In Part 1, I covered some general issues and pleasantries we ran into throughout the trip. Access to dealer-based charging stations can be problematic if you’re running late, adaptive cruise shouldn’t be used on steep downhill stretches of roads, and the vehicle is surprisingly efficient considering its bigger size over the regular Bolt EV.
Now, I’m going to cover some specific segments of the trip I learned things about the vehicle from.
The “EUV” Title Seems To Be Earned
The Bolt EUV (Electric Utility Vehicle) is not an SUV. A real SUV is usually based on a truck frame, like the Chevrolet Suburban. They’re also almost always built with a longitudinal RWD drivetrain configuration, with a transfer case for 4WD models. Another popular vehicle category, the crossover SUV, is visually similar, but with more car-like unibody transverse-drive (front-drive or AWD) underpinnings for cheaper construction and often lighter weight (which translates into better gas mileage).
The Bolt EUV is definitely one of the latter, but it’s still a lot more car-like than many crossovers. It doesn’t have much ground clearance, and it’s not available with all-wheel drive at all. But, it’s visually very much in the crossover camp, and the seating position in the vehicle definitely has you looking down on all the unAmerican peasants in their sedans and hatchbacks, who don’t know that you’re supposed to drive something big and chunky in 2022 like a real patriotic badass.
(I’m obviously kidding about that last part, but it’s true that we Americans love our crossovers)
Given the in-between space the EUV lives in, I decided to give it a small challenge: driving up to the Monjeau Peak Lookout. Sadly, this happened after dark, so I can’t give you pictures, but you can find some cool ones at the Google Maps page for the place.
The road up there isn’t paved, and much of it is a pretty good gravel road that any vehicle can travel on unless it’s been lowered. But, there are some rough patches where the rocks stick through the gravel, and in some places rainstorms have washed deep ruts into the road. Those sections are pretty similar to the most mild and tame of “Jeep” trails, so that made for a reasonable and appropriate challenge for the Bolt EUV.
While you can take a normal car up that road, it’s generally not that fun because a road-oriented suspension will beat you up pretty bad. But, the EUV was pretty pleasant, even on the bumpy sections. I still had to pick my lines pretty carefully to avoid putting the larger rocks under the battery pack and coming down on them, I wasn’t as careful as I’d have to be in something like my Jetta, and I didn’t cringe every time the thing hit a bump.
On the most challenging washout sections, I’d use one-pedal drive to ease into the little crevices made by the rainstorms, and then apply a miniscule amount of controllable electric torque to climb the tires back up the other side without slamming. To do this on a gas car would require riding the brake into the bottom and having to two-foot to avoid an idling motor leaping you out of the hole.
Most importantly, there was very little wheel slip on any of the challenging sections, and I never had to disable traction control. GM seems to have set the traction control up to be able to take on these little challenges without digging in. Turning off “Sport Mode” is also useful here, as it gives you better control over low-speed power.
So, I’d say that the EUV has very much earned the “utility vehicle” badge on the back. It’s more than just a big, chunky car and makes driving not-so-great dirt roads pleasant.
But, This Comes At The Cost Of Twisty Road Handling (Which Is OK With Me)
The more SUV-like suspension on the EUV does come at a cost: There’s a noticeable increase in body roll over the regular Bolt EV in the corners. The less stiff suspension means you can’t comfortably take corners as fast as you could in lower-slung road-oriented EVs. The extra roll seems to magnify the disadvantages of front-wheel-drive a bit, too. So, if you’re buying the EUV to go carve canyons, I’d cancel that order.
But, nobody buys a crossover to go carve canyons. If you’re on a budget like me, you’d buy a Bolt or LEAF and upgrade the suspension. If you’ve got better income and fewer kids, you’d probably get a Model 3 or Model S for that, or a Taycan. The only reason I share this is that I know some readers will think the EUV is a chunky car, when it’s less optimized for cornering on pavement than its smaller Bolt EV sibling.
One thing I found that did improve the on-road feel a bit was to put some more air in the tires. Not only does this help your range a bit, but it stiffens the overall suspension up a bit. I carry a portable air compressor around, and there’s no reason you couldn’t air down a bit for bumpy roads and air up for the highway to get a little more versatility out of of the vehicle.
Charging Is The Obvious Drawback (But It’s One You Can Wait Out)
On this trip, I did two charging stops, and I was definitely noticing the 55 kW maximum charging speed and the aggressive taper. But, coming from a #Rapidgate LEAF that would sink to as low as 14 kW on the second and subsequent charging sessions on trips, charging at around 50 kW consistently is downright awesome.
At the Alamogordo charging station (at the Chevy dealer), I got 45 kW, which seems to be all that station can put out. At the Carrizozo Francis Energy station, I got the full 55 kW of power until the taper.
45-60 minute charging stops still suck compared to driving a gas-powered car, though. So, I can definitely see how the 55 kW maximum charging speed can be a deal-breaker for many buyers, but it’s one you can get around if you like everything else about the EUV, but want faster charging.
The upcoming Equinox EV is going to be built on the Ultium platform (which means much faster DC fast charging), start at $30k, and will come with 50 more miles of range to boot. So, if that’s you, I’d wait until that vehicle comes out next year.
For me, I went ahead and bought it because most of my driving is local and regional, and for those long, long road trips, I usually take a 40 MPG gas car if there’s not time to stop and charge. As usual, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). You gotta do what works for you.
Featured Image: my Bolt EUV on Transmountain Road in El Paso. I took the trip described in this article mostly after dark, so I had to use a picture from somewhere else this time.
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