Tamara Test Drives the LEAF
June 19, 2011

Mark D Larsen


While we were on a trip to California to visit Tamara’s family in the Sacramento area, I decided to stop by the Future Nissan dealership in Roseville to see if they happened to have any LEAFs on the lot, waiting for delivery. I was pleasantly surpised to see that they had three SL models there: two white, and one red. One of the white models was a demo for customers to test drive, the other two were “orphans,” i.e., vehicles that reservation holders had ordered, but then decided not to take delivery. Apparently, one of the orphans was originally earmarked for a serviceman, but he was still stationed overseas and thus had to cancel.

When this occurs, Nissan allows dealers to sell the orphans to any interested customers, rather than allowing others on the reservation list to move up in line. More importantly —and shamefully— the dealers can then jack up the price with an “added fee” for no other reason than to take advantage of the high demand and low supply. My jaw dropped to see that Future Nissan had indeed pasted a $5,995 "added fee" sticker next to the MSRP price on the windows of those orphans.

The salesman who approached me let me take the white orphan for a test drive in and around the auto mall —which was just as enjoyable as the ones I took in Tempe last December. I was pleasantly reminded of its truly outstanding features: instant torque, incredibly quiet, solid feel, smooth handling, ample room, and a plethora of bells-and-whistles that would fascinate any geek. Anxious to make the extra profit on the vehicle, he even offered to ship it to Utah for me on a flatbed for free. I was tempted to take him up on the offer, but... since Utah does not offer the same $5,000 state tax incentive as California, I would end up paying for the dealer’s “added fee” out of my own pocket. Moreover, these SL orphans did not include the cold weather package, and I really want the heated seats and steering wheel that comes with that option.

Since Tamara had yet to see a LEAF, I determined to return with her the next day so that she could also take the demo model for a test drive. You can watch an eleven-minute MPEG video of her experience behind the wheel by clicking on the photo to the right. You will see that the salesman first had her circle the auto mall complex, to give her a feel for the car, and then he let her take it out on the streets to see how it handled in traffic.

Funny thing: after her test drive she was more tempted than I was to buy the white orphan, even if we did have to pay the “added fee.” Ultimately, however, she conceded that it would be better to wait for the cold weather package, since that is a feature she has learned to love on our other cars. And we both agree about the unconcionable practice of jacking up the price. Yes, such is life in a free market society in which the Almighty Dollar reigns supreme. Nonetheless, just because one can do something, does not mean that one should do it. This is, unfortunately, a lesson that homo sapiens has yet to learn, the very reason behind our horrific addiction to oil in the face of dwindling supplies, increasing demand, the growing threat to our national security, and the destruction of our environment: greed.

Tamara was very impressed with the LEAF. She indicated that it was not as “smooth” as she imagined it would be, but I purport that this was because of the road surfaces we were driving on. She also remarked that the interior seemed smaller to her than in our Subaru, but certainly it had plenty of space for our needs. She especially loved how quiet it was, and was amazed at how it drove like a “normal” car. She reveled in its pickup and handling, and was fascinated with its video display. She didn’t have a chance to try out all of its whiz-bang features, but was at least able to connect an iPod and test out its bluetooth capabilities with a cell phone. I had to chuckle when she told me that her favorite aspect of the car was... the sound of its turn signals. Go figure.

I think I’ve got her sold!