Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

New Tech, Styling, More Range Added to the World-Leading EV

The Nissan Leaf is the first and most successful mass market all-electric car, with more than 300,000 sold worldwide. Introduced in 2010 as a 2011 model, it was a pioneer, won the 2011 World Green Car award, and just repeated that feat for 2018. However, with much more competition today, it needed a major update. The 2018 model is the result, as validated by the World Green Car award and our early drive.

2019 Nissan leaf A Pair of Aces

2019 Nissan leaf

I sampled two models of the new Leaf at the recent Western Automotive Journalists Media Days event. I grabbed it for the first drive of the day, 23+ miles that included some freeway, some in-town, and some open road travel, including the climbing the winding Laureles Grade in Monterey County.

The car is all new, but contains some remnants of the old model, including its hatchback shape. However, all the rounded shapes of the original Leaf are tightened up and the nose wears a much more conventional grill and headlamps, in Nissan’s corporate V shape. The rear pillar is partially blacked out to give the impression of a floating roof panel, just like the competing BMW i3 and Chevrolet Bolt EV (and several other models like the Lexus RX).

New Inside & Out

The new interior, like the outside, is more restrained than the exuberantly flowing original. The steering wheel looks very traditional and the instruments ahead are clear and easy to understand. The rectangular center panel gives you access to the entertainment, information, apps and provides knobs for volume and tuning. The shapes are gently curved, but overall sensible and familiar. Nearly all surfaces are at least slightly padded, creating a comfortable and slightly more upscale feel.

2019 Nissan leaf

The room inside the Leaf is great

I dropped into the seat and was pleased at how comfortable it felt. The Chevrolet Bolt EV, a leader in the category now, has firm, narrow chairs that work for me, but have generated complaints from some drivers.

On the road, the Leaf starts out smartly, with a 147-horsepower motor pulling smoothly and silently. While no rocket, it feels completely, well, normal. Handling is predictable and pleasant. The ride is firm, but not harsh.

The new Leaf offers e-Pedal, which provides stronger regenerative braking. Much like the L setting in a Bolt EV or the default setting in a Tesla, this means you can use one-pedal driving, pressing your right foot down to move forward and lifting it to slow down. Like the Bolt EV, the Leaf can come to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal (the Tesla cuts the regen at a few mph). You can drive the Leaf like a regular car by turning e-Pedal off.

The New Tech

The new ProPilot Assist feature allows you to choose one of three following distances and set a speed on the highway. Your Leaf will follow the car in front at the set distance, and brake and accelerate to retain that distance—as you’d expect with adaptive cruise control. But it also gently stations you in the center of the lane. You must keep your hands on the wheel—this is low-level autonomy—but it is more relaxing when traveling on the freeway and busy roads. It worked perfectly when I tested it on Monterey County highways in the second Leaf.

2019 Nissan leaf

The gauge support is there to tell you what’s happening 

The new Leaf has significantly improved battery range. It’s up to 150 miles now, much better than the 2017 model’s 107, but still well below the Chevy Bolt EV’s 238 miles. Nissan says a 200+ mile range battery is coming, but for now, is 150 miles enough for most drivers’ needs?

Why did Nissan go with the 40-kWh lithium-ion battery instead of a 60 kWh one like the Bolt EV uses? It’s about value, says Paul Minahan, Jr., Sr. Manager, Electric Vehicle Fleet Operations. Leaf customers wanted a lower price—and batteries are still expensive. The new Leaf starts at $29,999 for the S model, before federal and state rebates and tax breaks. The SV and SL add more to the price, but also to the features list. I tested the better-equipped SV and SL. The SL’s price of $36,200 still undercuts the $37,500 base price of the Bolt LT, while offering more features, including leather seats. Other EVs, such as the Tesla Model 3 and BMW i3, are simply more expensive.

Nissan has a huge base of existing customers; some will trade up for this significantly better car. More people may be willing to consider the new Leaf with its less controversial styling and overall improvement in everything it is and does.

