A touch of the power button cues cordial audio and visual greetings without a hint of driveline noise or vibration. To go, you move a mouse-like controller to the left, then in a direction opposite the desired travel (forward for reverse, back for straight ahead). A second reward nudge engages an energy-saving ECO mode.
Tap the accelerator and there's an energetic surge forward accompanied by a faint whine from the propulsion system. The Zen-like tranquility is pierced only by a hushed wind and tire ruffle plus a subtle pedestrian-alert whistle.
The thrill of 207 lb-ft of nearly instantaneous torque tugging at 3400 pounds of curb weight is short-lived. The Leaf is swift enough not to be called a laggard but its 9.7-second amble from rest to sixty mph won't earn acclaim from the National Hot Rod Association. In performance tests, the Leaf finished a close second to the Chevy Volt.
That said, there are some driving delights. Thanks to the 600-pound battery pack under the seats, body roll is modest and the 205/55HR-16 Bridgestone Ecopia tires strive for agility. Unfortunately, the steering effort, feedback, and grip are all well below the normal entertainment threshold. The generally plush ride goes jiggly over bumps. And the low-rolling-resistance rubber has such a weak sense of dead-ahead that the steering must be minded during highway cruising.
The real fun resides in the instrument panel. Nissan has outdone itself here with upper and lower electronic displays plus a central 3x6-inch electro screen that provides a revealing look at the car's nervous system. Driving conservatively nurtures the growth of pine trees in an upper left monitor. A lower-left gauge tracks battery temperature. Every use of the accelerator and brake registers in an arc of fourteen circles located below the digital speedometer. When the battery's state of charge falls precipitously low, the nav screen automatically displays quick charge locations within reach. You can monitor energy consumption by the drive motor and all accessory systems and ascertain your average kWatt per mile efficiency. These entertaining displays help diffuse range anxiety.