You could say that Nissan knows a thing or two about building electric vehicles. After all, they've been doing that for over a decade. Their first vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, was revolutionary in its time and at one point was the best-selling electric vehicle in the world.
Finally, after delays with this next-generation electric vehicle—the Nissan Ariya—they're really showing what they can do. Packed with advanced features and cutting–edge technology, the Ariya represents a significant improvement over the Leaf and a compelling option for anyone looking to go electric with the brand.
Electric vehicles of all types need very little cooling compared to their internal-combustion counterparts, meaning that the front end doesn't need a massive grill opening like you traditionally see. This gives manufacturers a lot of freedom and flexibility when it comes to design and styling, to make the front end of the vehicle attractive and unique, while also functional and aerodynamically efficient.
What Nissan has done is place a patterned design element into the front of the vehicle underneath a clear plastic that gives depth and a dynamic aesthetic to the grill. The design is intended to mimic the style of a Japanese lantern and is repeated a few times throughout the vehicle. One other notable design feature of the front is the placement of large LED daytime running lights that accent the edges of the grill area.
One of the most important features of the front end is functional, not aesthetic. On the very edges of the bumper, there are small vertical openings that collect air coming off the front of the vehicle and direct it to create an "air curtain" around the front wheels and tires. This improves aerodynamic efficiency.
The Ariya's shoulder line is mostly flat from front to the rear where it intersects with the sloping roof line. It has a sporty, but not aggressive, look to it that grows on you the more you look at it. The Ariya's design is authentic and refreshing, not trying to be something it's not, and its design touches compliment the SUV styling and sets it apart from other types of vehicles, electric or otherwise.
Nissan says the Ariya styling represents "Timeless Japanese Futurism," which is characterized by a distinctive approach conveyed in a simple, yet powerfully modern way. The Ariya's interior features a minimalist design with high-quality materials and finishes throughout. The spacious cabin offers ample legroom and headroom for both front and rear passengers, making it a comfortable ride for longer journeys. The layout of the cabin is intuitive and user-friendly, with controls that are easy to use and within easy reach. I appreciate that there are physical buttons to control HVAC settings. This is something that I'm starting to see go away in some modern vehicles with controls transferring to screens.
A standout interior feature of the Ariya is the panoramic moon roof, which not only floods the cabin with natural light, but can also be opened for fresh air. This is a rare feature on vehicles that have a large glass panoramic roof, and adds to an overall enjoyable experience.
One unique feature of the Ariya's interior is a sliding center console, which can be moved forward and back to adjust to the preference of the passengers. Additionally, located at the center of the dashboard there is a second "hidden" glove-box storage compartment in the center of the vehicle under the screen that opens up and doubles as a tray table. These thoughtful design touches add to the overall functionality and convenience of the Ariya's interior.
The Japanese lantern pattern we saw on the front grill is seen again inside the Ariya at the foot of the dashboard, in the center of the vehicle, and is back lit at night.
The Ariya's rear cargo room is spacious and practical, with plenty of room for luggage or groceries. The rear seats fold down easily, providing even more room for larger items. There is also a hidden compartment beneath the cargo floor, providing additional storage space. Unfortunately, due to the placement of the vehicle's drive components, there is no front trunk in the Ariya. However, the vehicle's cargo room everywhere else is well-designed and spacious, making it a practical choice for those who have a need to carry a lot of cargo with them.
What sets the Nissan Ariya apart most from the competition is its cutting-edge technology. Even on the lower trim levels, the Ariya is packed with tech features that make it a truly remarkable vehicle. The Empower+ trim that I tested was well equipped with many features that made driving easier, safer, and more comfortable. I quickly adapted to using the head-up display, and found it to be one of the most useful features that, before testing the Ariya, I wasn't expecting. Speed, navigational instructions, and especially alerts and information about the ProPILOT system were visible directly on the windshield. I found it easy to read, even in full daylight, and this allowed me to keep my eyes on the road without missing important information.
Speaking of ProPILOT, I found the system has advanced significantly over the past few years. In 2020, I had my first test of ProPILOT in a Nissan Leaf, and I wasn't very impressed. Everything has improved over the past 3 years. The system holds the lane well with minimal adjustments, automatically slows down for sharp curves, and even had a hands-free mode.