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Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Nissan Titan XD

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: Nissan IMx Electric CUV One of Eight New EVs

News: Nissan IMx Electric CUV One of Eight New EVs

Nissan Targets 1 Million Electrified Vehicle Annual Sales By 2022

With more than 300,000 global sales, the Nissan Leaf is the bestselling electric car in history. The 2018 Nissan Leaf has launched with an EPA-rated 151-mile driving range. A second version for 2019 is coming with more than 200 miles of range. The big question now is, where will Nissan go from here?

One of the missing pieces of the electric car portfolio is the crossover. Most current EVs are sedans with Tesla’s Model X and Jaguar’s I-Pace the only electric crossovers available, although others are coming from luxury automakers Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Given the popularity of crossover SUVs, an electric crossover utility based on the IMx concept shown at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017 will be added in 2020, according to an interview published last week in the British magazine Autocar. It will stay true to the striking concept.

Stylish and More Than an EV

“Of course, we have the new Leaf, but I think the [production version of the] IMx concept will become a breakthrough model,” Mamoru Aoki, Nissan’s European design chief told Autocar.

Nissan IMx concept

Nissan previews future EV design in the IMx

Aoki told Autocar that the exterior of the IMx is a clear indication of Nissan’s next-generation design language and the intention is to be closer to the company’s Japanese roots. He said the IMx “does not have a masculine look or a heavy appearance” of the type that is now common for mainstream combustion-engine CUVs. “It has a light feel and sheer surfaces,” he said. “The exterior is very Japanese in its details–expressive, but with purity and an expensive feeling.”

Aoki added: “The interior is notably bigger than with a conventional vehicle and there’s much more usable space, thanks to the totally flat floor allowed by the [underfloor] battery pack. The dashboard is also pushed right back [towards the windscreen] because the HVAC [heating, ventilation and air-con] unit is under the bonnet.”

The overall cabin concept reflects Japanese architecture and interior design, he said, because traditional Japanese houses are tiny, and some rooms have to be multi-purpose in their use.

Aoki was also keen to point out the unusual interior trim in the IMx, which is an alternating laminate of wood and translucent plastic that can be illuminated from behind—a hint, perhaps, that the finish is heading for production.

The IMx Concept offers a sleek crossover utility shape and a pair of motors, one per axle, to provide all-wheel drive. Combined power of the two drive motors is quoted at 430 horsepower and a substantial 516 pounds-feet of torque. Its quoted battery range on the Japanese test cycle was more than 370 miles, although we’d expect that to be closer to 250 miles in U.S. EPA testing.

But there’s more! The IMx is the “future of mobility,” according to Nissan. It features a future version of ProPilot, Nissan’s autonomous car technology. When engaged, it will retract the steering wheel, recline the seats and take over control of the car. The featureless (no knobs or switches) dash is designed to respond to gestures, eye movement and spoken commands. Whether this advanced ProPilot will appear in the 2020 production car is at the moment questionable.

One Million Electrified Vehicles Annually by Fiscal Year 2022

Nissan pledged to maintain its leadership in electric vehicles as the automaker outlined plans to launch eight new EVs and hit annual sales of 1 million electrified vehicles by March 31, 2023. The eight new EVs will come on top of Nissan’s current offerings, the Leaf and eNV200 van. One will be the all-electric crossover based on the iMx concept, while four of the new EVs will be directed to China.

The automaker’s sales goal of one million EVs, includes pure electrics and plug-in hybrids. The tally will get a boost from the introduction of Nissan’s new e-Power setup, a range-extender hybrid system it is already selling in Japan and will bring to other markets. Sales of vehicles equipped with e-Power will account for more than half the total.

The components of Nissan’s goals were presented last Friday at the company’s global headquarters, offering details of the M.O.V.E to 2022 midterm plan unveiled by CEO Hiroto Saikawa last fall for six years running through the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023.

Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti, won’t be left in the dark, either. All Infiniti models will be electrified starting in 2021. Chief Planning Officer Philippe Klein said, “This electrification trend will be deeper and quicker for Infiniti. Our objective is to position Infiniti as the No. 1 challenger brand in the premium segment.”

