G. Chambers Williams

Nissan adds Leaf Plus models for 2019, extending battery range up to 215 miles

Nissan redesigned the groundbreaking Leaf all-electric hatchback just last year for its second generation, which included extending the driving range on a single charge to an estimated 150 miles, up from 107 miles on the 2017 model.

Now, for2019, the Leaf Plus model has been added to the lineup, which gave our Leaf SL Plus tester an estimated range of up to 215 miles on a full charge, according to EPA estimates.

Many electric vehicle experts believe that a minimum range of 200 miles is what consumers want, so they can avoid having anxiety about whether they will run out of power prematurely.

Curiously,the automaker delivered this version of the Leaf to me by actually driving it to my home, rather than bringing it on a trailer as had been done just last year with the new 2018 Leaf. I live about 220 miles from where the delivery originated, and the driver told me he had stopped twice along the way to recharge, including a stop not far from me that allowed the battery to be topped off so I would receive the car with nearly a full charge.

In fact,the dashboard info told me I had just over 200 miles of range left, at 95% of full charge, when my Leaf was delivered. This additional range is made possible by a new 62 kWh battery pack, which is an upgrade over the 40 kWh battery of the base 2019 Leaf, which is designed to provide the 150-mile range. Even with its improved capacity, the Plus model battery is nearly the same size as the regular one, Nissan says.

Plus models also have a 45% more-powerful electric drive motor, creating 214horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque. Top speed is up about 10% as well, specs show. The motor in the regular models produces 147 horsepower and 236 foot-pounds of torque.

As with the regular Leaf models, the Plus versions come in three trim levels: the base S ($36,550 plus $895 freight), SV ($38,510), and our SL ($42,550). The regular models, with the 150-mile battery, are the S ($29,990), SV ($32,600), and SL ($36,300).

Plus models also include a new 100kW quick-charging system, allowing them to charge more efficiently.

Nissan says the highest charge rate through a Level Three 440-volt charger will raise a nearly depleted battery to 80% charge in about 40 minutes. This requires using a commercial quick-charging station, rather than at-home “trickle”charging that takes 20 or more hours at 120 volts (Level One) or about 11.5hours at 240 volts (Level Two).

Most Leaf owners presumably would have Level Two charging installed at their homes for regular overnight topping off. The angle of the charging port, at the front of the car, has been designed to allow the user to connect the charging cable without bending down.

Also new for the Plus models is a larger, color eight-inch dash display and an updated navigation system that can be linked to a compatible smartphone.

Standard features on the S Plus model include the high output Quick Charge Port, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, regenerative braking system, e-Pedal Mode with Hill Hold Assist, portable trickle charge cable, Automatic Emergency Braking, automatic on/off headlights, Nissan Intelligent Key with Pushbutton Start, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System with streaming audio, satellite radio, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant, Automatic Temperature Control with HVAC timer (pre-heat/pre-cool cabin), charging timer (set desired charge time), eight-inch information display, and a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat.

Mid-grade SV models get 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Nissan Connect with Navigation and Services featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Intelligent Cruise Control and two additional speakers (six total).

With our SL tester, we also got LED headlights and signature Daytime Running Lights,heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, leather seats, eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way lumbar support, heated front seats and steering wheel, cargo cover, auto-dimming inside mirror, universal garage opener, Bose Premium Audio with seven speakers, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Intelligent Around View Monitor, Intelligent Driver Alertness,hybrid heater, rear heater ducts, Pro Pilot Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Electric Parking Brake, High Beam Assist and Intelligent Lane Intervention.

With last year’s remake, the Leaf’s exterior and interior were restyled. The 2019 Leaf Plus is offered in seven exterior colors: Brilliant Silver Metallic, Gun Metallic, Super Black, Scarlet Ember Tint coat (premium color – pearl metallic plus tinted clear coat), Pearl White Tricoat (premium color), Glacier White, and Deep Blue Pearl, which was the color of our tester. It is also offered in a two-tone exterior, Pearl White/Super Black. The interior of our car was light gray.

There is room for up to five passengers, and there is 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat.

Nissan insists that the 150-mile range of the regular models should satisfy the daily driving needs of most Leaf owners, but I’m sure many of us would prefer the extended range of the Plus model, especially if we’re doing more than just a defined daily commute.

We drove our SL tester around town for about five days before connecting to our home120-volt power source to prepare the car for its return to the delivery company. We got it down to about a 45-mile range remaining on the battery before connecting to power, and after about 16 hours it was nearly topped off. The charging cable that came with our test vehicle would allow for connecting to a240-volt or 120-volt outlet.