I experimented with Nissan's ProPILOT Park assist feature which, after positioning the Ariya in front of an open parking space, parked the SUV without any input or intervention at all. Compared to "auto park" systems in other vehicles I found that the Ariya handled this task exceptionally. The ProPILOT Park assist can be used to park in both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces.
The Ariya's electric powertrain provides a smooth and quiet driving experience, with plenty of torque for relatively quick acceleration compared to gas-powered vehicles. The low center of gravity and front-wheel drive system provide excellent handling and stability on the road, and encourage driver confidence.
The Ariya has a maximum power output of 238 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, allowing for moderately reasonable acceleration and passing maneuvers. In our performance testing, the front-wheel drive model was able to go from 0 to 60 mph in 8.36 seconds, and complete the quarter mile in around 16.28 seconds at 87.76 mph. While these numbers may seem modest compared to performance-oriented vehicles, the Ariya is conservative with it's power and is designed to be well-rounded rather than for raw speed.
Tests by other media outlets have returned better times of 15.8 seconds at 92.9 mph for the quarter mile. Our test times were noticeably slower, but it's worth noting that the Ariya's performance can vary depending on driving conditions and individual driving styles.
During our hot lap testing, we were disappointed to find that the Ariya's power output was reduced after only two short laps due to the electric vehicle system overheating. This was indicated by a warning message displayed on the dashboard, which read "EV System Hot, power reduced. Drive slowly."
Sure, the Ariya is not a performance vehicle, but it would be nice if maybe Nissan wasn't so conservative with the tuning... I wanted more. The official EV Resource "Hot Lap" time came in at slower 1:58, putting the Ariya in line with the 2016 Chevy Spark EV on stock tires.
That being said, it was a LOT of fun to drive and most people would probably be happy with it the way it is. Not everybody is a speed demon like I am. Overall, the Ariya's performance is modest, returning a smooth driving experience, reasonable handling and stability, and adequate acceleration for most daily driving needs.
Range, Battery Size, Efficiency, and Charging
I'm really struggling to talk about the range of the Ariya. Not because of anything related to the vehicle in any way, but because I'm starting to really question why we talk about range with EVs at all. Granted, I wrote all about that in the last magazine issue so I won't get into it now. So let's talk about the Ariya's range.
The test vehicle I was provided had an EPA range of 289 miles. My 70 mph highway range test returned a result of 237.2 miles from displayed battery state of charge 100% to 0% (and a little bit further). The battery pack is a big one at 91 kWh (87 kWh usable) which would have an effect primarily at lower speeds (under 45 mph) due to its weight. During the range test I was averaging 2.8 miles/kWh, which isn't the greatest, but it also isn't the worst.
So far, in my review, I've been highlighting most of the features I liked and enjoyed about the Ariya. However, if I'm going to be completely unbiased and retain my journalistic responsibility to you, I have to adjourn from my glowing praises to talk about charging.
The Ariya comes equipped with a 7.2 kW onboard AC charger (level 2) that can be used with a standard portable dual voltage (120V/240V) EVSE or with a wall-mounted unit. But I couldn't use either for my tests because the Ariya charges at a fixed 30 amps at 240V or 15 amps at 120V. It is not adjustable. This was a problem for my particular situation because I usually charge either on a 30 amp, 240V circuit, or a 15 amp 120V circuit. For safety reasons, the maximum amperage I can pull on these circuits is 24 amps and 12 amps respectively. When I plugged the Ariya in to charge, the plug quickly became hot as the circuit was maxed out.
As it is, I would recommend anyone that charges the Nissan Ariya at home, to have a 50 amp 240V circuit available for charging, and the issue I ran into won't be an issue at all. So maybe it was just me, but I really would prefer that the Ariya came with the ability to reduce the charge current to be more flexible for situations like this. Additionally, there was very little information displayed about the charging rate so I didn't find out until I looked it up online, and that could have turned into a problem. When it comes to fast charging at a public DC charger, the Ariya has a maximum charge rate of 130 kW. This is an okay charge rate, but it could be (and should be) higher.
