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Volt speed wins Andretti approval

8.15.2012 (Via - Janice Cohen and her husband, Larry, saw no sacrilege in joining about 50 other Chevrolet Volt owners on Tuesday evening for a silent electric cruise of Woodward Avenue.

"Larry and I used to cruise Woodward in the '60s when we were dating," the Bloomfield Hills resident said.

"Woodward wasn't just about horsepower. It's also always been about what's hot. My Volt makes people turn and look and ask questions. It's no muscle car, but it's hot."

Chevrolet hosted an ice cream social and caravan cruise of the route that will be packed Saturday by thousands of hot rods and their admirers for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. Volt owners were invited from throughout Michigan and Northern Ohio.

The Detroit News borrowed a 2013 Volt and IndyCar driver Marco Andretti to test the machine's Woodward performance.

No, not its horsepower — its efficiency.

Although the grandson of the legendary Mario Andretti and 2006 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year liked the electric motor's strong acceleration from Woodward's also famous stoplights, he admitted to not being a very good "fuel economy driver."

"That's the worst thing you can ask me," Andretti said while dicing through Woodward traffic like he was, well, an Andretti.

But, Andretti proved the plug-in electric car with a gasoline engine generator that takes over when the battery is depleted could make an entire 40-mile lap of the traditional Dream Cruise route — from Eight Mile to Pontiac and back — entirely on electric power.

It wasn't until about seven miles after the economy run that Volt's 1.4-liter, four cylinder gasoline engine nearly silently kicked on to generate electricity and continue moving the car.

"This is the future," Andretti said. He expects IndyCars also soon will be powered by combination gas/electric drive systems. "This car's performance isn't measured by horsepower, but it is so smooth and has so much torque at the bottom that it really accelerates. I am looking forward to this in my racing future."

Andretti admitted he's not a "classic car guy," but said the stories he heard during his Tuesday visit to Detroit to speak with General Motors executives made him wish he was staying through the weekend so he could take in the spectacle.

His personal collection of cars back home in Nazareth, Pa., includes a new Camaro, Lamborghini and Porsche.

"As a race driver, someday I'll miss the sound of those powerful engines," he said.

"But hey, it's all about speed, and electric cars are going to be very fast."

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