Another look at Chevy Volt, Apple Watch

Here are updates on products I’ve reviewed before: the Chevy Volt and Apple Watch.

Chevy Volt

Here’s my final update on the 2013 Chevy Volt I bought nearly two years ago. I’ve driven 12,800 miles and just took it in for its scheduled free maintenance — still no cost for any service.

The car continues to perform well with no real mechanical or electrical issues. There are no rattles or creaks and the Volt runs just as it did when new. The brakes are over 80 percent of new ones, and the paint and trim are pristine with no sign of fading.

The only issue is that the rubber air dam at the front bottom of the car has become partially torn from running into a few curbs while parking. It has been a recurring issue with other owners. The air dam is $300 to replace, but the dealer recommended just cutting the damaged part off and not replacing it.

I’ve averaged 114 miles per gallon driving a combination of battery (70 percent) and gasoline power (30 percent). My trips have been mostly less than 50 miles a day with several trips to Los Angeles and Orange County. For those trips, the trade off — and benefit — of the Volt is being able to drive in the HOV lanes.

As I earlier reported, I’ve encountered a small error on the information display: The pie chart showing the miles driven on electricity and gas for each trip sometimes erroneously shows 0.2 miles driven on gas when I start from a fully charged car.

GM tells me they continue to be baffled by this. I’ve lived with it, but I expected better follow-up from the company.

A freeze of the console, which I noted in the most recent report, has not reoccurred, but I experienced one strange event. When I got into the car it didn’t detect my key and asked me to insert it into a “key pocket” to start.

This required a call to OnStar to find out what it meant, because the manual made no mention of this. The key pocket turned out to be a small hole under the rubber mat in a dashboard storage compartment that allowed the car to better detect the key.

Apparently, the key fob’s battery was low.

I continue to get close to 40 miles per charge. The capacity has slightly increased over the past few months, perhaps because of warmer weather.

To sum up my experience, I find the Volt to be a terrific automobile. It’s been reliable and is still fun to drive. My dealer experience has been excellent (Weseloh Chevrolet in Carlsbad), providing quick service and a loaner car when needed.

The Volt is advanced yet practical, and affordable yet well-equipped.

A 2015 Volt fully loaded with forward-collision alert, rear camera, navigation, leather seats, lane-departure warning, cruise control, back-up camera and keyless entry costs about $39,000.

Federal and state rebates of up to $9,000 are available.

Chevy has announced that an all-new second-generation Volt is coming in January with a much sleeker body style and a 50-miles-per-charge capability.

Apple Watch

I’ve been using an Apple Watch for the past month lent to me by Apple. It’s the stainless model with a mesh strap, selling for $649.

I’ve used it much more extensively than my earlier sample, a $349 aluminum model with rubber strap that I had for only two days. Both models performed the same.

My assessment is not all that different from earlier: It’s a well-executed, attractive watch, but there’s no compelling reason to buy and wear it … yet.

This time around I had more time to learn how to use it, and more time led to a better experience. Because its learning curve is steeper than with other Apple products, you really need a week or two to become comfortable with it and learn its features.

You need time to figure out which way to swipe the screen to access other functions, as it’s not at all intuitive.

In addition, settings for the watch are scattered among three places: on the watch itself, on the watch App on your phone, and in your iPhone settings.

I’ve had to use Google many times to figure things out. Apple does not include adequate instructions and assumes you’ll use the Web to get answers. This is a product that needs an instruction book.

This time I’ve been using the watch for many new things. I’ve set alarms and timers on it, and answered and declined calls by touching a button on the display. I’ve been alerted to appointments and viewed my schedule each day.

I’ve used it to navigate just by speaking my destination into the speaker. Its Siri function generally worked well.

I still find it difficult to check the time without an arm shake and find its health-monitoring functions to be less than comprehensive. It doesn’t record steps or calories like other devices, but it does remind me to get up and walk every hour, which is good when I’m glued to my computer. It’s also sent reminders when I’ve been in a movie theater or driving at 60 mph on Interstate 5.

The true test is whether you automatically wear it every day. I didn’t at first, but now I wear it more often. I’ve gotten to like screening calls, getting reminders and alarms for appointments, and initiating calls.

When the iPad and iPhone first were introduced, each had more compelling uses for them, whether it was reading a book or making a call. And each was a self-contained product, not dependent on another.

With the Watch, there’s no compelling app, but more of a series of little things it does with your iPhone. As you learn more about these features, the accumulation may get you to a point where you find it’s something you will use every day — but that time will take about a month.

I think the Watch will be a formidable product over time as new apps are developed for it, and as Apple continues to improve its capabilities. If you’re tempted, buy the aluminum model, which is almost half the price and does just what the more expensive models do.

Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer," published by Financial Times Press. Send comments to Comments may be published online or as Letters to the Editor.

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2 UserComments
Glenn Grant 12:00am August 27, 2015

My friend who bought one found out when he got a flat the the car does not come with a spare. Chevy had it towed to its nearest dealer but he still had to pay for a prorated replacement tire.

Dan Roslund 12:00am August 24, 2015

The Volt is also an excellent used car value, loosing value quickly, yet proforming well AND economical to operate. It remains to be seen how long the battery pack will last before replacement.