That being said, I found the charge curve to be healthy and consistent. Nissan says the Ariya should take 40 minutes for a 20%-80% charge. In my experience it charged slower than that, but there are a ton of factors that can influence charging, especially when using a DC Fast charger, so without extensive testing it really would be impossible to blame the car. Here, I found the Ariya to be okay, but not great... it certainly left plenty of room for improvement.
So what does this mean? Well, the Ariya is not a vehicle I would take on a road trip. The mediocre efficiency, combined with the lackluster charging would add a significant amount of time to any long-distance trip compared to other electric vehicles in it's price range. BUT, for most people, this really wouldn't matter at all. I believe that the Nissan Ariya is a great choice for people who want to charge at home overnight and commute to and from work, and for local, lets even say, regional use. And that's perfectly acceptable!
One thing for sure, the Ariya is a massive improvement over the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf, while revolutionary in its time, quickly aged and fell technologically behind compared to other available EV options. With the Ariya, Nissan ditched their attachment to the CHAdeMO charging plug which was not widely adopted for the North American market, and also made the very important choice to cool the battery with liquid cooling rather than rely on air cooling. The Ariya has a greater range (ugh, I know, I keep mentioning it), and charges more quickly than the Leaf.
Pricing and Trim Levels
As tested, the Ariya in Empower+ trim has a MSRP of $53,690, putting it right in the middle of the electric SUV segment. However, many of the other EVs at a similar price point are significantly lacking the tech that is included.
The base trim for the Ariya, the Engage starts at a MSRP of $43,190, but I wouldn't expect that to sell very well because it has a smaller 63 kWh (usable) battery pack that is rated at only 216 miles. Without all the technology of the upper trim levels, it just doesn't compare to other EVs at this price point. The top of the line Platinum+ has the greatest amount of technology including a motion-activated rear liftgate, cooled front seats, and a BOSE premium audio system with 10 speakers. That trim starts at $60,190 but also comes standard with Nissan's e–4ORCE dual motor AWD powertrain that puts out 389 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque.
If I were pressed to chose an Ariya to buy and live with, I think I'd want the Empower+ trim that I tested but with the e–4ORCE powertrain. There's just one problem though... Nissan doesn't make that configuration. To get all of the tech and features that I want AND have all the power of the e–4ORCE powertrain, my only option would be to go with the Platinum+ trim level. Otherwise, I could ditch the ProPILOT driver assistance feature suite and drop down a trim level to the Evolve+ trim with e–4ORCE. Which, now that I think about it, is probably what I'd go with. I'd miss the awesomeness of ProPILOT, but I'd gain the power and performance I'd be looking to enjoy every day.
The Nissan Ariya is a great vehicle. It comes packed with many standard features and enough technology to make most people happy. It's one of the best Nissan vehicles I've ever driven (if not the best) and there is no question that it is a much better electric vehicle than it's dying sibling the Leaf. Nissan significantly improved their EV offering. But, even with that improvement, it's just an okay electric vehicle. I didn't get the impression that Nissan put a lot of thought into all of the parts of the car that make it an EV. It charges slower than I'd like, it doesn't have enough flexibility when it comes to level 2 AC charging, and it really isn't as efficient as I'd want it to be.
But you know what? I loved driving the Ariya and I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of one again... and I suppose that's what really matters. We don't buy vehicles based on only what we need, we buy vehicles based on what we want and, maybe most importantly, how they make us feel. And with the Ariya, it's sure to make you feel amazing.
Many Thanks To...
I want to express my gratitude to Hart Nissan of Mechanicsville, VA for providing me with the Nissan Ariya for testing and review. Their willingness to loan me the vehicle for an extended period of time allowed me to thoroughly test its features and capabilities, and write a comprehensive review that I hope will be helpful to others who are considering the Ariya as their next electric vehicle. I appreciate their hospitality and professionalism, and would recommend Hart Nissan to anyone in the Mechanicsville area who is in the market for a new vehicle.
