2011 Nissan Leaf Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Nissan Leaf: No Feel For Speed

July 21, 2011

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Electric cars are different. No news there, right? You get a satisfying whoosh when you put your foot on the accelerator. Instant takeoff. But I find when I am moving along, I have no sense of how fast I am going.

Sometimes, I glance down at the speedometer and am surprised at the number I see. Because there are no gears to advance through, I don't get a feel for the increase in mph. The crescendo is smooth.

Have any of you driven an electric car?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 2,993 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: High Tech, Low Tech

July 13, 2011

leaf display.jpg Finally drove the Leaf and was quite impressed, like others staffers, mostly by the car's natural driving demeanor. Even in Eco mode, the Leaf's regenerative braking is not overt, unlike the Mini E we had. In that electric Mini you could drive the car at great lengths without ever touching the brake pedal (except of course for quicker stops), so strong was its re-gen braking when you lifted your foot off the umm, "gas" pedal.

Nor does the Leaf's instrument panel hit you over the head with flamboyant, distracting displays. Yes it does have the "Make a small forest" game/function to show how efficiently you're driving, but that's actually kind of cool. But I was surprised to see this cutting edge car lacking synchronized clocks. I noticed an eight minute discrepancy between the instrument panel and center stack monitor displays. My OCD wouldn't allow this so I grabbed the manual and reset the instrument clock (which was fast by my cell phone and PC clocks).

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: We Let a Reader Drive

July 05, 2011

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You'll certainly recognize our 2011 Nissn Leaf SL above. The strange man making a move on her, however, requires a little more explanation. His name is Jeff Jaikumar and we met him on the internet. More specifically, we met him on Twitter when we asked, as we've done a few times now, "who wants to drive one of our test cars?"

Jeff tweeted back, said he's local and would love to spend some time in an electric car and that was that. What follows is his story....

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: None Shall Pass

June 29, 2011

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Besides having a quiet-as-a-crypt cabin and no exhaust fumes, our little Leaf has a decent amount of power. Case in point: this morning's drive into the office and a sneaky driver.

There I was at a red light, waiting patiently for the light to turn. Then I see a white Mazda 3 sneaking up on the right. With that ridiculous grin on the front of that car, I knew that this driver would attempt to snake me out of the gate. There's no real lane to the right of me, and there's very little room ahead for the Mazda to accelerate and pass. There's no doubt that she is going to swerve right across my bow.

"None shall pass," I said in my best Black Knight voice, "I yield to no Mazda."

Sure enough, as the opposing traffic light turned yellow, the Mazda 3 started creeping forward out of my blind spot. A quick flick of the drive selector from ECO to D, a hearty stomp on the pedal and I was smoothly and quickly shuttled far ahead of the right-lane demon.

"I'm invincible! The Black Knight always triumphs!"

But like John Cleese's character in one of my all-time favorite movies, I was probably a bit misguided. The Mazda driver probably thought that I was unaware of her presence, or that as an electric pod person, I didn't have the stones to blow through a bunch of electrons in order to reach the other side of the intersection first. Or perhaps she underestimated the Leaf's instant torque.

In any case, I won. So, "na-nana-boo-boo, stick your head in doo doo."

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf: It's Gaining on Us!

May 24, 2011


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This photo is red meat for EV haters who say that electric cars are slow, dull and nothing more than a flash in the pan. Meanwhile, I'm going to be leasing one this summer so I drive the Edmunds Leaf often to make sure I really want to buy into a new lifestyle.

As Scott Jacobs points out the Leaf isn't really that slow, needing only about 10.2 seconds to get up to 60 mph. But it feels faster since it's quiet, seamless and delivers instant torque.

Meanwhile, I continue to justify my decision by saying the Leaf is the only car (aside from a Honda Civic GX or Tesla) to get me into the carpool lanes. Since the range is greatly improved by driving at speeds from 45 to about 65 mph, I'll leave later to let the carpool lanes load up a bit. Then my 62-mile round trip will leave a little wiggle room for a lunch-hour adventure.

The numbers from my most recent commute are encouraging. I left the office with an indicated 88 miles of range. After traveling 31 miles to my house I had 61 miles of range left. I ran errands after dinner and arrived back in the office this morning after traveling a total of 72.5 miles with 14 miles of range remaining. So the predicted 88 miles was looking like an actual 86 miles of driving.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @ 2,376

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Proton Sauce

May 20, 2011

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"Oh. My!" exclaimed my wife as I hit the accelerator in our Leaf from a stop light. She was expecting to get a lot more gray hair before arriving at Target. It's not chirping tires or laying patch with it's meats, but this little alt-fuel machine can actually accelerate at a pretty respectable rate. Add to that the fact it rushes forward nearly silent just brings a grin to my face. It's just silly.

We recently tested it at a 10.2 0-60. Not a barn burner, but still pretty good for all electric. To keep things relative, in our testing the Honda Insight got a 10.9 while a Toyota Prius got a 10.1 0-60. Both boosted by gas engines.

