Look, Ma: No hands, no feet, and no gas!
As I drove the 2022 Bolt EUV, Chevrolet’s new all-electric SUV, across Los Angeles from the beach to rolling hills in hands-free mode, my first reaction was…ahhhh! I’ve owned a 2017 Bolt EV, the first of its kind, for more than three years, but I’ve never driven a car that steers itself. Watching the wheel turn on its own as the car snaked through windy sections of a freeway never got old during my 60-mile round trip.
With my hands in my lap and my foot off the pedals, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I was caught between trying to relax but still pay attention to the road; the EUV isn’t a fully self-driving vehicle (no cars for sale are, not even Teslas), which means you still have to be prepared to take the wheel and slam on the brake. When I finally got used to the driver assistance features formally known as Super Cruise with Automated Cruise Control, I found myself staring forward at the road but zoning out, forgetting to look at Google Maps in the shiny 10.2-inch center screen. There were a few times I almost missed an exit. The EUV’s Super Cruise won’t change lanes or follow directions for you, so you have to keep an eye on where you need to go.
“It takes some getting used to,” Brandon Bloss, the EUV’s lead development engineer said, adding that he loves going hands-free on road trips with his family from Michigan to Tennessee in their Cadillac, GM’s first brand to get Super Cruise. “It allows you to get to your location so much more relaxed.” The EUV’s version of Super Cruise takes some of the thinking out of driving by keeping you in a lane and managing your speed and space behind another car. However, the EUV doesn’t have the most extensive driving assistance features out there. Its Super Cruise is more limited than that of the Cadillacs, but the EUV’s abilities are better than nothing. Indeed, when I had to drive home on several busy freeways in my 2017 Bolt sans Super Cruise, my stress levels jumped.
If you’re in the market for a Bolt, which 2022 model you choose — the original design, aka EV, or the SUV, aka EUV — will depend on whether you want Super Cruise and the SUV look, which only come with the EUV. Chevy expects it to be a 60-40 split, with the EUV being the more popular choice when both models are available sometime this summer, Bloss said.
Hands-free and pedal-free driving is the biggest selling point for the Bolt EUV. Other than that and an additional six inches of length (most of that felt in the second seat’s three extra inches of legroom), a smoother ride, and the SUV look with bells and whistles, the Bolt EUV is generally similar to its slightly less expensive EV older sister.
The 2022 EV comes with a bigger range: 259 miles on a single charge compared to the EUV’s 250 miles. But that’s a minor gap especially since range is an estimate that fluctuates depending on how fast you drive and whether you’re blasting the AC. The 2022 EV has the same range as the 2021 model, but my 2017 Bolt only gets 238 miles, so it’s a bit of a boost all around from what I’m used to. Both 2022 Bolts have a 65 kwh lithium-ion battery.
The 2022 Bolt EV starts at $31,995 with the Bolt EUV starting at $33,995. Both are cheaper than the 2021 Bolt EV, which starts at $36,500. GM no longer qualifies for federal tax rebates on electric cars.
The EUV’s Super Cruise turns on with the click of a button and works on 200,000 miles of freeway and highway in the U.S. and Canada. If you try to turn it on where it’s not compatible, you’ll get a nope in the form of a notification under your speedometer. GM uses a mix of the car’s internal maps, GPS satellites, and tower-based directional systems to tell the car where it can turn on the assistance features. I could use Super Cruise on much of my freeway-bound drive and experienced a seamless slow-down several times as traffic stalled on busy LA freeways, which were still crowded despite the pandemic. The first few times I noticed traffic stopping, I instinctively grabbed the wheel and hit the brake, turning off Super Cruise.
You can take your hands off the wheel with Super Cruise thanks to eye-tracking camera tech… With all Teslas, that’s a no-no.
“It’ll brake, but if someone slams on the brakes and you’re going 70, you’re gonna want to brake,” Bloss said.
The EUV’s Super Cruise is similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, that company’s standard driver assistance system. Like Super Cruise, Autopilot steers in a lane and keeps up with traffic. When compared to Teslas with optional “Full Self-Driving Capability,” an advanced driver assistance system that costs $10,000 and despite the name isn’t fully self-driving, the EUV’s Super Cruise trails behind. But the EUV has an important bonus.
Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system will change lanes on highways for you, park your car, and functions on some city and residential streets. But, and this is a big but: You can take your hands off the wheel with Super Cruise thanks to eye-tracking camera tech (that works even when you wear glasses). With all Teslas, that’s a no-no since Tesla only has wheel sensors to make sure you’re paying attention to the road. If you see videos of hands-free Tesla drivers, they’re flouting Tesla’s rules. Chevrolet is expanding where Super Cruise works every several weeks, but don’t expect city streets to be compatible any time soon. “I can’t say we’ll never have streets,” Bloss said, but he couldn’t say Super Cruise for sure would, either.