It is no secret that the automotive industry is going all electric with most major manufacturers saying that they’re going to shift within the next couple of decades. One of the more ambitious goals was set by Volvo. They say in seven years, by 2030, that they are going to have the full lineup of their vehicles, all electric. They started last year in 2022 with the Volvo C40 Recharge, their first all-electric model. Now with recent updates to the 2023 Volvo C40 Recharge, owners get more range, faster charging, and new RWD options.
Unlike it’s XC40 sibling, which was designed to incorporate gasoline or electric powertrains, the C40 Recharge only comes as a full electric model. However, it does share it’s dual motor powertrain with the XC40 as well as the Polestar 2. The later being a vehicle that is in the same family of brands owned by Geely Automotive Group.
The C40 is basically the same size as its XC40 sibling, both are 174.8 inches in length, with a wheelbase of 106.4 inches, but the C40’s roofline sits roughly 2 inches shorter. However, that doesn’t affect the headroom for front passengers, the C40 actually has about 2 inches more space compared to the XC40 due to it’s built-from-the-ground-up EV platform.
While the C40 has eight color options to choose from, I did find that the ‘Fusion Red’ on this C40 really stood out, especially in direct sunlight. The paint just sparkles.
Volvo really did a great job with the styling for the C40 Recharge. The front and rear especially with the incorporation of the Thor’s hammer running lights into the headlight assembly, and the rear LED lights that say hello and goodbye with a lighting sequence.
Price (MSRP), and Trim Level, which one would I buy?
The C40 Recharge is offered in three trim levels for the 2023 Model year, that include the entry-level; Core. Mid-range Plus, and the top trim Ultimate which I had for testing. Pricing starts at $56,395 on the Core and adds $1,550 for the Plus and $4,800 to move into the Ultimate trim level. If I were shopping for a C40, I would go for the Ultimate. That trim level is the only one to get a Heat Pump, and the Advanced Driver Assistance System with Adaptive Cruise Control and Volvo’s Pilot Assist lane keeping. There are a few other differences that I’ll get to later on.
Drivetrain and Performance
After the latest package of product updates, there are two drivetrain options for the C40, RWD or AWD. There are now two different RWD choices that replace the previous FWD option. These are powered by a single 175 kW (238 hp) motor with the standard range 69 kWh battery option, or the choice to upgrade to a long range 82 kWh battery pack that is combined with a 185 kW (251 hp) motor.
For those wanting increased traction and performance (and I fit squarely into that category), Volvo is giving the dual motor AWD powertrain a more efficient and powerful set of motors.
In the front, they have a 117 kW (158 hp) asynchronous electric motor, and on the rear axle an 183 kW (249 hp) permanent magnet motor, good for a combined power rating of 402 hp. That’s the same power rating as before, but now it’s biased towards the rear. And if you’ve done the math and realized that 158 plus 249 equals 407… yeah I noticed that too. I’m sure someone smarter than me can explain why they still rate the C40 officially at 402 hp. I’m confused by that too.
0-60 comes in at roughly 4.5 seconds but I’ve seen some tests at 4.2. And using all of the available 487 lb-ft. of torque the C40 Recharge will run the full 1/4 mile in 12.8 seconds at 109mph before hitting it’s limited top speed of 112mph.
Range and Charging
The RWD C40 standard range with the smaller battery pack has an EPA-estimated range of 245 miles on a single charge, which isn’t bad. But if you want more, the long range single motor is the way to go with a 275 mile EPA estimate. That’s not the best in class, but it’s more than enough for most people to cover their daily driving needs.
The AWD option, for those who can drive it efficiently without succumbing to the temptation of pressing their right foot to the floor, should return roughly the same 275 mile estimate as it is paired with the bigger battery.
Charging speeds were also improved with the recent update that allows for charging at a peak rate of 200 kW. Volvo says a 10-80 percent charge takes approximately 28 minutes.
The interior of the C40 Recharge is cozy, but not cramped. There is plenty of space for all passengers front and rear provided that you aren’t looking to stretch out and move around while driving. Volvo makes a point to note that the interior is leather free and made with sustainable materials. There are storage compartments located strategically around the cabin that provide plenty of places to store your water bottles, phones, etc.
