Truly Fine Print
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Yet Another Test Drive of the Nissan Leaf

December 27, 2011

Mark D Larsen

While in California visiting Tamara’s family during the holidays, I had scheduled for us to test drive a Mitsubishi i (Miev) at the Fairfield auto mall. Upon entering the complex, we noticed that a short way down the road was a Nissan dealership. After taking a turn behind the wheel of the i, Tamara suggested that we also to stop there to see if they had any Leafs available to show her father. She also hoped to take another drive in a Leaf while her impression of the i was still fresh on her mind.

We were in luck! The dealer not only had two demo Leafs, but also an orphan. They were 2011 models, so I still couldn’t check out the winter package with heated seats and steering wheel, but the sales rep who helped us was more than happy to let us take a test drive in one of the demos.

Tamara hopped in behind the wheel, and the sales rep directed her to take the Leaf out of the auto mall and onto a relatively quiet, four-lane road through the nearby neighborhood. You can watch her test drive in the following video. You’ll hear that one of the first remarks she makes is that the Leaf is “so much sturdier than the i (MiEV)” —an observation that I would have to agree with. Her father was in the passenger seat, and I think he was amazed at how “normal” the car seemed.

In fact, after I got behind the wheel, in the next video, he remarked that "this sure is no golf cart,” thus ironically echoing what so many consumers assume about EVs. I had turned onto a completely deserted country lane, and put pedal to the metal to demonstrate the Leafs seamless power. In a matter of seconds we hit 62 mph, and I backed off the accelerator, lest I get a ticket. I also shifted into Eco mode a couple of times to demonstrate the Leaf’s version of regenerative braking, and point out how the "power dots" in the dashboard will multiple to the left to illustrate how much power is being put back into the battery.

During my test drive, Tamara asked the sales rep some questions to which she already knew the answer, just to see what he would respond. It will be obvious to those familiar with the Leaf that he really didn't know much about the car, including its MSRP. He was, nonetheless, friendly and chatty, and we appreciated him allowing us to drive the demo on the spur of the moment like that.

The back-to-back test drives convinced Tamara that she just couldn’t settle for an i (MiEV): the Leaf is simply a far more sophisticated, fully featured car. Her father agreed, and came away much more impressed with the vehicle than he had anticipated. Of course, he still worries about “range anxiety,” but the experience piqued his interest enough that two days later he and I went to test drive a Chevy Volt.