I love cars. It’s not a secret. I love small cars, big cars, loud trucks and hybrids. I love German cars, Japanese Cars, British Cars and I have a soft spot for Detroit. Recently I was asked what my favorite car was and I gasped, “It’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. I would say that the Acura TL feels a lot like the one that got away.”
I don’t think that loving one car makes me less able to love another.
I’m sad to say that I do not love the Nissan Leaf. This weekend I brought the Jaguar in for service and I drove out to Pasadena. Pasadena is not particularly close to my house and Rusnak isn’t the dealer that I bought the car from but their service is so superior to the local dealerships that I bring the car in on Saturdays for oil changes and maintenance and I plan to do stuff in and around Pasadena to make the drive worthwhile. If I go to Rusnak on a weekday they provide a Jaguar loaner but if you’re there on a Saturday you’ve got to go to Enterprise in South Pasadena.
The shuttle driver took me to South Pass and we chatted about cars, “The XJ is a boat, it’s for athletes and the elderly.” We both agreed. “The Ford Fusion hybrid is an incredible ride but the lease rates make it too expensive.” More agreement. A classic Corvette passed us on the road and he told me about the muscle cars he once owned. I felt sad that I’d never owned a muscle car and agreed that the sound of eight cylinders is sweet.
As we pulled up to Enterprise I noticed that there was a Nissan Leaf, “Oh my gawd!” I practically jumped out of the minivan, “It’s a LEAF. I’m renting that car I don’t care how much it costs.” I waved goodbye to my shuttle driver and practically ran to the rental counter.
“I’d like the Leaf please.” I said plunking down my paperwork from Rusnak that said I was entitled to a $33 a day rental.
“It’s $69 a day.” The clerk was apologetic.
“Oh, that’s okay. I just want to drive that car.” I flung my AMEX at him before he could change his mind.
We went through this whole song and dance where they explained to me that the car only has a 100 mile range, they showed me the mobile charger and they told me it would be okay to return it to Rusnak but asked me please to be sure it had enough charge left to get it back to their location.
“You can add ‘Don’t be an asshole’ to the bottom of the contract if you want. I’ll sign that.” and he smiled and muttered something about adding a line about not being a jerk. If I was a more appropriate woman I’d have been embarassed.
I hopped in the car, adjusted the mirrors and headed home. My house is 20 miles from Enterprise Rent a Car. The Leaf doesn’t have gears that shift in the manner that a combustion engine would. There’s feeling of added acceleration when you’re in a lower gear and there’s no glide when when you take your foot off the accelerator. You know those ride on cars that the kids have where you sit in the big Cadillac and press the pedal? It drives a lot like that only faster and smoother. The car is all torque and it doesn’t accelerate much when you go downhill, you still have to accelerate with the pedal. This is NOT a bad thing, it’s simply a profoundly different way to drive.
The Leaf has space, the interior is fabulous, we’ve seen quite a few cars with a similar shape and as much as they aren’t sexy or streamlined they are Oh My Gawd This Is Sunshiney spacious inside. It’s a wonderful feeling to have so much headroom, to have stadium seating for the kids in the back and to have a trunk big enough for another two people to sit in it. It’s still a small car though and parking it is a dream.
I drove the car home without incident. After 20 miles I enjoyed myself. All that torque was a lot of fun on an uncrowded freeway and I liked that it accelerated as quickly at 60 mph as it did at 10. The visibility is fabulous and in many ways the car is a joy to drive. The dashboard is intuitive and ergonomic. I enjoyed many parts of it.
Until I looked at the battery life on the dashboard.
I almost had a full fledged panic attack when I realized I had to drive downtown, home and then to Pasadena and I had to get it done in 50 miles. Although I had the mobile charger it was going to take 23 hours to charge the battery half way. I gripped the steering wheel and white knuckled it through the rest of my afternoon hoping against hope that I’d get everywhere I needed to go in 50 miles or less.
It’s a real bummer that the Leaf didn’t add a gasoline generator like the Volt did. I enjoy the spaciousness of the Leaf and it would suit my family’s needs better than the Volt because it seats five not four but I can’t foresee the Leaf being a part of my days with such a short battery life and no way to get out of a jam quickly. The pleasure of driving an electric car was quickly eclipsed by the panic of driving an electric car and being stranded for at least a dozen hours.
I love the concept of an electric car, but unless you have a windmill in your garden you’re still plugging into coal power.
I’m waiting for Leaf 2.0 because I want to add this to the list of cars I love.