Styling is premium and consistent with it’s class, but one thing that is unique to the C40 is the textured topography across the dash and door panels that can be backlit for a really neat affect, especially in the dark. The topography is inspired by the scenic mountain district Abisko in northern Sweden.
The seats are super comfortable and would be great on a longer road trip. For the Ultimate Trim, they are heated, even the back seats. The steering wheel is also heated on this top trim level.
Rear leg room is spacious, the rear seats do fold down in a 40/60 split and has a passthrough built into the middle of the seats when in their normal position.
A large panoramic roof adds a feeling of spaciousness but because it has a protective UV coating, you and the interior are protected from glare and UV radiation from the sun.
Positioned in the center of the car is the 9in screen and infotainment system that features Google apps like Google Assistant, Google Maps, and Google Play built-in and standard. I found myself quickly getting comfortable using the Google Assistant when driving. Apple CarPlay is also available, but limits some of the functionality compared with Android based phones.
The C40 Recharge is capable of automatic over-the-air updates ensuring that the car is always improving over time and up to date.
Passengers ears will be delighted by the premium Harman/Kardon sound system powered by a 600W digital amp and outputs sound to 13 hi-fi speakers that include an air-ventilated subwoofer.
Safety and Driver Assistance
The Volvo C40 Recharge comes with a plethora of standard safety features including 260 degree parking view, cross traffic alerts and auto braking, blind spot notifications and corrective steering, collision warning with automatic braking, and Volvo’s most advanced Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assistance features.
Summary and Thoughts
Overall, I liked the C40 Recharge and would rank it as one of the top 5 electric vehicles that I would consider if I were looking to buy. The Twin AWD in Ultimate trim might be the most expensive, but it’s worth every penny and provides such a value over the lower trim levels.
I found the performance to be exhilarating and it was a blast to drive. There were really only a couple of things that I would change about the C40. Rear visibility through the rear-view mirror was significantly limited, and I wish the front trunk were bigger. But other than being nit-picky, I really found very little to complain about.
It’s a fantastic option and anyone shopping in the compact SUV market shouldn’t buy anything without testing out the Volvo C40.
Thank you to…
Before ending I want to give a huge thank you to Daniel Kutcher and the team at Volvo Cars of Richmond. Daniel actually made it possible for me to spend time with this C40 and I’m so very grateful to have had the experience. I’ve known Daniel for a little while and he is one of the most selfless people I know. If you’re in the market for a vehicle, I really suggest you reach out to Daniel and ask about what Volvo can do for you.
Volvo Cars Richmond
7211 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23294
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With more power than a Ferrari F40 Supercar, how does the 2023 Genesis GV60 Performance handle on a track? We put this one through its paces and you won't believe the results!
Originally published in the Nov./Dec. 2022 issue of the EV Resource Magazine. Slight editorial updates were made, but these did not affect the narrative of the article.
Hard onto the brakes, the GV60's front tires screamed in protest as the sudden shift of the SUV's nearly 5,000 lbs. pushed them into the pavement. The large body leaned to the right as the soft suspension was quickly overwhelmed by the sudden left turn. Exiting the corner, the right foot of the driver eased into the accelerator, the body returned to a neutral position, power flowed to the electric motors... and with the push of a button, all 483 horses were unbridled as the Genesis made its way to the back section of the racetrack.
The spectacle of the electric vehicle on the two-mile, Dominion Raceway road course was a thing of beauty, leaving observers in awe... or so I'm told. I wasn't in the audience. I was the driver. If you're somewhat new to the EV Resource Magazine you may not be aware that we test electric vehicles at Dominion Raceway in Spotsylvania, Virginia. And before you continue reading this review, I strongly encourage you to go to the EV Resource YouTube page and watch the videos in the "Hot Lap" category. You will find this test there, and it will give you a good frame of reference for how the GV60 Performance compares to other EV models.
