2019 Nissan Leaf Plus First Drive: Is It Plus Enough?



Remember the horsepower wars of the 1960s?

In still another twist on Mark Twain’s saying, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” the car industry is humming its 50-year-old, one-upmanship song that is horsepower again. But now there’s a verse, with the lyrics & ldquo; miles of rdquo & battery array; instead of & ldquo; plain ol & rsquo; horsepower. ”

A right-now snapshot of the current BEV-range leader board of affordable EV offerings, with more than 200 miles of range, looks like this:

1: Hyundai Kona Electric — 258 miles

2: Kia Soul EV (just announced) — 243 miles

3: Kia e-Niro — 239

4: Chevrolet Bolt EV — 238 miles

Where, pray tell, is the biggest-selling affordable EV of all of them, the Nissan Leaf? When its second-generation version was introduced in Japan, the Bolt’s then-staggering 238 amount had already been declared. Needless to say, that cast a pall over the Tokyo event as Nissan fought to justify the Leaf’s variety. Sure we all nodded in agreement; of course. However, it was as if Ford pulled the sheet off a Mustang with 37 percent fewer ponies than the existing Camaro. The guys in Yokohama had miscalculated. They knew it. And Scouts’ honour, a fix was guaranteed by them, ASAP.

True to its word, here’s the car Nissan wishes it had actually introduced: the descriptively named Leaf Plus.

Though here, ‘Plus’ doesn’t just mean more: It indicates better, also, in ways. Foremost, of course, is its own battery, which rises from 40. It provides 76 more miles of range–currently extending to 226–which gets its ticket stamped into the 200-plus club. How’d they do it? I wouldn’t call it lithium-ion sausage-making, but stuffing in rsquo those additional 22 wasn &;t by the tasteful architecture of having booked an empty portion of the battery box because of its inevitable enlargement.

No. With the battery’s footprint dimensionally its profile, and landlocked in the floorpan. That meant dropping the battery’s belly by 40mm (1.6 inches). To get the most out of that newfound space, the infusion of new cells (if you’re keeping score, it goes from 192 to 288, all of them 3% longer energy-dense) are Lego’d collectively in more complex arrangements and more closely packed via space-saving laser-welding.

Through some pretty smart electric architecting, the battery’s cells are mapped into three (sequential ) strings of cells instead of 2 (each one adding up to the required voltage). Two things that are sweet emerge from this: The system&rsquo resistance is lower, so Nissan’s peculiar cooling system can better handle the discharging and charging heat. Another is–whoo-hoo! –more power.

Sitting at a table in a lunch stop on our drive of the Leaf Plus near San Diego, a Nissan representative explained it in terms of eating utensils. The new one has three if the first 40-kW-hr battery includes two straws for drinking power. You can drink your Diet Coke 50 percent faster (what a time-saver!) .

Not only does the Leaf Plus charge faster (and fast-charge quicker–its typical 100-kW system replenishes it to 80 percent in 45 minutes, merely 5 minutes longer than the foundation battery takes at its 50-kW speed ), but the Leaf Plus is 46 percent stronger, too. A win-win. The jump from 147 to 214 hp reflects rsquo & the battery;the motor itself being basically the same, s discharge rate , simply ruggedized with rougher gears. (The automobile ’s CHAdeMO fast charging and battery air-cooling are a couple of legacy technologies we’d welcome jettisoning.)

Nissan claims that the new power drops its 0–62 mph (100 kph) period from 8 to 7 minutes (though we quantified the 40-kW-hr/147-hp Leaf in 7.5 seconds). On the road, the difference feels somewhat dulled by the battery’s 290 lbs of extra weight (though it goes to lowering the center of gravity). I also detected a touch of pitchy-ness, maybe an artifact of the suspension required to deal with the weight reduction and to preserve ground clearance. But don’t misunderstand. It drives very well, with an oily polish and mini-limousine-like grace the edgier Bolt and Kona Electric deficiency; it strikes me as maybe more Infiniti-premium than Nissan proletariat.

A little over a year ago, we compared the 40-kW-hr Leaf to a Bolt and a Tesla Model 3. One of our evaluators, Patrick Hong, said of the Leaf: “Good exterior styling but an if well-finished, interior. They appeared to be cramming a brand new screen. ”

The Plus addresses that using a display that not only expands from 7.0 around 8.0 inches, but it’s Wi-Fi updateable, multi-touch, and replete with an intuitive, customizable menu. It’s an integral part of Nissan’s Door-to-Door Navigation, which seamlessly carries your route advice from your phone, into the car on that 8.0-inch display, then back to your phone as you walk to a destination.

Depending on which of its trio of trim levels we’re talking about–S Plus, SV Plus, or SL Plus (reflecting the foundation Leaf’s trim nomenclature)–there’s some especially great attributes to be had. My favourite is Pro Pilot Assist (adaptive cruise control and lane-centering) and also emergency braking (which I suddenly experienced behind a car at a stoplight when the Leaf–Bam! –hit its brakes for me). There’s also a great, L1/L2 portable charger; with it, most people can forget about installing a garage wall unit.

Pricing? Nissan hasn’t tapped the “rdquo & enter; button on its pricing spreadsheets, but hinted that it would very competitive, meaning blanketing the Bolt’s and Kona Electric’s window decals.

What does this mean to the Leaf? It’ll be soldiering on, but frankly, I don&rsquo. The Range War has left BEVs with fewer than 150 miles . Our other EV comparison test evaluator, Dr. Alec Brooks said, “When [the Leaf] gets the bigger 60-kW-hr battery pack, it’ll be a credible Bolt substitute. However, for many people, having only two-thirds of the Bolt’s range may not cut it. ”

I’d now replace ldquo; rdquo & many; with & ldquo; all & the term. ” Our expectations of cars like this has permanently shifted to being a real choice as our main vehicle from second-car standing, with recharge prices and competitive ranges.

The training-wheels age of the electric vehicle is over, and it’s time for them to behave like cars that are grown-up . A 220-mile-range, base-battery Model 3 may even be obsolete before Tesla can affordably mass-produce it, and this Leaf Plus’s 226 miles is currently achingly close to the new minimum cutoff. Fortunately, the Nissan’s other features go a long way in distracting you from this Darwinian math equation.

The article 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus First Drive: Is It Plus Enough? Appeared first on Motortrend.

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