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DRIVEN: 2011 Nissan LEAF Comes To Colorado For BOLDERBoulder


Memorial Day weekend is a time of year where we honor veterans, look forward to the three-day weekend and for some in Colorado run the BolderBoulder 10K. This year in a newly announced “Innovation for Endurance” partnership, Nissan and Rodale are connecting the Nissan LEAF with a series of high-profile running and cycling events nationwide to “encourage consumers and healthy lifestyle enthusiasts to take their performance to a new level.” It was pretty exciting to see their solar powered booth in Boulder, but as car buffs we also pretty excited here at AllSmallCars.com to get to drive the 2011 Nissan LEAF around Boulder, Colo.

2011 Nissan LEAF in Boulder, Colo. for BolderBoulder

2011 Nissan LEAF in Boulder, Colo. for BolderBoulder

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By now you may have already read a bunch of driven reports on the 2011 Nissan LEAF, but the thing is that the LEAF is capturing people of all ages, backgrounds and experience. This twenty-something was super excited to get to drive his first production all-electric vehicle—a vehicle meant to be sold to consumers not just shown as a technology showcase. Going into the test drive I had my reservations, but the actual drive was quite the experience.

Nissan Innovation for Endurance and Nissan LEAF in Boulder, Colo. for BolderBoulder

Nissan Innovation for Endurance and Nissan LEAF in Boulder, Colo. for BolderBoulder

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Starting the 2011 Nissan LEAF gave me a slight chuckle. As you might expect it has the Intelligent Key that allows you to press a start button and turn the car on. The difference is that the 2011 Nissan LEAF has a whole sequence of sounds—and if they don’t make you smile then you definitely are in need of some Disney style R&R. Once all the gauges have come to life you are greeted with a layout that is styled after a gasoline car (yes, on purpose) with the power/regenerative-braking gauge at the very top of the cluster in a nice arc. This particular LEAF had a nice full charge and showed 94 miles on the indicator. So off we went to tool around Boulder—emissions free.

The first thing I noticed about the LEAF is that they have programed creep into the drivetrain to give it the same simulation as a regular gasoline automatic. This is in keeping with the idea to make the driving experience seem natural—at least in respects to the gasoline-powered automobile. The second thing I noticed about the LEAF was the electric steering. The steering is really easy, but it is also exact. If you pay close attention you can tell that there is simulated resistance to give the car a better center feel. All in all though, I felt like it could be the poster child for the ‘50s commercials showing off the ease of the “new” power steering.

Driving the LEAF is a pleasure, but you will notice blind spots in the rear corners from the strong rear c-pillars. From a parking perspective the LEAF offers the niceties of a rear view back-up camera. That said, the acceleration is smooth with the regenerative braking in normal drive mode being almost unnoticeable. If you switch to ECO mode, then you get a much more aggressive regenerative braking experience and you will notice the need for a lot more accelerator input—a purposeful setup to try and help people conserve the electric energy.

As you might have read before the LEAF is remarkably normal, except for the fact that you are running about without emissions. Sure it will take some changes to some old habits like plugging the vehicle in at night and trying pulse and glide driving techniques, but all in all the LEAF is a remarkable example of an affordable electric car built for consumers. That said, we did note that when you turn the A/C on that the mileage drop some twenty miles on the distance to empty read out. So if you live in the desert you might need to plan your trips accordingly! For the rest of us, we should be able to cruise to and fro with relatively little awareness that we are in fact relying on only electricity to get us there.

In other words, I went in not sure if I would buy a Nissan LEAF as a twenty-something—I mean feel frumpy like some eco friendly cars? I came out of the experience with a big grin on my face. I wonder if a sub would affect the distance to empty…as we ponder that we encourage you to test-drive a LEAF as soon as you get the chance. You won’t be sorry. 

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