Before getting to the numbers and the test results however, I want to take a minute to point out how incredibly stunning the GV60 is to look at, this one in particular. The "Atacama Copper " paint color (pictured above) sparkles in the sunlight and the contrast of the black and chrome accents really stand out against the metallic work of art. Even at a distance, you can tell that there is something very special about this vehicle. What you cannot see, however, is the incredibly ferocious power slumbering within that begs to be unleashed with a press of the accelerator pedal. The dichotomy is uncomfortable at first. A vehicle this heavy and luxurious should not be able to move so quickly... but it does, and it does so with ease!
I compared the power of the GV60 to the 1987 Ferrari F40, pointing out that it had more power than the iconic supercar. It's worth noting that the 0-60 and 1/4 mile times for the Genesis are also better. However, comparing to a supercar from 35 years ago might not be the most fair choice. So let's look at some newer vehicle models that are close in numbers to the GV60 Performance:
This is not a bad list of vehicles to be compared to at all. In addition to some of the best performing vehicles of their time, the Genesis GV60 Performance would certainly hold it's own, even against the electric powerhouse of the Tesla Model Y.
Without any doubt, the GV60 has the power to put up a fight in a straight line. Through the corners however, the Genesis GV60 Performance starts to really show some weakness. The stock Michelin tires on the 20-inch sport wheels are more suited for comfortable cruising than they are for maximum cornering grip and protested frequently when asked to handle the weight of the Genesis in the turns. In fact, I found the combination of the immense power and lack of traction to be exceptionally frustrating when trying to set a fast lap time on the road course. As with many of the EVs that I test, I really feel that if the GV60 Performance were equipped with a stiffer suspension and better tires, I suspect there is a lot of unused potential that could be unlocked.
Challenges aside, the Genesis GV60 Performance still proved that it lives up to its name and I was able to take it on its own "hot lap" around the road course in a time quicker than any other EV tested. With a lap time of 1:39.10, it slots into first place only 17 thousandths of a second ahead of the Polestar 2 AWD.
Polestar has a history...
Originally a performance tuning company focused on racing Volvo vehicles, Polestar Racing (acquired officially by Volvo in 2015), now Polestar, has a history of performance and a dedication to the passion of automotive excellence. While the company says it has no heritage, we disagree entirely. They have a unique story that has lead to the creation of one of the fastest and more powerful vehicles we've ever tested: the Polestar 2.
The first all-electric offering from the company is no slouch, especially the AWD model we had the pleasure of spending time with for an entire month. As you might expect, spending that much time with a car allows for impressions one might not get after only a few hours. And we developed plenty of thoughts on the model, some good, and naturally, some not so good.
Initial impressions of the Polestar 2 were all glowing. One of the first things you notice is the aggressive exterior styling, especially the front grill area. We found the lighting assembly and fenders hold your attention on the front end. The side profile of the vehicle is a little more mundane and nondescript. The rear of the Polestar 2, however, has a LED light bar that extends from one side of the car all the way to the other that we found to be unique and attractive. This also makes the Polestar very easily identifiable at nighttime.
Moving to the interior our impressions are more mixed. The materials that comprise the dashboard, door trim, and seats were all premium in nature. Soft where you want, firm where necessary. The interior design is pleasing and easy on the eyes. A center display allows for many vehicle settings to be changed including steering feel, regenerative braking strength, and charging limits.
However, we found that the Polestar 2 sacrificed interior width in exchange for side crash-worthiness. We wished for an extra 4 inches of space in between the driver and passenger that would allow for an additional cup holder. As it is, the second cup holder can only be accessed by lifting the arm rest forcing you to lose a place to rest your elbow if you wanted a second place to store a drink.
The Polestar 2 doesn't exactly charge very quickly either. On a 150 kW DC fast charger, we were able to charge from 0-90% in about an hour... but according to the car's estimates, that last 10% would have taken an additional hour. If the Polestar 2 were $5k-$10k less expensive we might be more willing to look past these shortcomings, but the dual motor AWD model has a MSRP of $51,900, which is asking a bit too much considering the alternatives in the marketplace. As tested, our vehicle would cost $58,750.
Oh... but the performance!
Overall, we did find the Polestar 2 AWD to be an excellent competitor to the Tesla Model 3 for people who really don't want a Tesla Model 3. It's premium without being too extra. Refined, sporty, and powerful.
