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I’ve picked up a habit off reviewing cars, and I can’t seem to shake it. I’m not driving these cars around a track like a professional car reviewer, but I have driven a lot of tech-laden electric cars in the past year, including the Jaguar I-Pace, the BMW i3s, the Mini Cooper SE Countryman (hybrid), the Volkswagen e-Golf, and the Ford Fusion Energi.
After I came back from the CES 2019 tech trade show in January, I figured it made sense to start writing about cars now that companies are packing so much technology into these vehicles. I’m also getting ready for the day when these cars can drive themselves. And I’m looking at the other tech embedded in the cars as it starts to fade into the woodwork and become just one more feature.
Like a lot of cars I’ve driven this year, this one uses technology for advanced safety features, passenger comfort, infotainment, and general driver assistance.
Basics of the Chevy Bolt EV
The premium version of this small wagon sells for $37,495 with 240-volt DC fast-charging — and before federal or state tax incentives. That compares to the $42,550 Nissan Leaf SL Plus that I drove recently. On a single charge, the Bolt EV can travel an estimated 238 miles (next year’s model will get 259 miles).
The drive system uses a single, high-capacity electric motor for propulsion. And the motor can produce up to 266 lb.-ft. (360 Nm) of torque and 200hp (150 kW) of motoring power, enabling zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds. Translation: It has a lot of zip.
It has a 60-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack made up of 288 individual cells. You can use the DC fast-charging system to enable a battery charge of 90 miles in 30 minutes. When I plugged it into my standard wall charger, the charging was a lot slower.
With the “Regen on Demand” feature, you can convert kinetic energy into stored energy within the battery for future use. If you drive this car an average daily commute of 40 miles, you could fully replenish the battery in less than two hours.
It also has what Chevrolet calls one-pedal driving. While driving in Low mode at any speed, you can speed up and slow down using only the accelerator pedal. When you want to speed up, press your foot down like you normally would. And when you want to slow down, just lift your foot off the accelerator. One Pedal Driving helps you capture some of the energy from the moving vehicle and turn it back into electrical energy, which is then stored in the battery. Of course, you should always use your brake pedal if you need to stop quickly.
A paddle on the left side of the steering wheel lets you use more regenerative braking and can stop the car.
The car has a dashboard screen and a larger 10.2-inch diagonal infotainment screen. The infotainment screen is a color touch-screen display with “flip-board” operation.
You can plug a smartphone into the USB connector in the center console, and the center compartment is actually large enough to stow a tablet.
The car supports Apple Car Play and Android Auto. This means I was able to connect my phone directly to the car via the USB connector and then display the apps on my iPhone on the car’s display. I could see my car navigation screen from my Google Maps or Waze apps. I could also play my Spotify songs on the dashboard and control them on the touchscreen. Apple Car Play is a standard feature in many of the 2019 models I’ve driven this year.
You can link your iPhone to Bluetooth or the car’s Wi-Fi network, which can be used as a hotspot.
The car also features Marketplace, which is an in-vehicle commerce platform for making purchases and reservations. To use Marketplace, log in through an icon on the vehicle’s touchscreen. You can then interact and transact with merchants such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Applebee’s, Yelp Reservations, Shell, ExxonMobil, Priceline.com, and more. To do mobile ordering and payments, you need to sync a personal rewards account.
You can download mobile app myChevrolet to check your vehicle’s status and locate the car using a remote key fob.
If you go into the OnStar icon, you can access the car’s infotainment system and select Wi-Fi settings. Up to seven laptops and smartphones can connect to the network within a 50-foot range of the car.
The Connected Access also enables vehicle diagnostics, dealer maintenance notification, and other features. In-vehicle apps that you can download include the Weather Channel, USA Today, People Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, audiobooks, and more. The version I used also had SiriusXM Satellite Radio, which offers a much wider range of content.
Safety and comfort features
The car has an optional OnStar safety and security system, as well as automated crash response. If the car’s cameras detect that you are approaching a vehicle too quickly, it will flash a red light and slow your car with automated emergency braking. The brakes will be automatically applied if the sensors detect either a pedestrian or another vehicle.
The Bolt EV also has lane-departure warnings, so if you get drowsy and start to drift, the car will nudge you awake and shift back into its lane.
The car also has a blind-spot monitor. If someone is driving in your blind spot, cameras on the car will fire up an orange light on the mirror. The Bolt EV includes roadside assistance provided by Allstate, stolen vehicle assistance, and the ability to make emergency services calls for you if you have an accident.
The car does not have power-adjustable seats, but there are 10 air bags in the car, and it has a standard rear-vision camera and tire-fill alert, as well as rear park assist. Surround vision and rear camera mirror are standard on the Premier version.
Worth the price?
The price is pretty good compared to rivals like the Nissan Leaf SL Plus, and the car is priced about the same as the $36,550 standard Nissan Leaf. The Bolt EV has enough range to get you from San Jose to San Francisco roundtrip without fear that you’ll run out of electric power. If you can figure out how to get this kind of car at a discount, it would be a decent deal. And you can feel good knowing you won’t be emitting greenhouse gases into the environment.
Beyond that, the car drives fast, feels smooth, and it is designed for comfort and safety. What’s not to like?
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