Before we get into the details, I have to list my needs in order of importance and later we will get into how the "Big 3" (Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt and LEAF II) covers those needs.
Cargo and Passenger Space
So the story begins.
Nissan was looking for current LEAF owners to do first drive impressions since we are likely to spread the word and be more effective than a random handful of Nissan press releases. There will be several opportunities for other test drives that will be coming in the new few months. Check your local and regional NDEW events coming up starting this weekend. Some of those gatherings will be used to sign up for later drive events. In addition; some lucky NDEW events will have 2018 LEAFs on display where you can get an upclose and personal view.
So a small handful of us were flown to Las Vegas (about 10 I think) to stay at the Aria Hotel and Casino complex. The hotel was very nice and HUGE!
Since most of you saw the reveal, will be skipping that here and getting to the drive itself. Nissan now has an online configurator for the 2018 so you can get a sense of pricing. Unlike other EVs or the Gen 1 LEAF, the planned rollout will be nationwide in January 2018 which means limited options will be available initially to accomplish this. The full options will be available roughly about March so options like the Green paint or light leather interior will not be in the configurator yet.
A Few things to note; Standard across all lines is Automatic Emergency Braking and E Pedal Driving. I have to admit when I heard this, it didn't make much of an impression on me but after the explanation, its a pretty cool thing!
E Pedal Driving; This allows you to drive in normal traffic conditions without using the brake pedal.. AT ALL! In fact, during my test drive (linked to youtube for bandwidth considerations) I never touched the brakes one single time! Now why did Nissan do this? Well, partially to have a much higher level of regen but also to make the driving experience more consistent. Any EVer already knows that an EV at 100% SOC drives much different because regen is not available. This bothers some drivers because the car simply moves faster. There is no deceleration when the foot comes off the accelerator. Its like coasting downhill in neutral and that is uncomfortable to many drivers especially ones who drive multiple cars regularly. So Nissan created the E Pedal option where in high SOC situations, friction braking is added seamlessly. This means the LEAF will drive the same all the time. Now I do understand that friction braking is verboten for many EVers (including me!) but E Pedal driving is a selectable option, a simple flip of the switch to turn it on or off. So now we have 3 levels of regen. Mild (D mode) Medium (B mode) and Max (E Pedal as long as SOC is not 100%) As for me? I probably will use it but not until SOC drops to at least 90% or so.
Automatic Emergency Braking; This feature will recognize large differences in speed between yourself and the vehicle you are following. It will alert you to any possible collisions but also initiate emergency braking if you don't. That is the intuitive side. Another name could also be "smart drive select." We have all seen it, be it infamous (Prius unintended acceleration events) or quick blurbs on the local news complete with pictures of a car half in and half out of the front of a business. Someone hit the accelerator when they meant to hit the brakes. Shifted into Drive when they actually wanted reverse. Nissan now has an answer for this. In the event, you start the car, put it into D and forget that you need to back out of the garage first, don't worry. Nissan won't allow you to turn your garage into a carport. It will recognize you are in the wrong gear and not allow the car to move.
6.6 KW charging for all! (If you have the proper level 2 EVSE) This is the first year Nissan will be providing a dual power EVSE charging at 120 volts (likely at 12 amps) or 240 volts (will provide the full 6.6 KW or 27.5 amps meaning a 40 amp service will be needed) but its only standard on the SL trim. You must have the charge package on the S trim to get it or the tech package on the SV to get it.
40 kwh hour battery pack; Cells will have higher charge density and the ability to put out a higher level of power. Combined with a new motor and inverter, the LEAF is expected to be faster in both off the line speed but more importantly in passing speeds above 60 mph. EPA range on the estimated 38.4 kwh usable will come in around 150 miles. As always, YMMV. Aerodynamics are expected to be better and since the car is going to be only 100 lbs heavier, should be able to get a decent amount of distance from a charge. In my current 30 kwh LEAF; EPA rated at 107 miles per charge, I am averaging 110-118 miles during the Summer with not so careful driving with almost constant A/C running. In winter, I was seeing as low as 90 miles on heavy rain days but average distance was more in the 98-105 range. Cold air didn't affect my range nearly as much as the rain did. I had many clear cold days hitting 110+ miles. Of course, your experiences will be different, but at least you have a bit of a guideline. After my drive event, I had 10 mins with the LEAF Expert and we had a very fruitful conversation but I needed 12 mins with him. I had just finished asking him his thoughts on staying with air cooling (likely passive, no fans or vents) with a larger capacity, more energy dense battery and how the heat dissipation issues of extended high power level 3 charges, etc. would work for pack longevity and he was about to give an answer but was called away. Great drive event but had the impression that the truly knowledge LEAF personal were simply spread a bit too thin.
