"The overarching impression from the Leaf is that it's a "real car." When you see a Leaf, you know it; its front and rear are both distinctive enough to distinguish it from similarly shaped hybrids. It's not an electrified version of a gas car, it's a model all its own — not unlike the Prius.
One of the most interesting features is a small solar panel atop the SL trim level's liftgate spoiler. Don't be misled; this little thing doesn't add range — it just trickle-charges the regular 12-volt battery. I'd be willing to bet the high-voltage battery pack loses more energy when sitting parked than the solar panel collects.
Due to the nature of electric motors, the Leaf has robust torque from a standing start — enough to spin the tires before the traction control intervenes, especially when turning after a traffic signal turns green. With a zero-to-60 mph time of roughly 7 seconds, off-the-line acceleration is sprightly up to around 45 mph, and then you see the rate begin to decrease — to a degree that you must be patient if you plan to pass at highway speeds. This is the nature of an electric drivetrain with no conventional transmission and only one "speed." The top speed is electronically limited to 95 mph. I found myself speeding inadvertently — a lot. This is always a good sign in a car. It reflects low noise levels, stability and confidence, things you don't always get in typical cars, much less in efficient ones.
In normal driving, the car's dynamics are agreeable, and this is all most drivers will ever encounter. If you push the car harder, it corners differently than normal cars do. Best I can tell, it's because the 600-pound battery pack lowers the center of gravity dramatically, even compared with the Chevy Volt. The pack is under the front and rear seats entirely, which positions all that mass low and between the front and rear axles. In a normal car, when you take a sharp turn the body leans and the inside wheels get light, making the outside tires work harder to hold the car on the road. In the Leaf, when the tires begin to lose their grip, they seem to do so in unison.
I'm struck by how simple it is, and I don't mean that in a bad way. The car has a battery pack connected through associated electronics to an electric drive motor that powers the front wheels through a few reduction gears and a differential. That's pretty much it. No clutches, no conventional transmission, no secondary source of locomotion."
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