“We have more EV customers than any other automaker,” Klein said. “You can count on us to defend our EV leadership.”

 

 

 

Road Test: 2017 Rogue Sport AWD

Road Test: 2017 Rogue Sport AWD

A Rear Seat Less Than the Rogue

The cravings of American car buyers for sport utilities, small and large, led Nissan to introduce an all-new model for 2017, the Rogue Sport subcompact crossover SUV. The automaker is betting that this new entry crossover will cling to the coattails of its best-selling vehicle, the larger Rogue SUV, and follow in its tire tracks. That’s a tough bet as the junior crossover lands amid a host of subcompact crossovers including the Honda HR-V, the Toyota C-HR, the Mazda CX-3 and the Chevrolet Trax.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

The best-selling Rogue gets a baby brother

While the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is new to the U.S. market, the vehicle it is based on has been on sale in global markets as the Qashqai since 2014. The new small SUV is essentially a shrunken version of the existing Rogue, with a foot less length and a couple hundred pounds less curb weight. It earns its Sport name not for its driving characteristics—it really isn’t sporty—but instead for its positioning in the Nissan lineup below the larger Rogue and above the smaller Juke and its upcoming replacement—the Kicks.

The largest entry so far into the subcompact crossover market, Nissan offers the Rogue Sport in three trims: S ($22,395 base MSRP), SV ($23,995) and SL ($27,045). All-wheel drive (AWD) is a $1,350 option.

You can have any engine you want in the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport as long as it’s Nissan’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 141 horsepower. It’s routed to either the front wheels or all four wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Like others of its ilk, the all-wheel-drive system on this SUV is set up for foul weather and dirt roads, not true off-roading.

EPA fuel economy ratings for our all-wheel-drive SL model are 24-mpg city/30 highway/27 combined. That earns it a membership in the Clean Fleet Report 30-MPG All-Wheel Drive Club.

Acorn Didn’t Drop Far from The Tree

Sport has a strong resemblance to big brother Rogue, from the aggressive Nissan V-Motion grill to the swoopy hatchback-like rear along with sleek LED boomerang-shaped taillights and rear spoiler. From the side, the Rogue Sport looks tidy and tightly styled, thanks to touches like the up-kick in the rear side glass, fog lights and available 19-inch wheels.

Inside, the interior is lifted almost wholesale from the updated 2017 Rogue. Gauges are simple and clear, and the dash has nice, intuitive round knobs for audio and climate control that frame the usual center stack with a touchscreen. Front and rear seats are equally comfy, well-cushioned and seem perfectly shaped for adult-size backsides.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

Inside, this nut’s similar to its sibling

With a large glovebox, a spacious center console armrest bin, and wide door pockets, the Rogue Sport offers plenty of places to stash smaller items throughout the cabin. In the cargo area there are two bins on either side and an impressively large storage bin under the cargo floor. Space for cargo is 19.9 cubic feet behind the folding seatbacks and 53.3 when they are folded.

Targeted at young, tech-savvy buyers, it’s surprising to find the Rouge Sport doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Plus, rear-seat passengers won’t be thrilled by the lack of USB or charging ports for their mobile devices. The choice is, juice up before heading out or, for $80, Nissan dealers can install two USB charging ports on the back of the center console.

2018 Nissan Rogue Sport

Under the hood is a four for town

Since I’m carping, there is a row of hard-to-reach buttons, like traction control and steering-wheel heat, that are located so far to the lower left of the dash that even seasoned owners will need to take their eyes off the road to find them.

Basic infotainment gear is standard in the Rogue Sport. A 5.0-inch color display in the S and SV models provides a clear readout for the audio system. The base 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport S comes standard with Bluetooth phone integration with Siri eyes-free, a rearview camera and Nissan’s clever Easy Fill Tire Alert, which honks the horn once the tire pressure has reached the correct level. You also get air conditioning, manually adjustable front cloth seats, remote keyless entry and cruise control.

