Carmakers can be crafty little buggers, or should I refer to them as massive global buggers? Marketing and advertising departments are huge expenses but can be responsible for huge returns when the message is right. In 2016, Nissan spent just shy of $1.2 billion in advertising in 2016. In 2018, their job has never more important, or more difficult.
We’ve just witnessed a revolution in the car industry. Some would argue a return to its roots but either way, the electric car has left an indelible mark in car buyers’ minds. EVs are the talk of the town. Everyone’s onboard, or nearly. In order to keep the momentum going, OEMs are now tasked with having to come up with the next big thing, every time, all the time. We can thank Tesla in large part for this as the news has to be huge in order for media and consumers alike to shift their attention away from Musk’s mess.
Big new names, but nothing really new
For the 2018 model year, Nissan’s done the expected. They’ve increased the new LEAF’s range by a considerable amount, de-ugly-fied the outer shell and made a good car even better. But this was all expected, so it’s not news. Twisted isn’t it?
Nissan knows this and thus, in order to create more buzz around the new 2018 LEAF, have created ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. Both systems are great but what bothers me is that there’s too much emphasis on technologies that are not exactly new. They’ve simply been packaged in such a way as to fool consumers and make them sound unique. It bothers me, I’m sorry.
More power, more range, much more good
In the course of the product presentation, it was explained to us that range anxiety is no longer really an issue. The plot twist is that the limited availability of chargers has become the new source of apprehension. I know what’s being said but the bottom line is that this is range anxiety…
The new 2018 Nissan LEAF sports a 40-kWh battery, compared to the old 30 kWh unit. What’s nice is that the pack has same number of cells (192) and as such is no larger than previously. A 33% improvement in energy density explains the energy-storage capacity increase. The other by-product of new battery is a 100 kg gain in weight.
With its 110-kW electric motor, the LEAF now features 147hp (37% more) and 236 lb.-ft. of torque (26% gain). The boost in power is most notable in mid-range acceleration. Off the line, the LEAF is brisk and shoots forward instantly, like all EVs. Passing manoeuvres are now more relaxing.
As a direct result of all of this, the 2018 Nissan LEAF’s range has risen to 242 km. It currently sits as one of the best EVs on this aspect, bested only by the Chevy Bolt (I’ve not yet seen a Model 3 on the road. Have you?) Driving the LEAF is a very pleasurable experience. Beyond the extra power, it’s the chassis’ supple tuning that make for a comfortable ride. The quiet cabin mixed with the dampers’ ability to soak up uneven surfaces and sufficiently limit body roll is very cosseting.
e-Pedal and drive modes
I love the ability to control my car’s powertrain. Through the various included drive modes in the new LEAF, I can drive as hard as I want, or as green as possible. Through personal experience is how you’ll determine which works best for your daily commutes. You can set it in Drive and go. My favorite is “B” which increases engine regenerative braking slightly – I find this ideal for both city and highway driving as I still have access to all the power when I put the hammer down.
For 2018, an “Eco” mode and the e-Pedal drive modes are new and standard. Eco is self-explanatory while the other needs a few extra details. Essentially, selecting this mode (just ahead of the shifter) maximises regen braking and limits acceleration. This enables, with a few moments’ training, driving in the city without using calling upon the friction brakes, aka the brake pedal, or quite nearly.
e-Pedal is not an all-new concept. Most currently available EVs have various and selectable levels of regen braking and thus can be driven with only the throttle. However, the LEAF will come to a complete stop with brake lights on and hold, even on a grade of up to 30%.
Pro-Pilot, included with the SV and SL trims, is a level 2 autonomous drive system. Its main function is to support the driver in a drive cycle. It is based on the intelligent cruise control system and depends on one front camera and radar. ProPilot will follow traffic and stop up for up to three seconds after which the driver much apply throttle. On the highway, the system requires some form of sign from the driver every 15 seconds or so.
The 2018 Nissan LEAF is as refined, smooth and quiet as most other EVs. The new-found power and range (longer range yet to be announced in the near future) make it a lovely car to drive.
What’s also really important to know about the 2018 LEAF is that Nissan’s transformed into a far more mainstream product than previously. One of the aspects I really like about the Volkswagen e-Golf is that it looks like a damned Golf, not a duck-billed platypus among otters. The new LEAF could be described as the result of a Rogue and a Sentra having a baby. Picture it in your mind but keep it clean.
The brand’s “V motion” grille and floating roofline are right at home on the 5-door hatchback. The cabin has too been tastefully upgraded and features a standard 5” display, which grows to 7” by the next trim. The seats are cozy and there’s plenty of room overall for five occupants and a fair amount of gear.
Some patience required
Buying an EV today is not as simple your regular compact car. Like the VW e-Golf, Chevy Bolt and others, there is a delivery delay to be expected. I can tell you that in nearly all cases, the wait is worth it. This applies to the LEAF.
Charging these cars also involves patience. Nissan’s done a nice thing where they include a cable capable of both level 1 (120v) and level 2 (240v) charging. This negates the need for the wall mounted box. If you’ve got the 240v plug in the garage, you’re all set. 8 hours are necessary for a full charge at 240v. For the magical 80% charge at public DC fast charging stations, the LEAF will need 40 minutes given the battery’s new size.
The new 2018 Nissan LEAF is a lovely car, worthy of your attention and sports a starting price of $35,998 before provincial incentives.