2011 Nissan Leaf: Part Car, Part Golf Cart, Part iMac
March 09, 2011
I was pretty excited a few nights ago when I got the chance to drive our Nissan Leaf. How often do you get to drive a vehicle as significant as the first full-electric mainstream car sold in America? Not very often.
I was only able to put a few miles on it that night. But even then I was able to get a good impression. The Leaf seemed to me to be part car, part golf cart and part iMac. The car part comes from the Leaf driving pretty much just like any other normal new car. It snappily accelerates when asked and is pretty comfortable. The golf cart aspect comes from: 1) the immediate response of the electric motor drive (there's no waiting for it to "rev up"); 2) the dinky "shifter" you use to select drive or reverse; and 3) the amusing "beep, beep, beep!" it sounds outside the car when you've put it in reverse.
As for the iMac impression, there's just a tech vibe that's not present in just about any other car. The car's electric propulsion is a factor, but it's also what happens when you push the ignition button: the LCD dash lights up, a PC-like start-up sound is played, and then ... nothing. No engine noise, no barking exhaust, no fumes. It's just like you turned on a computer in your office.
Some of us think the Leaf's fuel economy will be the car's main sales attraction. But I suspect an equal amount of people will be attracted to its techie nature. If you love electronic gadgets, you'll probably love the Leaf.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor