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2013 Chevy Volt Review – New Feature Focus

The 2013 Chevy Volt features several interesting software and display updates, a modestly higher capacity battery, and an all same color paint scheme.  This review will focus on the changes that make the 2013 Chevy Volt different than the 2011 and the 2012 model years.

1.)  Obvious Changes to the Outside/Inside

The 2013 Chevy Volt features an all body color paint scheme, as compared to the black roof / black trunk look from the 2011 and 2012 models.  Folks in hot climates will rejoice at no longer having the black roof, but personally I like the touch of having the contrasting paint colors.

2013 Chevy Volt New Paint

Also the PRNDL indicators are actually available on the center console, compared to the 2011 which did not have this next to the gear selector.

Chevy Volt Shifter

2.)  Performance Improvements to the Battery

The 2013 Chevy Volt features a 16.5 Kw-h battery, up from a 16 Kw-h battery that was present on the 2011/2012 models.  In addition, the battery will use a slightly higher depth of discharge, making the electricity available to you about 10% higher than it was before.  Also you can see exactly how much energy you are using while driving with the updated dash software that displays exactly how much you are using.  The extra 10% battery was noticeable,  and in the real world did in fact extend my EV range by roughly that amount.  You can see a full discharge cycle here in the “Drive Summary Image”.

2013 Chevy Volt Efficiency

3.)  Software Updates that make the Volt More Interesting

Perhaps the most important update to the 2013 Volt is actually in the software. First off, is updating the infotainment system to the Chevy Standard MyLink, which offers access to additional content like Pandora and a true Home Screen to navigate from.

Chevy Volt MyLink

To me though, the most interesting update comes from the new available display on the Driver Instrument Cluster called “Power”  The power display tells you in real time how much electricity you are drawing from, or putting back into the battery.  This is really cool because you can really see how much you are using while scooting around town, or when you are driving on the freeway at differing speeds.  A quick video below shows it in action.


As you climb a hill or hold freeway speeds from 65 to 70 to 75 MPH, you’ll notice that you need a lot more power from the battery to keep you going.  You’ll also notice how much energy is getting put into the battery when you are using regenerative braking.  To me this gives me a better sense of how efficiently I am driving and a little satisfaction knowing when I am putting juice back in the battery vs. just wasting it.

4.)  Now Available, a new Mountain Mode and Hold Mode Setting/Display

Hold mode is a new feature that allows you to start the Chevy Volt’s gas engine at any time to “hold” the battery at a certain state of charge.  This is useful if you are going on long trips and want to save the battery to be used in town for local driving (where it is most efficient).  Make sure however that you are going on a long enough trip to actually deplete the battery though, otherwise you are just wasting gas!  Another neat feature here is if you are going for a long enough trip in the cold, you can use hold mode to heat up the engine, and use the engine heat to heat up the cabin vs. the electric heaters.  If you don’t know already, the electric heaters are a huge battery power draw and relatively inefficient, whereas using the waste heat from the engine is like getting “free heat”  You will notice how much warmer the cabin gets while using engine heat as well – it is much toastier than using the electric heaters.  Again, if you use this feature, make sure you’ll use up all your battery by the end of the trip or you’re just going to end up wasting gas.

Chevy Volt Hold Mode

Mountain Mode is unchanged from the previous model, but has a new little gray graphical indicator that makes it clear what it is doing.  Mountain Mode is like hold mode, but will actually charge up your battery to about 40% to allow you to climb a mountain without having to slow down.

Chevy Volt Mountain Mode

Fun updates for the Chevy Volt, but I’ll be very excited to see what the next generation Volt has in store for us!

8 Responses to “2013 Chevy Volt Review – New Feature Focus”

  1. Chris C. says:

    The PRNDL graphics on the console was added in the 2012 model year. It’s the first thing to catch my eye every time I sit in someone else’s Volt.

    Differences between 2011 and 2012 model year Volts:

    Changes for the 2013 model year Volts:

    BTW, you make the “it’s vs its” mistake a lot in your writing.

