Having previously driven various prototypes, here we’re trying Vauxhall’s revolutionary electric range extender in final production spec. However for UK buyers the wait continues, with RHD cars not due before Q2 2012. A frustration because, based on this drive the Ampera makes a remarkable amount of sense.
What’s it like?
Apart from the obvious lack of engine noise when running on battery charge, the Ampera behaves very much like a conventional car. The steering although lacking feel is decently accurate and consistently weighted, and the ride is particularly good.
At 1732kg the Ampera is quite a bit heavier than a regular family hatchback, however the 148bhp electric motor provides enough propulsion for most circumstances. Vauxhall hasn’t issued final performance figures but claim 0-62mph in around nine seconds, which feels about right.
Compared to the prototypes we’ve driven before, the final car is noticeably quieter – both in terms of wind noise and whine from the electric motor. The big test today though is how well the Ampera’s range extending drivetrain works over a medium distance journey.
Starting with the 16 kWh lithium-ion battery fully charged – which takes around 4hrs from a domestic plug – we managed 47 miles before the 1.4-litre petrol engine/generator kicked in. That’s mixed driving (urban and motorway) in 34deg ambient temperatures with the air-conditioning in ECO mode (pleasant enough).