Drove the Leaf, Volt, and Electric ML 350 today.

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436
Location
Indianapolis, IN
I was visiting a supplier in Detroit today and when I arrived at my hotel I noticed an "autocross" type course setup in back with a Leaf and Volt driving around. Curious as to what was going on I walked around back and found there was a convention for media/dealers going on to better acquaint everyone with electric vehicle technology. I was able to drive the Leaf, Volt and ML 350 and thought I would write a quick review about them. It was very enlightening to drive them all back to back to experience the different ways each interpreted the electric vehicle. If there is something I did not mention feel free to ask and I will do my best to relay my experience. ML 350: I don’t care for larger vehicles like SUVs so I did not have very strong expectations going into this drive; however, this felt the most like a normal car to me. I think this was mostly due to the fact that it was a large vehicle and could hide the weight of the battery better. Overall a very nice car, no complaints as expected from a Mercedes. Volt: I was very excited to drive this and was hoping for a good showing. The doors were a little small to get into the driver’s seat comfortably but once inside everything was laid out very nicely. I felt the gauges and information center was the best of any of the three. The first thing I noticed once I started driving was the lack of a rear windshield wiper. This would not be a problem at high speed but at the lower speeds around the parking lot my rearward visibility was virtually nothing. The steering felt very firm, although a little disconnected from the front wheels. You could definitely feel the weight of the car when making quick maneuvers. Overall, the handling was average. The brakes were horrible. They seemed very soft for the first part of pedal application and then grabbed in a hurry. The rep stated that a lot of people had the same comments although she didn’t know if it was an issue with that particular vehicle or just a characteristic of the car. The car accelerated very well, although not with as much force as the Leaf. For NVH, the road noise was minimal however, when the IC engine kicked on there was a noticeable vibration in the steering wheel. Nothing terrible, just noticeable. Overall, I would not buy this car for a daily driver because of the insecure feeling with the brakes, tightness getting in and out, and the poor rear visibility. Leaf: This was my favorite of the three. Ingress and egress was very easy. The gauges took a little to get used to and did not feel as intuitive as the Volt’s. The rear seats seemed to have slightly less room than the Volt but not by much. The steering was lighter than I would like but did not feel disconnected. The car definitely felt very nimble during driving. The acceleration, braking, and cornering all seemed to be spot-on. Overall the car was much more polished and pleasant to drive than the Volt but the limited range would eliminate me from using it as my daily driver. If I lived in the city or had a short daily commute I would very much enjoy driving this car on a daily basis.
 
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782
Location
Philadelphia, PA
The braking characteristics you describe seem to be endemic of most GM cars. It's the reason my parents bypassed GM when looking for a new car and why I hate the Chevy Colorado at work.
 
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14,505
Location
Top of Virginia
Both Fusion Hybrids at work have the same braking feel as the Volt. I think it's simply a result of there not being a traditional connection between the brake pedal and the hydraulic braking system. It's nearly impossible to apply the brake smoothly in reverse in the Fusions. The brakes are either ON or OFF. Going forward, it's better, but the pedal feels like a sponge...very artificial. I don't there's anything wrong with it, and it's probably how other hybrids feel as well. Just the nature of the beast of these non-traditional systems.
 

09_GXP

Thread starter
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436
Location
Indianapolis, IN
Originally Posted By: Hokiefyd
Both Fusion Hybrids at work have the same braking feel as the Volt. I think it's simply a result of there not being a traditional connection between the brake pedal and the hydraulic braking system. It's nearly impossible to apply the brake smoothly in reverse in the Fusions. The brakes are either ON or OFF. Going forward, it's better, but the pedal feels like a sponge...very artificial. I don't there's anything wrong with it, and it's probably how other hybrids feel as well. Just the nature of the beast of these non-traditional systems.
I think the biggest difference is the tuning of the systems. The Leaf felt like it had normal friction brakes and my CR-Z feels the same.
 
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10,796
Location
Jupiter, Florida
I really liked the Volt in my test drive. I had it up on the highway and it was a very nice handling car. Quieter than my Jaguar too! But that price....
 
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14,505
Location
Top of Virginia
Originally Posted By: 09_GXP
I think the biggest difference is the tuning of the systems. The Leaf felt like it had normal friction brakes and my CR-Z feels the same.
Yeah, so much of a car's feel these days is programming. Off topic, but how how do you like your CR-Z? A co-worker is looking at possibly buying one soon. I look forward to a future review if you have the time to brag about your new car.
 
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