The mid-level Rogue Sport SV adds larger 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, push-button start, a six-way-power driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control. The top-level SL gets 19-inch wheels, fog lights, remote start, Nissan’s Around-View Monitor bird’s-eye-view camera system, navigation, leather on the shift lever and heated steering wheel and seats. Basic safety systems are standard, but you’ll have to step up to mid-level SV trim to add forward emergency braking, and top SL if you want lane departure warning.

A Great Urban Driver

Forward visibility is great, thanks to a high seating position and relatively thin A-pillars. Glass areas are large and square, providing widescreen views from most angles. To help with the blind spots that do exist, Nissan has fitted the Rogue Sport with extra-large side-view mirrors.

2018 Nissan Rogue Sport

Something only slightly new

The bucket seat in our top-of-the-line SL model was perfectly acceptable for a three-hour drive, but the Rogue Sport shows best in urban areas, where its size is perfect for scooting around crowded cities and fitting tight parking spots. Around town, the junior crossover doesn’t lack for power and is peppy enough to squirt in and out of traffic without being a hazard.

The chassis holds up its end of the bargain, with balanced European breeding shining through. The suspension rebounds quickly, and minor bumps are absorbed with very little disturbance sent through to the cabin. Harsher impacts are felt, but they are surprisingly gentle. The light steering does at least make the Rogue Sport particularly easy to maneuver at low speeds, such as in a parking lot or driveway.

In town I was left thinking this thing is perky and light on its feet. But when I hit an on-ramp to the freeway, I was wishing for an extra 50 horsepower or so. A sluggish 0 to 60 time of 10 seconds tells the story. The slowness, to be fair, is similar to that of several other small SUVs, including the competing Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR.

Once up to speed, steering was a touch slow and on the disconnected side, but the Rogue Sport did what it was told without much fuss. Aside from the creamy ride quality, handling was competent but hardly sporty. And the vehicle was quiet inside under most circumstances on all but coarser pavement surfaces. When I pushed hard into corners, the CVT held a gear until I reached a straightaway. That action was manual via the shift lever—there are no shift paddles—but the sluggish result was essentially the same.

That said, the Rouge Sport did live up to its fuel economy rating. We returned the keys to Nissan after driving 337 miles that showed a combined fuel economy of 28.1 mpg.

The Subcompact SUV For You?

Acceleration isn’t great, and driving dynamics are focused more on comfort than excitement, but the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport makes up for these shortcomings with excellent cargo-hauling capability, a smooth ride and above-average fuel economy. As a family car, the Rogue Sport also excels with plenty of rear-seat space for a child seat and a host of available active safety features—although most of these are limited to the expensive SL model.

Whether you’re a new parent shopping for a kid-friendly crossover or an empty nester looking to downsize from a larger SUV without giving up too much utility, the Rogue Sport deserves consideration.

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Road Test: 2017 Mazda CX-3 (Michael’s view)

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward

Mid- and full-size sport-utility vehicles are staging a modest comeback after seemingly destined for extinction in 2008, devastated by soaring gas prices and a crashing global economy. Since then, pump prices are much less of an issue and the U.S. economy is on a high note. That’s opened the door for families who need a seven- or eight-passenger SUV for a wide variety of reasons.

Mixed among today’s 20-some midsize utes is the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder, a new old school vehicle in design and execution.

The Backstory

Born in 1986, the Pathfinder was a two-door SUV with a definite muscular, almost macho appearance. It had to. It was going up against the big brutes from Detroit—Ford Bronco, Jeep Cherokee and Chevrolet Blazer. It also had to contend with the proven and rugged looking Toyota Land Cruiser.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

The Pathfinder enters a third life…with three rows

Then the market changed. Important off-road features such as ground clearance, suspension travel and break-over angle were no longer relevant to the buying decision. Instead, purchases were based on a smooth ride, the sound system and the number of cup holders. Under those conditions, a new, larger four-door Pathfinder was launched in the fall of 1995 to meet the demands of the new customer. The rugged styling was brushed away in favor of a more modern, smoother look. Under the new skin, a unit-body structure replaced the truck style body-on-frame construction and provided car-like ride and handling.