The Tesla Model Y might be the fifth vehicle offering from the all electric automaker, but it is hands down the first Tesla that is aimed directly at the mainstream North American car buyer. It's no secret that, here in the US anyway, we love our SUVs and crossover utility vehicles (CUVs), and the Model Y fits the bill. Sharing nearly 75% of its parts with the smaller Model 3 Sedan makes it the bigger SUV/CUV Model 3 conversion we've been waiting for. Naturally, there are a lot of similarities between the two vehicles, but surprisingly, there are many differences as well.
Driving any electric vehicle can be an arousing experience if you've only ever driven their gas powered counterparts. Even for the cautious driver the instantaneous power delivery will leave a smile on your face that is nearly impossible to wipe away without days going by. The pedal on the right becomes an addiction. Most new EV owners are also Tesla owners, so it's no wonder why Tesla has the highest owner satisfaction of any automotive brand. Electric vehicles are so much more fun to drive than anything else.
Your first experience with any Tesla vehicle, Model Y included, can be exciting but scary as well. And if you're one of the lucky owners, it is an experience that requires you to rethink everything you thought you knew about cars and car ownership. In the Model 3 and therefore the Model Y (the interiors are practically identical), nearly every button, dial, gauge, and control is replaced with a massive touch screen display in the center of the dashboard. This screen is now your best friend. It is the brain of the car and the gatekeeper of all joy.
Every time we hop in the driver's seat of a Tesla, we have to remind ourselves how to adjust the side mirrors (touch screen), set the air conditioning to a comfortable temp (touch screen), and turn on our favorite music (yup, touch screen again). Additionally, all your gauges are to the left side of the screen in a very easy to read location, even while driving.
The experience driving a Tesla, that is to say when you don't want it driving for you, is as if you were piloting a feather. The Model Y is quiet, gentle, and smooth when you want it to be. The seats are firm, yet comfortable enough to not bother you on a longer road trip. There is plenty of room to stretch out your legs, even for back seat passengers. For the driver seeking a peaceful, easy commute, the Model Y offers everything that you could hope for... But the feather we had the pleasure of driving also had a rocket strapped to it, and we want to go fast.
Tesla broke the bias against EVs that they were merely over-sized golf carts that could barely move out of their own way. Tesla proved that EVs are quick, nimble, and can go toe to toe with the best sports cars the world has to offer. What Tesla has done with the Model Y Performance is nothing short of a miracle of engineering. Let's start with the fact that this is actually an SUV. It's a family car, a grocery-hauler. A vehicle to take you down to the beach for the weekend. It is not a track car that would compete with highly modified race cars not only at the drag strip but also road courses. Don't tell that to the Model Y performance version though, It doesn't seem to know any better.
This 4,400 pound SUV is equipped with two electric motors, one up front, one in the rear, that put out a combined 456 hp and 497 lb-ft of torque. To put that in perspective, that's more low end grunt than a 2020 Corvette and it allows the Model Y to sprint to 60 mph faster than most performance sports cars. It is the family car that will throw your family back into their seats and have you laughing the whole time.
Because we don't have a prepared track, our own performance tests had to to be somewhat limited. However, we had a go with the Model Y and discovered that Tesla's traction control in combination with the sophisticated power delivery from the electric motors still managed to overcome the potential setbacks from not having a prepared surface to launch from. The Model Y is supposed to achieve a 0-60 mph time of 3.5s and 1/4mi in 12 seconds. Our times were close: 0-60 mph in 3.64s (with a 1ft rollout) and 1/4mi in 12.07 seconds at 114.59mph. That is impressive for most sports cars and outright insane for an SUV. The Model Y is likely capable of beating these times with simply some minor weight reduction.
If performance isn't your focus however, you would likely be perfectly happy with the Long Range AWD (non-performance) version. Both trim options come standard with Tesla's Autopilot system and suite of safety and driver assistance features. Springing an extra $8,000 will get you the full self driving software package.
