It certainly feels like a real GREEN car!
Frank Markus - MOTORTREND
- September 13, 2010
A Nissan Leaf drive from Motor Trend enamored with forestry! What is the fascination that CleanMPG will have with it? --Ed.
I just had the chance to drive an early-build Leaf here in Michigan on a brief route near Nissan's Technical Center. A thorough evaluation will have to wait a few more weeks when the Leaf gets its shot at possibly becoming Motor Trend's first-ever fully electric Car of the Year (Editor's Note: We have just learned that Nissan will not be able to provide cars to us for this year's event), but this drive was sufficient to answer the question: Is it a real car?
Well, it certainly feels like a real GREEN car. From the driver's seat, the general ambiance and feel of the controls reminds me a lot of the plug-in Prius. Various dashboard screens and readouts bombard the driver with copious data to help eke the most distance out of the least energy possible. For their size, each feels heavy (the Leaf weighs 3600 pounds, 600 of which is the battery pack). Engage Drive via a peculiar shifter in either, and it will accelerate bunny-quick off the line; but launching like that feels so naughty that you reflexively engage the ECO mode (by moving the shifter down to the Drive spot again) for the rest of the trip, allowing the electronics to impose Puritanical patience on your progress unless you floor the pedal. In both cars, the electric power steering renders the same pinky-finger parking assist and provides the same rheostatic lack of road-feel at speed.
The Leaf's low center of gravity keeps the cornering reasonably flat, and while the low-rolling-resistance tires give up their grip at modest cornering loads, at least they do so without much squealing. I was pleased not to notice any transition from regenerative to hydraulic braking. The faint whistling noise the car makes to warn blind pedestrians of its approach was inaudible until I lowered a window. I could just faintly hear the beeping in reverse with the radio off.
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