Cooley On Cars
On the road: 2016 Nissan LeafIn this year of $2 gas, where does the Leaf stand as an icon of the battery electric vision? Brian Cooley drives it and weighs in.
[MUSIC] I will give this credit to Nissan, they've kept the Leaf looking unapologetically weird. I mean this thing makes the Juke look conventional. Not a lot of attractive angles to it to be honest. They kept the dimensions and the lines the same over all these years. Right on down to the frog-eyed headlights, and it does still print avantgarde. Which is something of an accomplishment when you're more than half a decade into your production [MUSIC] Now when you get in the Leaf, you realize very quickly, you better like electricity cuz there's a ton of displays to keep you focused on it. Starting in the upper left, you've got the cedars of Lebanon. You can grow trees with a ring around them that tells you how fast you're doing so. It coaches you to drive green. That array of rings at the top, Is a strange way of showing whether you're using power or regenerating. Over on the left is a really big battery temperature gauge. If I have to worry that much about the battery temperature, I'm going to park this thing and run away. On the right is the more useful one. That's battery level, and the number inset, that is your estimated range. And that's changing all the time of course based on driving conditions, and whether or not you have this ECO button on. Climate control, thump on the stereo, headlights, all of that. And on the grayscale LCD you've got two or three projections of how long it'll take to charge, depending what kind of charger you get to, and we haven't even gotten to the main event yet. Hit the zero emissions button over here, and you can get an online course in electrical engineering. The most interesting thing about this revised drag, and drop, and swipe tablet-like head unit is the integration of Google online search, though it kinda lives in a silo of its own interface. You can tap out a search while you're driving, though most everything in this keyboard locks out when the car is moving, so your passenger's gonna sit here doing nothing. If you wanna do a voice search to Google, it's separate from the voice command on this wheel. That runs Nissan stuff. Used to dig in the menu to get to this spot to do a google voice search, bad disconnect guys. Now all this stuff connects to your phone for telematics. You can check the car's state, tell the car when to charge, precondition the climate inside, all the standard telematic stuff to an app that is one of the worst rated in the app stores. Worked okay for me but get ready for connection hassles according to a lot of users. Now the top audio rig on a Leaf is a Bose branded system especially engineered to have low current draw while delivering pretty good cabin thumping sound. And if you get that, you're also gonna get a package that includes this Nice set of cameras. This is the surround view monitor that Nissan Infiniti are known for. [MUSIC] And you can get some side view as well as the overall God view. And under the stubby hood, there's not a whole lot new. It's an 80 kilowatt AC motor, of course. Gives you 107 horse. 187 lb feet of torque. That second number is the one you love. Going out to the front wheels only, obviously and no transmission to speak of. Just a single reduction gear. Now what feeds this has gotten interesting. Nissan offers a bigger battery now, a 30 kilowatt hour versus the standard lithium ion battery in the older That has got a bunch of cells welded together, and not too much unlike a bunch of AAs. Here's the rub. The base Leaf S has all the old tech. The new SV and SL, like we have, has the new tech. So let's compare them. On range, the high trim cars with the big battery get 107 miles. The Leaf S, 84. On capacity, 24 kilowatt hours on the S. 30 kilowatt hours in the better cars. Recharge time, the S has two slower charging modes. The SV and SL come with two faster charging modes, and the warranty on the battery is different. The base Leaf S with the crummier battery has five years, 60,000 miles coverage. The better cars have eight years, 100,000 miles. Bottom line, leave the Leaf S to the government fleets. You want an SV or an SL. [MUSIC] The Leaf reminds me that electric cars are more similar than gas engine cars. They drive very much alike unless you step it up to a model S or something. Pretty quiet inside, they did a good job muting out deer whine and engine whine. The ride is pretty heavy, but it's not uncomfortable. It just feels like it's really down on the ground. That said, it's not terribly tossable. Fun to drive, like electric cars always are due to torque, but it doesn't feel light on its feet. You got several. See what you can do to get more out of the battery. One is to go to eco mode, which really saps throttle response. And I'm okay with that cuz I don't drive a Leaf for great throttle response. I want range above all else. You also can go into the B mode her on the shifter, which is basically down and to the left. And that gives it high regen. You can almost do one pedal driving. Lift off the accelerator, and [SOUND]. You really come down a lot because you're doing heavy regen back into the battery. Range is a big deal in EVs, but so is charging. And the Leaf has a lot of ways to do it. All models have a household trickle charger They also all have level 2 charging at 3.4KW, but the SL gets level 2 at 6.6KW as well, that'll charge its larger battery in six hours. It can also do a DC quick charge, hard to find those locations but if you do it, 80% in 30 minutes. And the little photovoltaic cell up on the rear wing helps to maintain the 12 volt battery. Okay Leaf SL nicely equipped, top of the line. It's a big battery car. All the latest tech pushing 38 grand. But we're not done yet. 1570 for a premium package to get surround cameras and to get Bose audio. And I'm going to guess you are going to have the home charger installed for you so add about two grand. Now we can go the other way, take of $7,500 federal tax credit, and here in California anyway, another $2,500 state credit. We're back down around $31,200 or so out of pocket. Okay, my time with the [UNKNOWN] though has surfaced a few old wounds and rubbed salt in them. First of all the electric cars like this of the 100 mile range generation, or less in real practice The great choice for the only car for a lot of people. Secondly, you gotta have that home charger. Don't even think about anything else unless you live in a condo that has got a charger waiting to go for you. Third, you gotta think about the residual values on these cars. They're disastrous right now because of low gas prices and a ton of them coming off lease off of the market. So do you buy, lease, or buy used? More cars driven CNet style standing by now on CNETONCARS.com. Click on the road.