Nissan unveiled a completely redesigned Pathfinder for the 2005 model year, which grew larger and more capable while morphing back from unit-body to its original body-on-frame configuration. While this change gave the new SUV some off-road cred again, a full independent suspension offered both a comfortable and confident ride in basic cruising mode. Adding to the allure of this new Pathfinder was standard third-row seating.

Apparently Nissan has a difficult time figuring out the midsize SUV market because in 2013 an all-new Pathfinder once again moved away from a body-on-frame, truck-based SUV and adopted a unit-body design. Following other Nissan models, the Pathfinder employed a continuously-variable transmission (CVT), mimicked European rounded styling and added a few needed inches for the third row.

That brings us to the 2017 Pathfinder.

One Step Backwards

A 2017 mid-cycle update takes a styling step backwards a bit. But only a bit. Instead of a rounded, swept back appearance, Nissan has given the Pathfinder squared off edges to make it look more like the SUV it used to be. This all translates to more well-defined approach angles at the front and rear and to burlier fenders along with a new “V-Motion” grille design flanked by “boomerang” headlamps with LED daytime running lights under a taller, sleeker hood.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

The V6 offers performance and fuel economy

At the rear are new bumper and taillights, squared off straight edges on the rear hatch and a new foot-activated lift gate… for when your hands are full… but your feet are free. Somehow the styling change resulted in better aerodynamics for the Pathfinder, with Nissan saying it moved from 0.34 Cd to a coefficient of just 0.326. While less drag aids fuel economy, the overall result of the new look is the Pathfinder now stands out in traffic.

First Step Forward

No midterm update is complete without new interior features, and this is where the 2017 Pathfinder takes its first step forward. All four trim levels—S, SV, SL, Platinum—have an eight-inch touchscreen with new connectivity features and a new drive-assist display between the gauges now standard with. Besides the larger touchscreen, the base S adds Bluetooth, a rearview camera, SiriusXM satellite radio and a second USB port. Standard equipment on the SV remains the same, but a new Tech package brings navigation, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert to this model. The SL now includes the 360-degree-view monitor with new moving-object detection and a metallic interior trim. The top Platinum level adds adaptive cruise control, which brings with it forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

The interior moves uptown as well

Also available are heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 13-speaker Bose Audio, tri-zone automatic climate control and remote engine start.

The Pathfinder’s audio and climate controls are far easier and less distracting to use than those in some competitors. Similarly, the transmission gear selector is a traditional shift lever rather than ditzy buttons or some trick electronic joystick, but there are no paddles or other provision for the manual selection of gear ratios. On four-wheel drive models, a simple knob behind the shift lever allows a choice of front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and four-wheel drive lock, with a button for hill-descent control.

When it comes to utility and convenience, the Pathfinder is still one of better bets in this segment. The interior materials mostly look and feel expensive. There are soft-touch surfaces in all the places you expect and want them, and the seats are comfortable and supportive. The design of the interior feels modern and surpasses many rivals.

Nissan makes a good case for the Pathfinder as a family hauler with some undeniably convenient features, such as a 60/40-split, tilt-and-glide second-row seat that eases access to the 50/50-split third-row even with a child safety seat in place on the passenger side.  The 16-cubic-feet of storage behind the third row isn’t remarkable, but with that row stowed, cargo space grows to nearly 50 cubic feet, among the best in its class.

Second Step Forward

You’ll need to pop the hood to discover the 2017 Pathfinder’s second, and perhaps the biggest step forward. The 3.5-liter V-6 was tweaked and gets direct fuel injection, a revised air intake, new pistons, variable intake-valve timing and a higher compression ratio. It now spins out a healthy 284 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 259 pounds-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm, which renders a zero-to-60-mph time of 7.3 seconds. Yet fuel economy remains the same, scoring 20-mpg city/27 highway/23 combined EPA fuel-economy ratings with front-wheel drive, one mpg less with available all-wheel-drive—ratings that are near the top of the class.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

It’s got the grunt

Hill start assist is standard, hill descent control comes with all-wheel-drive, and the third-generation Xtronic CVT transmission’s DStep Logic Control simulates the feel of a conventional geared automatic.

