Long-Term 2018 Nissan Leaf: Electric Autonomy—Putting Nissan’s Pro Pilot Assist to the Test

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Nissan Leaf is the mainstream electric car we've been waiting for
Picky Pincher October 9, , 6: Three trim levels are available: The monitor inside the car also shows that data, as well as battery energy indicators, distance estimators to keep a Leaf driving within its range, and pre-heating or pre-cooling while still plugged in. If that sounds good to you, come see us today in Vineland, New Jersey. Maybe after my Prius dies, if it ever does actually die, which seems increasingly unlikely.

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2016 Nissan Leaf: First Drive Of 107-Mile Electric Car

Now there's an all-new version of the Leaf with more sophisticated styling and more range than before. The biggest advantage of the Leaf is that you won't have to wait until sometime next year to get one. The Leaf isn't particularly fun to drive, the way most EVs are. The Leaf is the "mild sauce" version of an electric vehicle.

Part of that is because it has less power. With electric cars, bigger batteries mean more driving range, but they also mean more power and punchier acceleration. So it might be no surprise the Leaf feels less exciting.

To be honest, most Nissan cars are pretty dull these days. Spring arches vary when they come off the production line due to tolerances. We take the extra time to match them. This helps insure proper ride height and a level stance side to side.

We also check eye sizes and various other things to make sure you get a quality product. Springs are either usa or mexican made. Both the usa and mexican springs are made to OUR standards and tested to be meet or exceed what came in your car originally. Every spring we sell has the same quality no matter where the parts are manufacturered. None come from China or Japan. Its handling and roadholding is adequate but far from engaging; rather than involving the driver in the car's abilities, it makes the process as low-effort as possible.

Driving a Leaf is notable only for its calm and simplicity. When required, the Leaf will accelerate briskly, but the driver has to push hard on the accelerator--an energy-saving measure to ensure that degree of power is really wanted.

The kilowatt horsepower electric motor that powers the front wheels draws energy from the kilowatt-hour battery pack just under the cabin floor; the motor produces a healthy lb-ft of torque. It's in the handling and roadholding where the Leaf may disappoint those who enjoy the process of driving. There's nothing inherently wrong or dangerous, but the electric steering is numb, with light weighting, and it provides very little feedback from the road. No matter which way a driver turns the wheel, its centering force seems to remain the same.

The Leaf does provide an incredibly tight turning circle of just 17 feet--possibly the lowest of any car on the market today--due to the lack of an engine up front between the wheel wells. There's little body roll in the Leaf, because the heaviest component the battery pack is carried at the car's lowest point. Because it's a tall car on small tires especially the Leaf S base model, which uses inch wheels , we found the Leaf sensitive to side winds.

But the lack of road feel or control feedback makes "appliance-like" the most suitable adjective for the Leaf. It's fine, but it's the antithesis of anything sporty. The EPA-rated electric range this year is quoted at 84 miles combined. Still, buyers need to know that any car running on battery power is sensitive to driving habits and temperature, both of which affect range in a major way.

Drivers learn to accelerate gently, coast down to stops, and plan ahead to avoid sudden acceleration or hard braking, all in the name of conserving energy. There's also a Eco mode for greater efficiency, which cuts maximum available power by 10 percent--although the effect feels much greater. Flooring the accelerator thankfully overrides Eco mode, temporarily, for safety in sudden emergencies.

In the Leaf, Eco mode is somewhere between slow and frustrating, and we avoided it in our road tests. As well as temperature--the lower it gets, the less range the battery delivers--high speeds burn through battery energy, reducing range as well. High-speed travel in a Leaf feels breathless, with the steering feel getting heavier and acceleration declining noticeably above 50 or 60 mph as aerodynamic drag rises.

Top speed is capped at 90 mph. While the Leaf is fine for freeway commuting, it may be most useful in around-town use up to 50 mph or regular commutes of predictable distances. To get the Leaf underway, a driver taps the Start button, pushes the mouse-like Drive Mode Indicator on the console left and back, and simply presses the accelerator.

The result is motion in virtual silence. When you need torque to pass other cars, it's there if you floor the accelerator, but it's still far from lightning-fast in the crucial tompg range.

Nissan has tuned the regenerative braking to simulate the brakes of a conventional car. There's no possibility of the "one-pedal driving" found in cars like the Tesla Model S or BMW i3, with their much greater regenerative braking. There's now a "B" mode, however, that increases the regeneration to mimic the effect of engine braking if the driver chooses that mode. Like the Prius hybrid before it, the Leaf isn't hugely fun to drive, but it's a practical and very competent car. It's just that the Leaf won't use a drop of gasoline, ever.

Despite some of its performance drawbacks, the Leaf feels to drivers and passengers just like a regular car that happens to be very, very quiet. It's a convincing sales tool for the benefits of electric cars, and many Leaf owners become de facto evangelists for the joys of plug-in travel, offering rides and drives to friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues.

The Nissan Leaf is smooth, quiet, and mostly serene on the road, especially at 40 mph or less, compared to any compact vehicle with a gasoline or diesel engine. You may hear a bit of low whine from the electronics and electric motor from time to time, but otherwise, it's smooth and notably free of vibrations.

As the Leaf gathers speed, tire noise is far more evident because there's no engine or transmission noise to mask it. Starting around 30 mph, you'll hear the tires on pavement increase in volume to a muted roar at highway speeds, plus the whoosh of wind passing around the bodies.

It's hard to explain to novices how quiet electric cars are, and how jarring a return to gasoline cars can be after spending a day in a Leaf. What you hear in the electric Nissan is noises that are largely masked by mechanical racket in conventional cars.

But up to about 40 mph, the Leaf is almost eerily silent. The front seats are comfortable, there's plenty of headroom front and rear, and the rear passengers sit high--unlike cars with drooping rooflines that drop rear-seat occupants down toward the floor. Still, riders in the rear will find their knees slightly higher than they may expect, since instead of the conventional footwell, there's a flat battery pack just under the floorpan. The base Leaf S and mid-level SV use a velvety pale gray seat upholstery that Nissan proudly explains is made from recycled soda bottles.

Customer demand for black interiors, however, ensured that you can now get black as an option. The top SL trim level has standard leather upholstery. Still, power seats aren't offered--to save battery energy that could otherwise move the car--and the thin headliner is covered in "teddy-bear fur," a soft nap that camouflages an otherwise very insubstantial feeling panel.

In fact, there's a lot of room inside a Leaf. It's classified as a mid-size car under Federal rules, even though its footprint is that of a compact car--similar to the Toyota Prius hybrid, another car that looks like a compact but due to the tall five-door layout, has much more volume inside than you'd imagine.

While it's capacious, the Leaf interior looks and feels more basic than those of most other plug-in cars--especially the Chevy Volt and Ford Focus Electric. The steering wheel tilts but doesn't telescope, and some of the plastics feel distinctly lightweight, just like the headliner. While the IIHS gave the Leaf its highest score of "Good" for safety on its four traditional safety tests--moderate-overlap front crash, side impact, roof strength, and head restraints and seats--the Leaf scored badly on the new and tougher small-overlap front crash test.

The Leaf gets four stars out of five from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA not only as an overall rating, but also for frontal crash, side crash, and rollover safety tests. Perhaps more important, after close to four years on the road and a slew of headlines about fires in other electric cars, we're not aware that a single person has died in a Leaf accident--or at least that it's been publicized.

Nissan knew its first electric car would undergo extra scrutiny on the safety front, and it performed dozens of crash tests during extensive testing of prototype Leafs.

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