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I am not sure that I have always been the biggest advocate of electric cars in general. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that I have railed against them on numerous occasions. I’ll also let you into a secret, before last Wednesday, apart from a passenger ride and plenty of theorizing, I had not actually driven an electric car, let alone one with racing aspirations.
I attempted to keep an open mind as I clambered in and tightened the four-point harness though. The Nissan Leaf RC certainly looks like a proper racing car, with cut slicks, a huge spoiler and an alcantara steering wheel. It is also painted in a pleasantly un-green colour scheme. If you weren’t ‘in the know’ you might think it was a normal racing car, and a quick one at that.
However, when you climb in you immediately notice a few key components are missing, a gearstick for example, or maybe even a rev counter. The start up procedure is a little laborious, but once you’ve flicked the correct switches, in the correct order the dashboard lights up. Once that has happened you merely flick a switch, upwards to go forwards and downwards to reverse.
There is a whine as you pull off, but that is not unexpected in a racing car, it’s just that usually it’s the transmission. The top speed is only 153km/h and it gets up there reasonably quickly. It is difficult to get excited by that top speed, even if it gets from 0-100km/h reasonably briskly. Of course, they can switch up the wick if they want.
Other than that the car felt relatively normal, if a little heavy. The chassis though wasn’t half as bad as I’d been led to believe; although you could feel the weight through the longer, in the higher speed corners it felt relatively well balanced. It helps of course, that the weight is all low down, so the centre of gravity is on the floor, and that there is a surplus of grip considering the power. But it wasn’t unpleasant.
I even managed to sample the ‘on-the-limit’ handling characteristics as I tried to maintain momentum through a long left hander. The good news is that while the rear end broke away it was easily controlled and posed no real problem.
So, what is the verdict? Well, as always it helped to have incredibly low expectations, and it definitely wasn’t quick. I wouldn’t be rushing down to my local circuit to watch an electric-only race whistle by. However, I quite enjoyed my little drive, and with a bit more power I’d be keen to return for another go. I’d say that’s progress.
EncyclopediaNissanLEAFLeaf Nismo RC
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