The extra engine output improves towing capacity. The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is now rated at a beefy 6,000 pounds, among the highest in its class. When equipped for towing, the Pathfinder has trailer sway and other controls built-in.

On the Road

Our 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4-Wheel Drive was loaded with every feature Nissan has to offer. With a sticker price of $44,685, including a $900 destination charge, it seemed almost a bargain.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Not much room with all three rows up, but fold one down….and your’re in business

Visibility out the front and sides is great, but rearward visibility was somewhat limited with the third row in place due to the high head rests, one of the few complaints I had as the Pathfinder ate up 820 miles covering a wide variety of roads and highways. Thankfully all models come with a rear-view camera; our Platinum model offered up a surround-view camera with motion detection, which was much appreciated in shopping center parking lots.

There’s no hiding the size of the Pathfinder. It’s a big, three-row galleon, and the revised suspension is tuned for soaking up bumps and bridge connections, while dispatching speed humps with relative ease. That ride comfort, coupled with very comfortable seats, means it’s a big check in the box of urban driving. The low-down torque of the V-6 engine was enough to make it quite zippy around town and the crossover never felt slow or lacking power.

Heading out through winding, sweeping country roads, the flexibility of the engine became evident. It had enough pep to move with pace and the stepped function of the CVT worked well to make it feel more like a torque converter. The Pathfinder is among the most agile in its near full-size, three-row crossover class without being so softly sprung that body roll is a problem. It flowed nicely through bends and had more than enough power for merging and overtaking onto freeways. In the fast lane, the cushy, quite ride mimicked a 1980s-American-sedan.

A revised steering provided a welcome measure of additional heft and responsiveness. Brake pedal feel was confidant, and I wasn’t overwhelmed when I needed to stop quickly when an idiot ran a red light.

The 4WD Story

In terms of four-wheel drive equipment, the Pathfinder isn’t quite the rough and tumbled off-roader it replaced. But, it manages to do well with the equipment it has. Featuring an intelligent on-demand four-wheel drive system, it runs in front-wheel drive until it needs to send torque to the rear, which provides a reassuring feeling when driving on snow or ice-pack roads.

Off the road, a manually lockable center differential adds traction when needed. Serious four-wheel enthusiasts will not look to the Pathfinder to get their kicks, but for the occasional off-roader who just wants to get the family to the more remote lakeside, it will definitely do the job.

As for real world fuel economy, our 2017 Pathfinder Platinum 4WD averaged 24.2 mpg for the 820 miles. That’s right at the top for the class with the exception of Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid, which has an EPA estimate of 28 mpg city/highway combined.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

The Pathfinder seeks to find its way in a crowded field

The Three-Row Crossover SUV For You?

My oh my, there’s a lengthy list of three-row crossover SUVs to choose from (and because of their overall dismal fuel economy, they are not the vehicles Clean Fleet Report normally pursues, which is why we haven’t covered the Ford Flex, Volkswagen Atlas, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, Hyundai Santa Fe, Dodge Durango, Toyota Highlander, among others). The only way to make a choice is to dig in, do research and spend a few Saturdays test driving your selections. Take your kids along and let them climb in and out of the second and third rows. If you have a wee one, take a car seat to see how easy or not easy it is to install. For a thorough evaluation, including at least a two-hour test drive, expect to spend around three hours at a dealership.

As for the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder, the new old school-like SUV styling may not be for you. However, if it is, impressive power, pleasant handling, high tech galore and an inviting personality might just be strong enough to sway you.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

Flash Drive: 2018 Nissan Leaf

2nd Generation Offers Upgrades and Longer Driving Range

As the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf is recognized as a leader in battery electric vehicles. But, as things go in life, being the leader means the competition is constantly nipping at your heals. Because, heck, who wants to be #2?

