps for most of our navigation and it works fine through Android Auto. However, on the coast and in the mountains, we're often in areas where there is no cell service. It would be nice to have Nav for these areas.
KeyPass - I spent far too much time trying to figure this out. Theoretically, you pair your phone to allow it to control the car through the MyChevrolet App. There's a set up screen in the Settings section. You can follow the instructions in the Owner's Manual but they don't work. At this point, I think the feature is no longer supported. I suspect the MyChevrolet App does all it can without KeyPass. I'll let you know if I find out more.
Owner Registration - Apparently MyChevrolet (App and Website) only allows one owner account. Thus, my wife has to use my log in to get information about the car and to manage it remotely.
We LOVE this car. Amazing handling, fun to drive, and very practical for our sports-intensive activities. Having driven a Ford Focus EV for the past 3 years, there's no question that the Bolt is a quantum leap ahead. We're expecting the Bolt will meet 98% of our driving needs. We won't be taking it to the snow. We're hoping we can take it on longer trips using Fast Charging. It looks like this is getting easier as ChargePoint, EVgo, and others have teamed up to share infrastructure - it appears that we can use our ChargePoint cards on EVgo stations (and vice versa). This is part of the ROEV initiative where the charging network providers share resources much like using different banks' ATMs.
For those who have been following Bolt production, ours was ordered 10/10/16 with a targeted production week of 11/28/16. To my understanding we were number 11 on the wait list. 15 Bolts came in on 12/29 and apparently a few of the people lower down on the list did not receive theirs yet. We're grateful to Kevin Rodriguez, Phil Benavidez, and Scott Jobe of Capitol Chevrolet for making our Bolt acquistion an enjoyable process. But especially to Kevin who kept me regularly up to date after our first conversation in June of last year.
Click here to read about our 350 mile trip from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo and back.
A Few Updates (1/15/2017)
It just keeps getting better. With our Focus Electric, we were always concerned about whether we had charged it or not. Sometimes after a run up the coast, if I'd forgotten to plug in, we were limited in additional miles and had to wait for a recharge. Not so with the Bolt. As strange as it may sound, we just don't worry about charging anymore. We can drive pretty much anywhere we want and there's so much range left, that we don't need to plug in. Even better, we don't hesitate to use the climate control. Obviously, with the bigger battery, its impact is proportionally less, but it also seems to be more efficient - it doesn't reduce our projected range by anywhere near as much. And, it appears that for our short and around-town trips, we're getting over 300 miles of range. In other words, all of a sudden, our electric car is like a combustion engine car. Range anxiety is gone (though we do have to think a bit about longer trips). But for 98% of our driving, we can't tell the difference. The handling is phenomenal and is more like a European car, the ride is solid, and with the range, comfort, and storage space, I can't imagine a better car. Given a choice between a Tesla and a Bolt, I'll take the Bolt.
Just received a message on starting the Bolt that Keypass is ready to be activated. It appears a software update was done transparently and this feature now works. Haven't tried it yet, but I'm pleased to see that Chevy is on top of automatic software updates.
And here's a post about what we've discovered about charging:
Can a #BoltEV be your Primary Vehicle?