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2017 Chevy Bolt EV vs. VW GTI Quick Spin | Cones of silence

Reese Counts

Since the first moment I hit the throttle and felt all 266 pound-feet of torque instantly break the front tires loose, I've wanted a chance to really cane the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV like any other hot hatch. Despite Chevy's best attempts to market the Bolt EV as a crossover, it's really a hatchback. A good one, too. It seems the automaker is wising up to that, as I was invited to drive the Bolt EV at an autocross course. Better yet, Chevy was bold enough to bring along a 2017 Volkswagen GTI, arguably the best hot hatch around.

The Bolt EV has a lot going for it. The batteries keep the center of gravity low, and the copious amounts of torque help the car get out of a corner with some anger. The steering doesn't provide much in the way of feedback, but it's weighted well and quick enough to not be a handful on a tight course. The brakes are good for a hybrid.

Like any autocross course, this small cone track favored maneuverability and low-end grunt over flat-out speed and lateral grip. Still, Chevy saw fit to equip the Bolt EV with summer tires, though a slight drizzle on the day of the event negated much of the benefit. The tires only spun for maybe 10 feet on a hard launch, compared to 15 feet on the stock low-rolling resistant tires. Turn-in was better, and lap times were slightly quicker with the sticky rubber.

The Bolt EV was seriously fun, and not just for an EV. There were parts of the autocross course where the car really outshined the GTI, though the latter usually ended up with quicker lap times. The Chevy's torque really helped, and the short runs between cones meant that it never really ran out of breath. Body roll was minimal, and the regenerative brakes were surprisingly capable. With enough effort, there was some mild lift off oversteer.

The strangest thing about the entire experience was the lack of engine noise. I've driven EVs, but never in any sort of performance application (aside from nailing the throttle in a Tesla Model X P90D on a freeway entrance ramp). The slight whine from the electric motor was completely drowned out by tire noise. The GTI is a relatively conservative car, but compared to the Bolt it's as loud and as obnoxious as a Foxbody Ford Mustang with rusty exhaust.

I walked away hugely impressed. The GTI was still faster and more fun, but the Bolt EV was enjoyable. Now we just need to convince Chevrolet Performance that a Bolt SS is worth the trouble.

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