I test drive new autos almost every week yet it took me most of this year to finally get into Nissan’s “all-new” 2018 Leaf, its zero-emission electric vehicle. After zipping around in it I think the reason it took so long was that my fellow auto journalists wanted to keep it for themselves.
This year’s version of the best-selling electric car of all time has been completely redesigned with longer range, more power and includes the latest Nissan Intelligent Mobility features. The company has sold over 300,000 Leafs (or is it Leaves?) worldwide with 118,000 of those in the U.S.
The Leaf has always been innovative in that there is no gas engine; just a plug and battery for recharging. No doubt it keeps our environment more eco-friendly and green but it also caused drivers to have a bit of anxiety with a range of just 100 miles before needing a recharge.
The 2018 model allows drivers to enjoy longer journeys with an EPA estimated range of 150 miles. It features a new e-powertrain rated at 147 hp that I found to have very good acceleration. Nissan claims the Leaf has a 15 percent increase in 0-60 acceleration and a 30 percent increase in mid-range acceleration.
Sticking with the “everything starts with an E theme,” there is a new E-Pedal that allows you to accelerate and brake with just one pedal. I must say it was a bit odd to use it at first but I quickly adapted after a few blocks from home.
The outside has a new look with a low, sleek profile. The company’s familiar boomerang-shaped lamps and V-Motion flow are seen in the front to keep the brand going strong.
A press release touts the Leaf is “not just the latest symbol of Nissan’s global leadership in the EV segment, but a culmination of everything we’ve learned to date and from the feedback of tens of thousands of owners in every major market around the world, particularly customers in the U.S.”. Apparently those owners wanted a spiffed-up cabin. And they got it.
The LEAF’s completely redesigned cabin features a front panel in the form of a “gliding wing.” The 7″ display has easy-to-read graphics to feature the Safety Shield technology, power gauge and audio and navigation system information. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have also been added.
I closely monitored my mileage during my trips to make sure there was enough juice in the battery to get me to a charging station. Luckily I live near a Whole Foods with an EVgo station. I killed an hour in the store while the Leaf was charging and I guarantee I spent more on a pound of tomatoes, 2 scoopfuls of toasted almonds and a pack of crackers than it would cost to charge the car for 2 years.
That’s because Nissan partnered with EVgo – the largest public DC fast charging network in the U.S. – to offer new Leaf owners 2 years of free EV fast charging at its stations.
Of course you can charge the battery at home via a 220v outlet. That takes about 7.5 hours, something owners do at night so they are ready to roll in the morning.
The 2018 Leaf comes in 3 flavors starting with the S model just under $30,000. The SV begins at $32,490 and the SL with leather-appointed seats, Bose speakers and more will set you back $36,200.
With gas prices hovering in the $4.50/gallon range in some parts of the country (I’m looking at you, California), now may be the time to go all-electric. While I probably would not recommend one if you are commuter with long, daily drives, the Nissan Leaf is a strong selection for in-town driving. But as technology advances I can see the next version or two going much farther.