The more I drive, the more I like our Leaf.

Scott Jacobs, Sr Mgr, Photography

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2011 Nissan Leaf: A Regular Ass Whooping

May 12, 2011

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After we track tested the 2011 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Passion (smallest car with the biggest name), and realized how slow it was, it got me thinking. How would its acceleration curve compare to our long-term Nissan Leaf? It gets smoked by the Leaf.

Leaf track test results:

0-60 = 10.2 seconds

1/4 mile = 17.5 sec. @ 75.9 mph

Smart track test results:

0-60 = 22.4 seconds

1/4 mile = 22.0 sec @ 59.5 mph

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Feels Good In Eco Mode

May 11, 2011

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In most cars, Eco mode is something I avoid like the plague, since as I see it, the improved fuel efficiency just isn't worth the performance sacrifice. A zippy Lexus CT 200h that I once drove got so sluggish in this mode, it felt like I was sloshing through a vat of hot fudge.

Fortunately, though, the Leaf doesn't have this affliction. Shift that odd round shifter down to the Eco setting and responsiveness is dulled, but not to the point where the car's reflexes feel mired in quicksand.

To discourage aggressive inputs, throttle response is softened, but the effect is more subtle than it is in other models. Eco mode also amps up the efficiency of the Leaf's regenerative brakes and cuts back on power sent to the HVAC system. According to Nissan, driving in this mode can improve the car's range by up to 10 percent.

Does your car have an Eco mode? Do you use it pretty often?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Driving It To The Bitter End

May 04, 2011

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We've all been curious since Day One; you've asked for it, we've wanted to do it. Now, at last, we know how far our 2011 Nissan Leaf can go on a single charge. And we also know what this electric car goes through as it slowly convulses and dies at the side of the road.

This last point is why it took so long to arrange this test. Crapping out on some random road or freeway with unknown emergency parking and uncertain traffic simply wouldn't do. Sure, we could have done it at 2:00 am somewhere, but the video would have been a little, shall we say...dark.

Besides, we were going for distance. To do that we would need to drive the Leaf slowly for miles and miles of uninterrupted miles with no traffic. What we needed was a big oval test track, a place where we could set the cruise, settle in and run the most boring laps imaginable while the Raptor and its rescue trailer sat in the shade, waiting for a radio call.

For no other reason than it sounded about right, we chose 35 mph as our test speed. We've heard tales of a Tesla running some amazing distance, but they supposedly did it at something like 17 mph. We'd shoot ourselves if we had to drive that slowly for an estimated 9 or 10 hours -- without cruise control, mind you, because it won't work at such a snail's pace.

To us, 35 mph sounded like a reasonable slow speed, something that reasonable people might actually average in a suburban setting. Something our drivers might stand a reasonable chance of staying awake for.

How far did our 2011 Nissan Leaf take us at a steady 35 mph? Find out after the jump.

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Track Tested: 2011 Nissan Leaf SL

April 30, 2011

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By now you kids know the drill: If it's a long-term car, we're going to send it to the track to test it. Even if it means we need to have a tow-truck to bring it out and bring it back. Which we absolutely had to do with our 2011 Nissan Leaf SL. Forget the testing, our Leaf wouldn't even make it to the track and back without the full-throttle shenanigans we do out there. (Traditionally powered cars average in the mid/low-teens for fuel economy during testing.)

So with a full charge and an empty facility, we set out testing the mass-produced full EV to see what it was capable of when economy was thrown out the window in exchange for handling. If EVs want to be accepted, they need to drive right, right?

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2011 Nissan Leaf: A Natural

April 21, 2011

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I wind up picking the Leaf a lot as my ride for the night and the reason for this is simple: The little green-natured Nissan is pretty enjoyable to drive.

Other electric cars I've piloted require you to alter your expectations when it comes to driving dynamics. Our Mini E, for example, had aggressive regenerative braking that took some getting used to, serving as a constant reminder that you were driving something markedly different from the typical gas-powered hauler.

But there's none of that with the Leaf. In general, its reflexes are pretty sharp, even relative to those of rival gas-powered models. The electric motor offers ample torque down low and it's delivered immediately; punch the pedal and the Nissan goes with no hesitation. Even though the Leaf has electric power steering, steering feel is natural and never overboosted. And those brakes? They feel certain and firm.

Many think that dull handling is part of the package with electric cars but the Leaf proves that this doesn't have to be the case.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 1,880 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Suspension Walkaround

March 29, 2011

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Cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are all about their unique fancy-pants drivetrains, but they're supposed to be affordable, too. Experience tells us this combination produces few surprises in the suspension department.

Still, the Leaf was the landslide winner in our recent suspension walkaround poll. You asked for it, you got it. Here's the all-new 2011 Nissan Leaf in a compromising position in my driveway.

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Part Car, Part Golf Cart, Part iMac

March 09, 2011

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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.

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