Inspired by endurance athletes, Chevy’s 2016 Volt is both more muscular and efficient

Has it been four years already?

The first-generation Chevrolet Volt created quite a stir as part of the initial wave of modern electric cars back in late 2010, but even a vehicle described as General Motors’ “moon shot” needs a refresh eventually.

So at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, Chevy rolled out the new 2016 Volt, with a long list of changes and upgrades intended to broaden its appeal.

The exterior styling is still recognizably Volt-like, but with more-aggressive features like the jagged headlights and more-pronounced rear decklid.

Chevy calls the styling “muscular,” and says it was inspired by “endurance athletes.” Bet you never expected to hear that in connection with an electric hatchback.

Of course, the Volt isn’t designed to be a sports car. Behind that flashy grille are active shutters to improve aerodynamics, and beneath the sculpted skin is a powertrain that’s even more efficient than before.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

As before, the car’s Voltec powertrain consists of a gasoline engine that acts as a generator, two electric motors, and a lithium-ion battery, but a lot has changed.

The four-cylinder engine is a new 1.5-liter direct-injected unit that produces 101 horsepower.

The battery pack now has a capacity of 18.4 kilowatt-hours (up from 17.1-kWh). Both motors are also used to power the car in more situations, which Chevy says improves efficiency.

The result is an estimated 50 mile of electric-only range, a GM-estimated 41 mpg combined on gasoline power, and a combined driving range of around 400 miles. The Volt will also do 0 to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds.

The big news on the inside is a middle seat. The T-shaped made the outgoing model a four-seater, the 2016 Volt can seat five.

Those sitting in front get to gaze at updated digital displays – one in the gauge pod and one on the center stack – that show information about charging status, range, navigation, etc.

Other notable tech features include Siri Eyes Free voice control for iPhones, a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, and location-based charging – which lets the owner set certain preferences for a “home” location and automatically defaults to them when the Volt detects it’s there.

Owners can set the charging level, schedule whether to start charging immediately or to wait for off-peak utility rates, and set a departure time for each day of the week.

We’ll see if features like that and a less-nerdy attitude will make the 2016 Chevy Volt an improvement on its predecessor. The new Volt hits showrooms in the second half of 2015.

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