I was fortunate to be offered to drive a 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus this past week for review. I'm not typically a car review kind of guy, but I was interested to see how electric vehicle and other technologies have progressed since previously leasing a Fiat 500e and a Chevy Volt. I also wanted to see how well the new technology gets along with the human under a variety of conditions.
My first thought after settling into the driver's seat was, Wow! This is one of the easiest vehicles to get in and out of I've encountered, thanks to the shape of the door and how wide it opens.
That was followed by another Wow! The 160 kilowatt motor and 62 kw battery pack really provide the juice for brisk acceleration, to the point of noticeable torque steer!
Next I switched on the E-pedal function, which essentially turns this into a one-pedal car by cranking up regeneration and braking as the accelerator pedal is released. This was my favorite feature, as I believe it offers more precise speed management, particularly on roads with many turns, or in traffic, as opposed to going back and forth between pedals. I found myself slowing more, and smoothly, for issues and then powering on promptly and smoothly. Driveway and parking lot maneuvers required some practice as at very low speed the E-pedal function seems grabby at first.
The Leaf Plus' advertised 226 mile range is a big step up from the Fiat's 110-ish range, making the car a candidate for hitting the road to a point. Between running hard up California Highway 1 early one morning to San Francisco to go fishing (73 miles each way) and climbing 2700-foot Ben Lomond Mountain on the return trip resulted in some range anxiety, with only 8 miles of battery remaining. Understandably, electric vehicles go through electrons at a high rate when pushed hard. Compounding my stress, I was rusty regarding knowledge of available/convenient charge stations and payment requirements (on-board system offered locations, but distances as the crow flies!). My Tesla bud Mike says 300 miles is the golden number needed for electric vehicles to go mainstream, but that comes at about $5,000 or more in additional cost.
I was eager to try out the advanced driver assist features and had mixed success. Intelligent Cruise Control is a great feature, although it was a little less than smooth taking up slack when following other vehicles, particularly when they would enter or depart the lane.
High Beam Assist was great at dimming, dreadfully slow to switch back to high beam, with no manual lever over-ride unless one pulls back and holds flash-to-pass not cool on my dark mountain roads! I quit using this.
The Intelligent Around View (360 degree camera) was very helpful when parallel parking, as was the clear and wide-view rear camera. Intelligent Lane Intervention worked pretty well but was fooled occasionally by pavement oddities. Thankfully, the corrective force is minimal!
I'm not sure about Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, as I was cut-off by a jerk swerving into my lane very close with no response, and another time I came up on a sudden braking/right turning car ahead, again with no response. I veered hard to port and braked. This is still a great feature even if it misses some oddities.
My biggest beef was with the ProPILOT Assist, which, for lack of a better word, was awful! When engaged, the car would wander such that I wondered if a following police officer might think I was texting or drunk. On a handful of occasions, the car would drift up to or on the double yellow line (on-coming traffic yikes!) or the right-side stripe, causing the lane intervention nanny to sound off before a creepy/strong correction occurred. I also found ProPILOT fatiguing to use; I was constantly fighting it to maintain smooth lane position. Switched off! My hope is the driving public doesn't become overly complacent using driver assist features, letting down their guard.
Overall, I found the Leaf Plus to be a really sweet vehicle! I'll give it strong consideration when my Volt lease expires in October. The Volt has been a very pleasant car to drive, although it's been plagued by continuous accessory/convenience glitches which is why I lease instead of own!
ABOUT THE WRITER
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at email@example.com; he cannot make personal replies.
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