After seven years on the market, the first-generation Leaf has been replaced by the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf. Revised styling, charging speed and a longer driving distance are only a few of the key changes to the second-generation Leaf. With the announcement that the 2019 Nissan Leaf will go even further, Nissan has jumped feet first into the tiered offering of electric vehicles.

Turning a New Leaf

Nissan brought journalists to the Napa Valley during the first week of December. A few hours of technical briefings were followed by drives through the vineyards. The presentations revealed the 2018 Nissan Leaf has many improvements, including:

2018 Nissan Leaf

Best seller raises the bar

  • The new battery has the same physical size as the 2017 model, but packs more punch through scientific advances in battery density and chemistry
  • A battery with 40kWh in the same space that previously had 30 kWh
  • A bump in the AC motor from 80 kW to 110 kW
  • New driving range of 150 miles

So, what does this all mean? The 110-kW electric motor puts out 147 horsepower, a 37-percent increase compared to its predecessor. Peak torque sees a 26-percent increase to 236 pounds-feet, delivered across a wider band, making for near-exciting launches and better acceleration when at cruising speeds. But for most drivers, the increase from a 112- to 150-mile driving range is what will get their attention.

The Chevrolet Bolt (currently available in all states) and the Tesla Model 3 (barely available in any states) both have a 200+ mile driving range. But that is it, as all other electric vehicles get between 100 and 125 miles on a charge (or less in some cases). Nissan told us that the 2018 Leaf with a 150-mile range is a “white space,” reassuring consumers that 150 miles is what they need for the vast majority of their driving needs. Clean Fleet Report agrees that this is well within 90-percent of what all people need for their driving pattern and lifestyle. But, everyone hears the sexy 200+ numbers from the Bolt and Model 3 and think that anything else is lacking. Thus, Nissan’s challenge is convincing these potential buyers that 150 miles is just fine.

Technology Abounds

As the auto industry creeps closer and closer to autonomous vehicles, the first steps are the development of advanced driver-assist features. Long ago this began with cruise control, but the advances in the past few years have been astounding. Nissan has had several driver-assist features on its cars for the past few years, but the 2018 Nissan Leaf comes with two new technologies: ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. Nissan calls this its Intelligent Mobility, which is comprised of driving, power and integration elements.

2018 Nissan Leaf

The new Leaf gets a significant technology upgrade

The first of the new systems is ProPilot Assist, which Nissan repeatedly stressed is NOT autopilot. This system is hands-on and, when engaged, aids the driver keeping the Leaf entered between lane lines. If lane lines are faded or covered in mud or snow, the system automatically disengages.

It works very well, even when we did what Nissan said NOT to do, which was driving with hands off the wheel. We did this not to be disobedient, but to test the progressive warning lights and sounds that became more frequent and louder the longer our hands were off the wheel. The final test of the ProPilot Assist is that it will bring the Leaf to a complete stop if all the warnings are ignored. We were warned to be very careful with this final stage (we were), which truly demonstrated the benefits of this safety technology. ProPilot Assist is designed to help a sleepy or physically incapacitated driver safely bring the Leaf to a stop. Experiencing our Leaf go from 70 mph to 30 mph demonstrated how a person’s life could be saved.

The e-Pedal feature offers one pedal driving, which Nissan says reduces “the need to switch between accelerator and brake pedals.” This is accomplished by first setting the system with the center console-mounted button. Then, acceleration, deceleration, stopping and even holding at a stop are all controlled by the pressure applied to the accelerator pedal. The ‘stop’ feature, even up to a 30-percent grade, is an industry first.

Leaf On the Road

When Clean Fleet Report reviewed the previous generation Leaf we found the ride was smooth and quiet, with good handling for a car not designed to be sporty. For 2018, Nissan has improved the drivability by placing the “heavy components, including the battery…in the center of the body.” This then improves “directional stability, enabling smoother cornering.” We agree.

