Skip to main content

Review: Testing the Limits of the All-New Chevy Bolt EV

Chevy Bolt EV Electric Car Testing In Rocky Mountains National Park
Image used with permission by copyright holder
I’ll admit it: Before stepping into the Chevy Bolt EV, I was a skeptic.

I wasn’t really sure I’d enjoy driving the all-electric car to and from Denver to Glacier Basin at Rocky Mountain National Park. I didn’t know if I’d have the same flexibility or spontaneous freedom that comes with a traditional gas zoomer.

Chevy invited me out to do exactly this and test the limits of the 2017 Bolt EV, which went on sale in Colorado this month.

At first glance, you get the feeling it’s going to be at least a little zippy. At 102.4 in. from wheel to wheel, it comes in quite a bit shorter than the Honda Fit, while being a few inches longer than its sister, the Sonic. And for the record, it does have a bit of push under the accelerator. But to get there, you have to know how to optimally drive the thing. A PR rep from the brand gave us five writers a quick tutorial on the Bolt EV’s regenerative braking system, which when used right, gets somewhere near the EPA-estimated 238-mile range (more on all of that later).

Chevy Bolt Electric Car Testing In Rocky Mountains National Park
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I was paired with a Nightfall Grey Premier version reading 4100 miles on the odometer and set off on Colorado 36 towards Boulder. Another publicist would be my co-pilot.

The Bolt EV’s interior is an array of screens and numbers, most notably a cluster inside the dash that can be completely controlled with an arrow pad on the steering wheel. One of the key relays on the screen is the range meter, which constantly updates based on your driving skill.

This is where the whole “regenerative braking” thing comes in. When driving in its “Low” mode, the driver can pull off the pedal slowly, allowing the car to regenerate energy instead of using energy to brake.

Yes, at first, it’s a bit strange. But it’s almost like an automotive ballet – a delicate balance of easing on the pedal, while letting the car take over and roll to a stop in about the same length you would normally brake. At higher speeds, this process is a bit jittery, but it also helps extend the driving range. After you’ve mastered the ballet, you’re ready for the recital.

After a stop for lunch in Boulder, we ascended the remainder of Colorado 6 towards Estes Park and the Park entrance. It’s a hell of a drive with scenery at every turn and plenty of turns to gauge handling. The Bolt EV’s 17” Michelin Selfseal all-season tires stuck to each twist and responded well while gauging speeds through the regenerative system.

Chevy Bolt Electric Car Testing In Rocky Mountains National Park
Image used with permission by copyright holder

We spent the night in a valley campsite surrounded by a number of spectacular peaks and the Continental Divide. A sustainable meal prepared by a volunteer from environmental group Leave No Trace was a fitting complement to a drive up that sped past every gas station and left the 20th century in its wake.

The next morning, we all piled in to two of the five vehicles in the fleet and went for an early hike up to Bear Lake (trailhead: 9475 ft.) The Bolt took a car full of explorers through winding turns in stride and rolled to a comfortable stop in the parking lot. Elevation issues non-existent.

The Chevy Bolt EV has this way of making you try to drive better than you do with your normal gas guzzler back home. An internal computer spits out a variety of numbers that scores you on your electric driving ability (yours truly was among the top on the trip). So, the drive back down was an excellent time to cruise on half a full charge and make it to Denver International with about 60 miles to spare. (Final mileage around 200 miles.)

Chevy Bolt Electric Car Testing In Rocky Mountains National Park
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Bolt EV isn’t the most riveting car on the road by any means, but it does make you rethink the future of the everyday vehicle. It’s supremely quiet and causally whizzes its way through freeway traffic like a sleuth. The technology packed into its 3,563 pound frame is a testament to American ingenuity and you have to think it would be everything the average Yankee driver needs and more.

It comes in around $30,000 after rebates and credits, which puts it in the ballpark of much sportier and dynamic cars, but there’s the little benefit of not having to stop at the gas station. It’s not quite enough for me to run to the dealer, but add all-wheel drive to an all-electric package that’s this functional, and consider my season tickets to the ballet sold.

Editors' Recommendations

Geoff Nudelman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Geoff is a former contributor to The Manual. He's a native Oregonian who’s always up for a good challenge and a great hike…
2025 BMW 2 Series Coupe gains access to M Sport Professional Package
Freshened appearance and updated tech complement the new BMW 2 Series Coupe's established reputation.
2025 BMW 2 Series Coupe direct front view parked in a yacht club with docking in the background.

Hot on the heels of the 2025 BMW 3 Series launch, BMW just released the details for the 2025 BMW 2 Series Coupe. BMW's smallest vehicle in the sedan/coupe lineup does not have major mechanical changes for the new model year, but there are numerous color, finish, and styling updates. The 2025 buyers of all 2 Series Coupe variants can select the BM Sport Professional Package.
Why the BMW 2 Series Coupe matters

The BMW 2 Series Coupe is a very nice car, for sure, but it's also an introduction to BMW's extensive range of additional models. All automakers talk about loyal customers, but BMW can back up that statement with a consistent rating in one of the top spots on every premium car brand loyalty list. If buyers like their first BMW, there's a higher-than-average chance their next car will also be a BMW.
New with the 2025 BMW 2 Series Coupe

Read more
Bruce Wayne is selling Dark Knight and Gotham Pininfarina hypercars
Bruce Wayne's spirit and four hypercars inhabit a Manhattan townhome
Battista Dark Knight with bat doors open with bats in the background.

Battista Dark Knight with bat doors open with bats in the background. Automobili Pininfarina / Automobili Pininfarina

If you're a Batman fan or looking for a special gift for a Batman fan, how about a one-of-a-kind hypercar created by Automobili Pininfarina and sold by -- wink, wink -- Bruce Wayne Enterprises? The are four cars, but each is a one-off based on current Pininfarina hypercars, the Battista and Barchetta.

Read more
Aston Martin returns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with two hypercars in 2025
Aston Martin to extend 95-year racing history at Le Mans in 2025
aston martin returns le mans in 2025 valkyrie hypercar to 24 hours of overhead view

Following a new regulation by motorsports governing organization the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Le Mans event organizer the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), ultra-luxury British performance car brand Aston Martin announced its return in 2025 to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Along with the Heart of Racing works team, Aston Martin will field two race-optimized versions of its Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar for the 2025 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) racing schedule, including Le Mans.
Why Aston Martin's return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans matters

Aston Martin's racing history at Le Mans began in 1929. In the 95 years since that initial outing, more than 240 drivers have piloted 27 different Aston Margin chassis and engine configurations at Le Mans. An Aston Martin last won at Le Mans in 1959.

Read more