The Nissan LEAF is the original gangster – the OG, if you will – of affordable electric vehicles. It first found its way into customer's hands in 2010, and though it has seen some improvements along the way, it is basically the same vehicle that debuted way back then. It makes sense then, to see how this decade-old chassis holds up when put to the 2-mile test.
Our contestant today is the LEAF SL Plus. It looks very much like a Nissan, having adopted the brand's strongest styling cues in a 2017 refresh. Being a "Plus," it also has a much bigger battery than LEAFs of old: 62 kilowatt-hours (kWh), good for 226 EPA miles. It also boasts a more powerful motor that pump out 160 kW (214.6 horsepower).
There are lots of good things about the Nissan LEAF Plus, but it still manages to hang on to the issue that has most plagued this car, and that's it's battery temperature management. While the vast majority of electric vehicles use some sort of liquid cooling to keep their batteries at optimal temperatures, the LEAF famously doesn't. That can affect charging speeds but it will be interesting to see if it comes into play in this short test.
At the start/stop line, host Kyle Conner turns off the vehicle dynamic control (VDC) system (to the extent that's possible) and lets the accelerator kiss the floor. The immediate response is a little soft but push comes to shove around 35 miles an hour, when the front-wheel drive setup shows up to really party.
Turn one is revelatory. The brakes strike Conner as spongy and lacking in feel and grip. Criticism of the stoppers comes up on the approach to the next turn as well. This isn't a story of total failure, though.
After going through a few more twists, Conner announces that the chassis is "real nice," with impressive levels of rotation in the bends. There is, of course, some amount of body roll, but it makes sense that the ride is compliant and comfortable, given its role as a family car.
Deep into the lap, Conner notes it's not as fast as a Tesla, but it's not that far behind, either. It seems somewhat hobbled by its howling "eco" tires, washing the front end out in ultimate understeer if given a few too many beans mid-turn.
Upon completing the lap, at 90 mph, Connor notes that the battery temperature is slightly elevated but it still wasn't in the "red" zone. Surprisingly, that's a better result than he experienced with the MINI Cooper SE during its One Lap experience.
With the the lap in the books (not the record books), it's time to see how it fares in comparison to others put to the test. At 2:03, it sits just ahead of an internal-combustion Lexus ES330 and just behind that radical overland-style Tesla Model Y. That's good enough for us to doff our caps at this OG EV.