For the first part of this blog, click here.
The Leaf is surprisingly roomy and has greater interior dimensions than the 2012 Nissan Versa, including more cargo volume (14.5 cu. ft. compared with 13.8 cu. ft.).
The Drive: from Spirited to Zen
In terms of drivability of an electric vehicle, “I had all the assumptions a lot of people had,” says Whiteside, who, at 6’ 3”, was surprised at the Leaf’s roominess. “Will it have enough pickup? Is it practical? It blows me away how much pickup it has. I didn’t know what instant torque was, and that’s fun. It’s surprisingly fun to drive. It’s out of the chute before everyone at the stop light.”
Gebb says when traveling through a local highway cloverleaf he’s had to let up on the acceleration for safety’s sake. He’s taken his coworkers for test drives, and they’ve been impressed. “I work with guys that drive big diesel trucks and when they get out of this car they say, damn it’s a sweet deal,” he says.
Tweed, owner of two Porsches that he races, comes from a different perspective. “It’s been trouble free for us and drives like a normal econo box,” he says. “It’s not the most exciting or high performance car, but it gets the job done.” Tweed even took the Leaf to his Porsche club’s autocross track. While he found it “underpowered,” he says the battery’s weight and low position keep the vehicle stable on the road.
“Nissan engineers went to great lengths to render the overall Leaf driving experience as similar to ICE (internal combustion engine) cars as possible,” Tweed says. Tweed feels Nissan could’ve been more aggressive on the brake regeneration to recapture energy, “but that would’ve gotten people freaked out when they took their foot off the accelerator and really slowed down more than a (gas-powered) car,” he says.
Tweed says Nissan also added a slight "creep" effect to when drivers lift their foot off the brake at a standstill on level ground while in gear, which replicates the torque converter on an ICE vehicle’s automatic transmission.
“While the EV driving experience is indeed different, they (Nissan) didn't want it to be so different that people would be shocked by it or think it was too strange,” Tweed says.
Hamilton has “no complaints” about the drive. He praises the pickup and braking, though he admits the Leaf can’t match the cornering on his BMW 330. However, “I get in the gas powered car and it feels like an antique,” he says. “The vibration and looking at the gas tank gauge drive me crazy. I will never own another gas car again if I can avoid it.”
Leaf owners say the driving limitations — along with the desire to conserve power — is having unexpected consequences. “The driving induces a Zen approach,” says Tweed, who now leaves the performance driving for the track. “You get in and you calm down.
Tweed continues, “To extend the range, driving safely and sanely in a quiet environment and noticing your environment is what it’s all about, rather than getting all jacked up about the drivers around you cutting you off. You’ll get there, but a few minutes later.