  2. no comment says:

    hold mode make little sense in the united states – the reason it was introduced was for european markets where combustion propelled vehicles would be banned in regulated zones. there are no such regulations in the united states. the net result will be just that – wasted gasoline. i have never found the “efficiency” arguments to be particularly persuasive – if the engine is constantly engaging the drive train while you are driving around town in CS mode (e.g. while accelerating), then you probably aren’t driving particularly efficiently in any event. it seems to me to be very inefficient to use the engine to generate electricity…so why do so unless you absolutely must do so? my thinking is that the most efficient way to operate the volt is to just drive in an efficient manner and on-board controller will probably make more optimized decisions than you would.

    personally, i wouldn’t find the instantaneous power usage statistics to be particularly useful either – when i am driving i tend to try to keep my eyes (and mind) on the road.

    while many do seem to complain about the heater in the volt, i have found the heating system to be satisfactory. however, i tend to drive with the heating system set to “comfort” mode; it is less satisfactory in “eco” mode. my thinking is that i prefer comfort and am willing to give up electric range. besides, the volt has a generator so i don’t have to worry about running out of electric range.

    while i generally like the color coded scheme of the new volt, my volt is blue and i think that the black roof looks a lot better on my car. besides, i would not want to buy a car whose model use had the number #@ (the number following 12) in it…

    • David says:

      One use case for hold mode: say you’re taking a long trip. You may choose to use Hold mode while in the middle of nowhere in case the engine fails. Then you still have your EV charge as a backup to get into town and wait for a tow truck.

  3. Martin T says:

    We have Hold and no Mountain mode in Australia and it works fine for me as I like the quite at low road speed and once you reach speed usually it fires up the ice again, plus when I get home then I can charge.
    Mountain mode I understand would recharge the battery which is not what I need.

    The KW Driver Information Console stats I enjoy as I can glance down and see what my driving style for certain conditions is doing both usage and regeneration – Which I find more interesting than the TPMS system readout.

    Lane deviation feature so so, Collision avoidance = complete waste of time, mainly because on the longest range setting I’m already avoiding the warned condition and non car people will be too busy looking at the warning icon while they smash (<2.5 sec) into what they are being warned about if it tracks the cars in front which sometimes in unusual conditions it cannot.

    However to Drive the VOLT everyday is amazing – its superior in so many ways I could go on for a couple of pages!
    If you have driven one yet – go try one and see if it suits your needs – you will be impressed!

    • PatrickZWang says:

      Hi Martin,

      Good to hear from Volt owners in Australia! How does your commute look like over there? I’m curious to know if its similar to in the US?

      How’s the difference in electricity vs gas costs treating you?


  4. Tommmeee says:

    Story of my 2013 VOLT purchased September 2013.

    HOLD mode is great. Took a 210 mile trip from Anaheim CA to San Diego and back. The order of my switching between HOLD and ELECTRIC follows:

    Used 10 miles on electric. Switched to HOLD & drove to San Diego then switched back to electric. Used 15 miles+ driving around (spent the night @ hotel & visited the convention center twice). The VALET parked it twice (electric). Expensive parking at the hotel in downtown San Diego. DID NOT SEARCH FOR A CHARGER because the car generates its own. Too inconvenient to care! Drove home on gas. Switched to electric at 19 miles from home & used it all. Result = 210 miles @ 45 mpg — about 5 gallons (and 40 miles of electric). Yes, my car gets 40 miles on the highway at 65.

    Never needed Mountain mode. I have used it to put charge in the battery for hills and when needed for driving around town but the mileage meter does not register electric miles created from gas but DOES register regenerated electricity.

    It takes 20 miles to create 19 miles of electricity and the resulting mileage still calculates to its minimum 37 to 40 MPG. Also, I drove another 650 mile trip for 4 days with no plug in using mountain mode almost all of the time on the road. The car averaged 38 MPG and I did not ‘baby it’ while driving. Passed on hills at high speed, drove at speed up ‘mountains’ and performance was wonderful. I am very happy about this car and will ‘talk about it’ every chance I get.

    Thanks for listening

  5. Chuck says:

    Does the Volt have the ability to update the software without having to buy a model year newer? For example if there’s a bug or issue that they find? I’m sure the dealership would be able to do this if need be I guess?

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