The Leaf’s driving range makes it an affordable EV with everyday usability. The electric motor has great low-end power, and the 40-kWh battery offers 151 miles of EPA-estimated range. DC quick charging can replenish 90 miles of range in 30 minutes, but a full charge from a typical 120-volt wall outlet will take 35 hours. ProPilot Assist adaptive cruise control and camera-based, self-steering lane-keeping assist is optional. A more powerful and pricier version with a longer range arrives in 2019.
There’s no more favorable climate for an electric car than Southern California. The year-round temperatures are right in the happy zone for lithium-ion-battery function, and the winter is so mild that neither range-sapping heat nor A/C is needed for about five months of the year. The political climate is also right, with the state and many of its cities offering additional incentives to buy an EV—atop the federal spur that can return up to $7500 to a buyer’s pockets. From using the carpool lane when driving solo to no-cost meter parking in Santa Monica to free charging when parked at LAX while you’re winging off to somewhere with worse weather, California would really think it was swell if you’d stop driving your fossil-fuel burner. There’s even a bill in front of the State Assembly that, if passed, would require new passenger vehicles in California to be zero-emission by 2040. Oh, and there’s another $1000 to $1500 for you if you get rid of your pollution machine; and how about a $500 rebate to make that home charger more affordable?
The incessant stop-and-go traffic that paralyzes the L.A. basin is also a best-case scenario for an EV such as the new Nissan Leaf. Redesigned for 2018, this Leaf looks nothing like its predecessor, a car that pegged the dorkiness meter deep into French territory.
If the new car looks less like a Renault Mégane and more like the love child of a Nissan Murano and a Chevrolet Bolt, we consider that an improvement, even if the 0.28 drag coefficient—the same as before—means it’s still shaped like a doorstop.
Dinking along in traffic in a school of unwashed Corollas and RAV4s is made more palatable in the Leaf thanks to the near silence of the electric motor, now making 147 horsepower, up from 107. Electric motors solve two small-car problems: a traditional lack of torque and the noise of a strained four-cylinder. Under the hood, where you’d expect an internal-combustion engine to be, is a big metal cube that houses the power-delivery module, the inverter, and the electric motor. Only 67 decibels of motor, wind, and tire noise make it into the cabin at full whack. At 70 mph, a speed briefly attainable in L.A., there’s a luxury-car-grade 65 decibels. Noise problem solved. Yet even with 40 more horsepower, the Leaf’s acceleration is not to be confused with that of a Tesla Model anything. A zero-to-60-mph run takes an adequate 7.4 seconds, but it’s the torque that impresses. A mere tap of the accelerator releases a dry gulch of instant push—236 pound-feet’s worth—that’s good for a quick 2.8-second jump from 30 to 50 mph, enough to flatten your occipital bun into the headrest.
Just don’t smash the accelerator too often or the air-cooled, 40.0-kWh lithium-ion battery, 10.0 kilowatt-hours more than before, will start discharging like it’s a dollar-store D-cell. Nissan claims a 150-mile range, and in our estimation, it’s possible to extract that, though you’ll need to be gentle and slow, two things C/D editors are not. We left our desert testing facility with a 98 percent charge and a 151-mile range displayed. Cruising along at 75 mph, we noticed that the range started falling faster than the odometer was climbing. Slowing to 65 mph stabilized the two readings and ensured that we’d easily make it back to L.A. This approach even retained enough juice for the 34-mile run over the San Gabriel Mountains on the squiggly Angeles Forest and Angeles Crest highways.
There’s little incentive to take an EV onto a canyon road, but the Leaf’s platform, an adaptation of its predecessor’s, mounts the battery in the floor. Putting the weight low helps keep the Leaf’s 3494 pounds on an even keel. The Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires were clearly chosen for their low rolling resistance, and they start howling well short of the 0.79 g of available grip, but the Leaf isn’t ever out of sorts. Steering feedback is good and the low-grip chassis is unerringly stable, plus the motor’s torque can launch the Leaf out of corners with ease. Just don’t turn on the ProPilot Assist system (part of the $2200 Technology package on our mid-level Leaf SV) when you’re on a fun road.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf offers outstanding style and technology both inside and out. See interior & exterior photos. 2018 Nissan Leaf New features complemented by a lower starting price and streamlined packages. The mid-size 2018 Nissan Leaf offers a complete lineup with a wide variety of finishes and features, two conventional engines.
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