The Car; I am showing you what the light leather interior option looks like. As mentioned above it will be an option but not part of the initial nationwide rollout. If this is a must have for you, I think Nissan would be more than willing to work with you if you have an expiring LEAF lease before then. Many 2014 and 2015 LEAF lessees took advantage of waived monthly payments when extending their leases in order to wait for the 2018's.
Display; First off, yes, its an analog speedometer. We all grew up with them so enough on that topic! But I have to admit the displays we are seeing here don't even scratch the surface of what is possible. Each screen is configurable and there are a lot of them! Now there is two things going here and this will be very polarizing so before we get into a bunch over this, let me state there may be configuration options I am not aware of. Although we were given about an hour to play with the cars on stage at the reveal. They were not powered on so no options to explore the settings menu. An error of judgment on Nissan's part I think, so keep that in mind. But the obvious thing is having to scroll thru a lot of displays to see what we could see before at a glance. Both a good and bad thing. The good is we now get to see more stuff! You SL owners might not understand it but we "S'ers" do!
This is the pro pilot screen. When in action and sensing, there will be green lines on each side of the car signifying the LEAF recognises the lane boundaries and can control steering if need be to keep the LEAF in its lane. Should the lines turn from green to white, that means the car cannot recognize the lane boundaries. What you will also see is the adaptive cruise control setting which will be lines in front of the car to signify the set following distance. This can be anywhere from 1 (minimum distance) to 3 lines.
The Drive; The test drive was fun...and waaaaay too short! Besides myself, I had a Nissan Events guy and Sal Cameli (UBUYGAS)and wife and part of his test drive (need to stop talking with my hands especially when videotaping...) But we were able to bee bop down the freeway and experience a bit (very small bit) of nearly every type of driving. Unfortunately, my time on the freeway was not nearly as congested as I hoped it would be which brings me to something that has been raging on social media and that is the statement on the Nissan website that Pro Pilot only works from 18 to 62 MPH. This is NOT what I experienced. That statement also seems to conflict with other parts of the Nissan website itself.
Now during the drive, it was emphasized that Pro Pilot is not self driving. So autonomous driving its not but its still pretty cool. During my drive, I allowed Pro Pilot to negotiate some pretty good curves at near freeway speed. It will steer and brake for you but that is only the beginning (check the link above to Sal's test drive for a great explanation of the Pro Pilot initiating an emergency stop!) . Take your hands off the wheel and in about 3 seconds, you will get the first alert to put your hands back on the wheel. Soon you will get another alert. After a total of say 7-8 seconds or so, Pro Pilot will slow the vehicle. Eventually if you keep your hands off the wheel, Pro Pilot will slowly bring the car to a full stop in your lane with emergency flashers going. Gone are the accidents caused by a medical incident. Not sure if your LEAF will then call 911 so someone can check on you which brings me to
Nissan Connect; Yeah, yeah, I know. sucks, slow, doesn't do much. Well 2018 not only solves that but also brings some relief to all previous owners. The 2018 version is greatly expanded and will have much more features including setting boundary alerts, remote unlock, Car alerts, Charge start AND Stop, etc. Ever lost your car at the Mall? I have. It sucks. Walking around with FOB in the air hoping the battery is good, etc. Now you have the option to beep the horn on your LEAF from the other side of the World if you want to. Slow is gone with 4 G LTE connectivity. Average refresh time; about 7 seconds.
Again, there is a threat to charge a fee for Nissan Connect (that threat started on Day One btw) so pricing for now.
The complete service is complimentary for 3 years, except Premium Plus service which is only free for 6 months. After that the costs are $11.99/month for the basic service, 19.95/mo for the Premium service and $24.98/month for the Premium Plus service.