Among other new technology in the newest Leaf generation is the e-Pedal, which lets the driver use a single pedal for more than 90 percent of everyday driving, including most braking. But the conventional brake pedal must still be used when fast or aggressive braking is necessary.

With thee-Pedal, when the driver takes his foot off the accelerator pedal, the car will come to a complete stop without the driver having to press the brake pedal. To activate the e-Pedal, the driver must pull back on a switch in the center console, but it does not stay activated once the vehicle is shut down – it defaults back to the “off” position.

Of course, the e-Pedal also does not take over and slow the vehicle if the Leaf’s radar cruise control is active and the driver moves the foot off the accelerator pedal.

During my week in the Leaf, I tried to remember to engage the e-Pedal whenever starting out, and found that in most driving conditions, I really didn’t need to use the actual brake pedal. Although I was not able to see for myself, the brake lights do come on when the e-Pedal is bringing the car to a stop, Nissan says.

Also new is the Pro Pilot Assist system, included on our test vehicle. It brings a combination of the radar/adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency forward braking with Pedestrian Detection, Steering Assist, Intelligent Lane Intervention, High-Beam Assist, and an electric park brake.

Once it is activated, which happens when a button is pressed on the right side of the steering wheel, Pro Pilot Assist can keep the Leaf centered in its lane on the highway. But even though it can do this, it doesn’t want the driver to depend on it, for sure. It will disengage if the driver takes his hands off the steering wheel for more than a few seconds.

With this system, if the car in front stops, the system will apply the brakes to bring the vehicle to a full stop if necessary, and, after stopping, the vehicle will remain in place even if the driver’s foot comes off the brake pedal.

When traffic begins moving again, the car will start moving if the driver touches the cruise switch or lightly presses the accelerator pedal.

Also new is a system that can share power between the vehicle and homes, buildings or power grids.

The Leaf’s chassis has been beefed up for improved stability, with heavy components such as the battery pack put in the center of the car to help improve directional stability and bring smoother cornering.

Leaf’s new exterior design makes it look more like a traditional hatchback than it did.It has the Nissan V-motion grille, “boomerang” light signature and floating roof, making the car look similar to other current Nissan models, such as the Rogue compact crossover.

A new front console has dual cup holders between the front seats, allowing for a storage tray at the base of the console for smartphones and wallets. There is also a 12-volt power outlet and a USB port.

The only extras on our Leaf SL Plus were splash guards ($200), carpeted floor and cargo mats ($195) and a first-aid kit ($80).

Total sticker price was $43,920, including freight and options.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2019 Nissan Leaf/Leaf Plus

The package: Compact, five-door, five-passenger, electric-motor powered, front-wheel-drive hatchback electric vehicle.

Highlights: Nissan completely redesigned its Leaf all-electric car for 2018, extending the range on a single full charge to about 150 miles, and giving it lots of new technology. But for 2019, the new Leaf Plus models raise the range to about 215miles for those willing to pay a few thousand dollars more for extra battery capacity. The Leaf is now more practical for everyday commuting and family use.The car has plenty of power, lots of standard and optional features, and a roomy interior.

Negatives: Range is limited to about 150 miles on regular models before recharging of the lithium-ion battery pack is required, so long road trips can be a challenge.

Engines: 110-kilowatt AC synchronous electric motor (regular Leaf); 160-kilowatt motor(Leaf Plus).

Transmission: Single speed.

Power/torque: 147 HP./236 foot-pounds (regular Leaf); 214 HP./250 foot-pounds (Leaf Plus).

Length: 176.4 inches.

Curb weight range: 3,433-3,853 pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, anti lock.

Cargo volume: 23.6 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 30 cubic feet (rear seatback folded).

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; roof-mounted side-curtain for both rows.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Fuel capacity/type: 40 kWh lithium-ion battery pack; range about 150 miles per charge (regular Leaf); 62 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, range about 215 miles (Leaf Plus).

EPA fuel economy (mpg-equivalent): 125 city/100 highway/112 combined (regular Leaf); 114 city/94 highway/104combined (Leaf Plus).

Base price range: $29,990-$36,300, plus $895 freight (regular Leaf, before any federal and/or state tax rebates/credits, if available); $36,550-$42,550 (Leaf Plus).

Price as tested: $43,920,including freight and options (2019 Leaf Plus SL).

On the Road rating: 8.9 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.

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