2018 Nissan Leaf

The new Leaf leads with style–that doesn’t divide

What really made the drive interesting was using the e-Pedal, where we experienced the one pedal driving Nissan touted. One of the things about new driver assist technologies is that a trust level needs to be established real, real fast. We had no problem adapting to–and trusting-this unique system.

Our test drive began on the very scenic Silverado Trail, the 29-mile two lane road on the Eastern side of the Napa Valley that runs from Napa to Calistoga. Known for weekend bumper-to-bumper traffic of wine tasters, we were fortunate to hit it during the week when slow-poke winery visitors did not impede our testing the curves and twisties.

What we found was the 2018 Nissan Leaf’s suspension has been improved, to the point where we actually can say the car was fun to drive. It was easy to point the Leaf where you wanted it to go–and it stuck. The electric power steering has been recalibrated for improved road feel and feedback. Nissan says the urethane bump stops for the rear suspension have been replaced by rubber stops, which reduce shocks and bumpiness on uneven surfaces. It must have worked because we felt none of those on our drive.

Out on Highway 101 our drive took us through the redwoods, where the ride was smooth and confident. Confident, because this is where we tested the ProPilot Assist. It did what we were told it would do: keep us centered between the white painted lines.

In summary, driving new technology through vineyards and majestic redwoods was a perfect way for us to get a feel for the 2018 Leaf. Your dealer test drive may not be as bucolic and scenic, but we are confident you can replicate our experience.

New Leaf – New Design

2018 Nissan Leaf

The new Leaf features a more inviting design

The first-generation Leaf was known for its very unique design, which included those interesting headlights that were oh-so-aerodynamic, but also not pleasing to many people. With the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf, those headlights are a thing of the past.

The 2018 Leaf has a modern design that, while still recognizable as a Leaf, does not scream: “I am different!” It softly says: “Hey, check me out.” The new design is softer and sleeker, especially of note is the “floating roofline” that gently sweeps back to the rear hatch.

The interior has been completely reworked as well. The gauges are easier to understand than the previous model, with everything well within the driver’s outstretched arm. The seats were supportive, leg and headroom were ample. We would be remiss if we did not thank Nissan for the radio volume and channel knobs. There’s nothing worse than when a car company tries to get too modern by thinking radio controls should be like your smartphone–all swipe and pinch.

Model Line-up

The 2018 Nissan Leaf will come in three models. The MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) for the three, not including the $885 destination and handling fee are:

2018 Nissan Leaf

The Leaf can charge slow, faster and really fast

Leaf S          $29,990

Leaf SV        $32,490

Leaf SL        $36,200

Depending where you live and your taxable income, you could potentially reduce your final cost by as much as $10,000 through federal and state programs. It is recommended contacting your CPA before considering a Leaf purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits and rebates. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

For those in California, the Leaf automatically qualifies for the coveted HOV sticker which allows solo driving in the Carpool lane. If you haven’t heard the stories, people buy the Leaf just for this benefit.

Observations: 2018 Nissan Leaf

Announcements from car manufacturers are eagerly awaited, especially the launch of a “next generation” model. But when the new version is replacing a category leader our attention is piqued, as there is so much that can go wrong by tinkering with a sales success. Nissan need not worry, as the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf hits multiple marks with its design evolution and technology advancements.

2018 Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s also rolling out a program to help with charging

Clean Fleet Report will have the opportunity in the coming months to drive the 2018 Leaf for a week or more. At that point, we will do a deeper dive on the ProPilot and e-Pedal technologies and will review the regenerative braking, charging and the very cool “Leaf To Home” charging system. The telematics and infotainment systems have been upgraded, such as your being able to give commands to Amazon’s Alexa that control certain settings on the Leaf. All very futuristic stuff that is becoming available right now.

Until then, you can set an appointment with your local Nissan dealer to take a test drive with one of their factory-trained EV specialists. We think you will be pleased with what you find.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Road Test: 2017 BMW i3

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Personal: My Chevrolet Bolt EV, a 6-Month Update

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.