Super Cruise also won’t work on freeway off and on ramps and in the exit lane or sometimes if two freeways are merging or splitting. When it turns itself off, the car will beep and a green light at the top of the steering wheel that’s on while in Super Cruise will turn red. The light turns blue when you flick on a blinker to switch lanes and will go back to green once you’ve centered yourself in the new lane, letting you know you can take your hands off. (See Chevy’s video below for a peek at the EUV’s Super Cruise in action.) The Cadillac 2023 Lyriq, another all-electric car from GM, will Super Cruise that can change lanes for you, a feature already in the Cadillac CT4, CT5, and Escalade. However, the 2023 Lyriq is expected to be almost twice as expensive as the EUV coming in under $60,000.
While in Super Cruise during my demo, there was one time the car jerked over as the lane on a freeway widened into a V-shape. The car veered right to match up with the widening line, but doing so made me feel like I was heading for some bollards on the passenger side. I ended up taking the wheel. It probably would have been fine, but I couldn’t help myself.
Another downside to Super Cruise was that once it turns off — by pressing the brake or going into an exit lane, for example — and then you turn it back on when it’s available, it’ll start up at your last clocked speed. That made me jolt a few times when I was going 65 mph prior to stopping and then 45 mph when I started it again. You can adjust this easily before you turn Super Cruise back on using a knob on the steering wheel, but you have to remember to make the change. The car evens out the speed based on the car ahead of you after a few seconds if you are going slower than beforehand, but the jump at the top was nerve-racking for me.
Super Cruise will alert you and turn off if you’re not paying attention.
Super Cruise will also alert you and turn off if you’re not paying attention. It uses an infrared camera to make sure you’re looking forward. Don’t worry, you’re not being recorded and the camera isn’t actually capturing your face. It can only sense the tiny, imperceptible infrared lights (Bloss compared it to a doll flashlight) being beamed at you from the steering wheel. Depending on speed, if you look away for anywhere between approximately 3 seconds and 15 seconds, it’ll start beeping, and the steering wheel will flash red, prompting you to take over. I tested this a few times while driving around 65 mph, but by the time I counted to five, I wanted to look back at the road. I never looked away long enough for the sensor to go off.
Despite looking bigger, the EUV is only a skosh taller than the EV. While driving it, I didn’t feel any higher up than in my 2017 car. However, the EUV does have an improved suspension, meaning the drive was less bumpy on LA’s beat-up freeways. Those who skew more towards the princess and the pea side of the spectrum may notice the suspension changes more than others. It didn’t click with me until I drove home in my own car.
Surprisingly, the SUV version will only be available in front-wheel drive. When I asked why all-wheel drive wasn’t available, I was told not all SUVs have all-wheel drive. True, but still. If I was going to get an SUV, I’d like the option. All-wheel drive likely isn’t in the cards for future EUVs either, Bloss said. The Tesla Model Y Long-Range SUV has all-wheel drive, but it’s much more expensive than the EUV. The Model Y starts at $48,990 and has 326 miles of range.
A few other cool odds and ends in the EUV: It connects wirelessly to your phone for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (yay no more having to plug in your phone to get Google Maps and listen to podcasts!), it has wireless charging (but you need a phone with that feature to take advantage of the perk), Level 3 fast-charging comes standard (I had to pay extra for that back in 2017), and Chevy will cover the cost of installing a Level 2 charger at EUV buyers’ homes. That could save you anywhere from roughly $1,000 to $2,000 (some cities like LA already offer rebates if you install an electric car charger at home). Like other Bolts, it has one-pedal driving, which will automatically slow the car down and stop as you take your foot off the accelerator. But a cool trick on the EUV is it’ll stay on for your next drive. When you get back in the car, it’ll remember you were in one-pedal drive mode before.
Would I buy the EUV? Well, I’m one of many Chevy customers irritated by the November recall of certain 2017-2019 Bolts that have batteries at risk of catching fire. Since then, customers have gotten a software update to reduce battery charge to 90 percent, but not much else. For someone with range anxiety, reducing battery capacity for months is distressing. Engineers are still working on a permanent fix, and expect to But who knows if they’ll meet that target date, and until then, customers have gotten a mixed bag of responses when they call Chevrolet customer service, from “We’re working on it” to “We may be able to get you a loaner as you wait” to possible trade-in or buyback offers. Piecing together the drip-drip-drop of information from customer service calls and Chevy forums on Reddit and elsewhere has been frustrating. (Disclosure: I have a case open to determine my options, but details have been scant.) Bolts have an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty for the battery, which was a clincher for me when I bought my car.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed my EUV demo. Super Cruise won me over, and I’d love it even more with automated lane changes. Whether I’d buy another Bolt depends on how much longer this battery recall issue drags out. Chevy needs to show customers that it’ll go above and beyond for its EV early adopters, and then I’d feel more comfortable standing behind its first EUV.