Chevrolet Volt adventure to Frankfurt
Flights to the Frankfurt Motor Show are for wimps. Who needs the 'comfort' of a budget airline when you can choose to drive the highways and byways of continental Europe in Chevrolet's latest green number, the Volt?
That's just what I aimed to find out when I teamed up with fellow Autoblogger James Baggott, who was driving the slightly more exotic Corvette Grand Sport, for the 1,000-mile trek into deepest Germany. The big question was would the Volt and I make it from Luton to Frankfurt in a day?
My trip to the Frankfurt Motor Show was perhaps more complicated than James's, as I had to pick up the Swiss-registered, left-hand drive Volt from the company's base in Luton.
First thoughts are that the Volt is much better-looking than its sister car the Ampera, which I drove earlier in the summer. I think that's because the nose looks much smoother.
After sucessfully negotiating GM security, I was quickly heading for the M1, running on electric power. I had roughly 35 miles till the combustion engine would cut in - how far would I get?
When I hit the M1, the motorway was doing a good impression of a car park. This was not a promising start. There appeared to be a nasty accident on the other side of the carriageway and as a result everyone was slowing down to look.
I sat on the slip road for what must have been around 15 minutes, slowly winding myself up at choosing to come this way. Still, despite the over-complicated centre console, I managed to get the radio to work, which calmed me a little.
Eventually the Volt and I were off again for our mammoth trip around the M25. Sadly, any thoughts of doing some eco-driving on the way down to the Channel Tunnel vanished with the wait to get on the M1 at Luton and instead I pushed this petrol-electric hybrid hard, to make my 11:30 meet with James at the Channel Tunnel terminal.
Like the Ampera, I was immediately impressed by the refinement and performance of the 150PS Voltec electric drive unit.
The Volt rode very well too and combined with supportive seats, this Chevrolet turned out to be a comfortable companion round the M25. Question is, would I feel the same when I got to Frankfurt?
Electric power was done by the time I reach Enfield, there was no drama and the Volt seamlessly switched to its 1.4-litre petrol generator power and another 300 mile range.
After the Dartford Bridge and having to negotiate the toll booth from the left-hand side, I was on the last leg of the UK part of this trip.
Tunnel done, we had hit Europe in the early afternoon and I had to follow James in the Corvette as he had the sat-nav. There was only France, Belgium and some of Germany until we reached our destination - it seemed a long way off at that moment.
Having sucessfully navigated the Brussels ring-road it was soon time to fill up. I squeezed almost 50 Euros worth into the Volt, James wasn't quite so lucky having to spend nearly double that on the Corvette - still it did at least have a massive tank.
The rest of the trip was long but the Volt remained comfortable, I liked the bassy Bose sound system too. It got more memorable when we hit the Autobahn with big Mercedes and BMWs flying by. By this point it was getting late and all we wanted to do was hit Frankfurt.
James was certainly testing the performance of the Corvette and as he had the only working sat-nav, I tried to keep up behind.
It was only at this point that I found the limits of the Volt's performance, a 105mph limiter to be precise. Still, it felt very stable at that speed and it was the only time during the trip I yearned for more performance.
Then again, how many times are future owners going to be chasing Corvettes? I doubt there will be many.
Overall, like its Ampera sister car, the Volt is a very impressive and exciting addition to the green car sector. It was a shame I ran out of electricity so soon, but I'm sure some more gentle driving would have delivered better fuel consumption from the 1.4-litre engine.
However, if I had been in a Nissan Leaf, it wouldn't have made it to Frankfurt as there's no alternative power source.
At £28,545, the Volt is not going to be cheap when it goes on sale next March, but as I proved with this trip to Frankfurt, the Volt fits so easily into daily life that Chevrolet has surely produced a game-changing car, to offer electric power to those who can afford it.