The Basic service includes:
NissanConnect Services Skill with Amazon Alexa [*]
Remote Door Lock / Unlock
Vehicle Health Report
Scheduled Maintenance Notification
The Premium services adds:
Automatic Collision Notification
Stolen Vehicle Locator
Remote Engine Start/Stop [*]
Remote Horn & Lights [*]
Boundary Alert [*]
Valet Alert [*]
Curfew Alert [*]
Speed Alert [*]
Parked Car Finder
Google® Send to Car [*]
And the Premium Plus service adds:
But the best part is the features will be backwards compatible to ALL PAST AND PRESENT LEAF MODEL YEARS. There will be some restrictions simply because the electronics of older LEAFs simply can't do some of the things the New Connect will be able to do but even if you hang onto your old LEAF, Nissan Connect becomes a whole lot more useful!
Cargo and Passenger Space
Its up to you as to what is important. One person was unhappy that the "EV tunnel" is still present. That is the hump in the center of the backseat floor area. With a family of 5, someone would be stuck in that middle seat and if long legged, could be uncomfortable on longer trips. I have had 5 in my LEAF including less than a month ago but was only for a short trip. Couldn't imagine a road trip with 3 adults in the back. My work has Chevy Impalas and we don't ride 3 in the back of those except in emergencies or very short drives.
But I will take the ones above in order of importance. starting with....
(its not range!) Driving Aids. There is a lot of things that can be mitigated, enhanced or simply modified in a car. Driving aids tends to not be one of them. This is a relatively new need for me. I am fully convinced the only reason Puget Sound is not rated the worst traffic area in the country is because the people who collect those stats simply haven't updated lately. In the 5 years I have had my current job which requires travel all over the region, the traffic has become progressively worse. But the last 6 months, the issue has spiralled out of control.
Some background; Seattle area real estate is the fastest rising housing market in country some months more than double the rate of the 2nd fastest market and has been for quite some time. What does this mean?
Pierce County WA is the fastest growing county in the US percentage wise. That is a telling statistic but the piece that really puts the story together is Snohomish County is the 2nd fastest growing county in the United States. It is not a coincidence that Pierce County borders Seattle to the South, Snohomish County borders Seattle to the North.
All this means commuting HELL! I have several jobs starting at 4 AM so that means anywhere from 45 to 90 mins drive time when there is no traffic but also means the afternoon commute home with traffic is 2½ to 5 hours. This is a long day and lately I feel like I am on the edge of getting into an accident.
Now before we go on; I can drive 3-4 hours straight on the open road easily without getting tired and the reason why is because there is minimal risk of something happening "every" second. This allows me to take mental breaks. This highly desired luxury is not available in bumper to bumper traffic that can't make up its mind how fast it wants to go. The result is even just an hour of congested traffic is very fatiguing under the best of circumstances. We see it every day. fender benders, rear enders, all contributing to make commuting even worse.
Now, I will admit my prediction of early deliveries by Thanksgiving or Halloween is not going to happen. But then again, I was expecting the tiered rollout. So expect ride and drive events in Nov-Dec with early Jan deliveries.
Finally; (this is an edit due to social media response)
My take on the LEAF effort is since its on the same platform, a lot of changes couldn't have happened if they wanted them. The 2018 LEAF is really a launch vehicle for the Pro Pilot Tech and its my opinion that Pro Pilot will become a huge hit. So the best I can really say is "LEAF I½" is a very worthy option for anyone who wants a well made economical entry into the EV World
Thanks to Gary Lieber we have details on the features from the LEAF and its various trims. This clears up a LOT of confusion
Just a quick note; Many are saying that backseat heaters are not available in any trim or option. Still waiting for confirmation one way or the other and received pix of SL from Brian Henderson that is supposed to show that seat heaters are available? but unable to see anything from the Pix that confirms this. I did look at an SV at NDEW Portland and there is no controls for it despite the car having the climate/comfort package so looks like a definite no on the SV.
Another thing; Telescoping visor is apparently gone. This is very much desired for me due to the high latitude I live in (Olympia is Northernmost State Capital in Contiguous US) which means low Sun angle on the horizon is a battle for about 10½ months of the year (the rest of the time, its too cloudy to see the Sun!)
Now I have been told several times that LEAF sales would be a nationwide launch in January but there are now several reports that Smyrna is building them now. That seems like a pretty long lead time and I am guessing (like previous years) the sales will begin when the 2017 inventory hits a certain point. Considering the fire sale on the 2017's, I have to stick with my original (revised from Halloween) prediction of Thanksgiving.