Owning an all-electric car is cool. Owning the top-shelf 2012 Nissan Leaf SL is even better. This flagship trim of the lineup boasts 100 miles of range – at least under ideal conditions, and dispenses with such nasty petroleum products as gasoline and motor oil. Furthermore this 5-passenger, 5-door compact hatchback boasts a roomy interior with plenty of cabin storage, though this may represent an effort to alleviate its less-than-spacious 24 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. In any case, the Leaf SL rides on standard 16-inch alloy wheels and sports a rear spoiler and heated power-adjustable mirrors outside, while inside, heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel complement cloth upholstery, climate control and a standard remote garage door opener. Cruise control, tilt-wheel steering, a rear-view camera, remote power door locks and power windows top off the list of delivered creature comforts. A standard voice-activated hard-drive-based navigation system, meanwhile, keeps drivers informed of routes and distances to charging stations, as well as providing real-time traffic alerts. Entertainment comes via an MP3-capable single-CD player with 6 speakers, NavTraffic satellite radio and a USB connection. Finally, standard Bluetooth hands-free technology complements phone pre-wiring for seamless communications on the road.
The Eco Design package is one of the major option choices in the 2012 Leaf SL and includes hologram 3D door entry plates and “Appliqué” interior-themed center console. Other options include front and rear bumper protectors in the Protection package, splash guards and hologram kick plates.
The 2012 Leaf SL gets its go from an 80-kilowatt electric motor powered by a 24-kWh lithium-ion battery pack to the tune of 107 hp and a kickin’ 207 lb-ft of torque. Using a direct-drive transmission-like mechanism only for forward and reverse, the Leaf SL is touted to have a range of some 100 miles. Driving habits, terrain and weather conditions, however, dictate a real-world range of between 72 and 80 miles, though the EPA estimates an equivalent average of 99 mpg in energy efficiency terms. Owners are doubtless aware that charging stations are few and far between, home chargers are presently somewhat expensive, and, despite regenerative braking helping out a little, worries about range to the next charging station may prove a bit distracting. Finally the Leaf SL boasts a standard quick-charge port that allows a faster charge of a partially depleted battery, saving a bit of time when running quick errands.
Safety-wise, the 2012 Leaf SL boasts front and rear antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, front and rear head airbags, front side-mounted airbags and front head restraint whiplash protection. Additional safety equipment includes LED headlights, front fog/driving lights and a remote antitheft alarm.