The Model Y Performance that we tested is rated at 280 miles of range while the non-performance achieves 316 miles of range. Impressive for a vehicle of its size and weight. The 75 kWh battery pack in the Model Y is the same as the Model 3 and will charge at a similar 250 kW at its peak. Tesla says that this will allow the Model Y to recharge 158 miles of energy in only 15 minutes at one of their v3 superchargers. If you're looking for a family road trip vehicle, you just found it.
The interior is large and the all glass roof gives you an even more spacious feeling and there is plenty of head room, even for back seat passengers. Cargo space is cavernous in the rear and the frunk (front trunk) as well.
When it comes to pricing for the Model Y, the less expensive Long Range AWD starts at $49,990 while the Performance will set you back an additional $10,000, or $59,990 before options or upgrades. Standard features listed on Tesla's website include:
An optional seven seat layout is set to be available in 2021 for only $3,000 and if you want to add a tow hitch, it is available for an additional $1,000.
There is no question that Tesla didn't reach very far outside their existing toolbox to bring us the Model Y. After all, it is based on the Model 3 and shares many parts. However, it is different enough for us to consider it to be the ultimate family vehicle.
For the most part the Model Y met our expectations and we didn't find much that we would be concerned about except for one really big issue: Build quality. Tesla has certainly earned a reputation for the most adored vehicles on the road. The fan base is extremely loyal and likely to look past some significant build errors. We however, are not.
One of the first things we noticed when pulling into the Tesla parking lot was an already delivered Model Y with colored stickers all over it. Upon inspection, we noticed a lot of the issues with that vehicle were related to alignment of doors and lights. It looked like it was rushed through the build process, and in all likelihood was rushed in order for Tesla to hit their Q2 financial numbers and show a profit for the quarter despite the COVID-19 shutdown. This is not, however, an excuse for poor build equality and we were very disappointed to see an example of sloppy assembly.
The Model Y that we tested also showed misalignment of taillights mostly, but overall wasn't nearly as significant of an issue as the other car. That being said, if you are in the market for a Model Y, we don't suggest accepting delivery until you've had a very thorough walk around checking for misalignment, paint issues, and other quality concerns that Tesla should fix before you accept the vehicle and drive it home.
We don't mean to say that you shouldn't buy a Model Y though. You should. Absolutely you should. Just make sure that everything is in good order before you call it your own. We expect that in the coming months, examples of this kind of rush job through assembly will become fewer and fewer as Tesla isn't as pressured to meet expectations. If they take their time, they really can build and amazing vehicle. The Tesla Model Y is our recommendation for car of the year (whatever worth that carries) and we think that it will push all other automakers to build better vehicles themselves. After all, that is what Tesla is really good at... getting the world to progress and improve.
We find the Nissan Leaf SL Plus is just too little, too late, and too expensive.
When the Nissan Leaf was first introduced to the world in 2011, it came equipped with a 24 kWh battery providing an EPA estimated range of only 73 miles. That isn’t much for today’s EVs, but it was enough to get the job done at the time. While the first generation Leaf was loved by owners and enthusiasts alike, the redesign in 2017 was a welcome refresh for the model. Nissan added the top trim "SL Plus", offering a 62 kWh battery with 215 miles of range in 2019... a late arrival to the 200-mile club for the company that provided the world with one of the first mass produced electric vehicles.
What we like:
What we dislike:
The Nissan Leaf SL Plus is a good car if looked at in a vacuum, but with so many competitors to chose from we find that it falls well short of our expectations of what a $42,000 car should be.
The Nissan Leaf is a car we want to like more. After all, its legacy deserves respect similar to the way you should respect your elders. And perhaps that’s the problem. Even with the recent refresh and updates to the model's styling, we find the car is just not appealing compared to its competition. It’s quietly fading away into the ever growing field of other electric vehicle choices.
Let’s start by examining what we do like. We found the overall ride and experience with the Leaf SL Plus to be quite comfortable compared to other EVs we’ve tested. The build quality is solid and the ride smooth. Nissan has certainly demonstrated they have experience bringing quality vehicles to the marketplace. If you were looking for a spacious family vehicle to take on road trips, we feel like this EV would be perfectly capable of handling the job. Space for luggage in the rear is bountiful and doesn’t encroach on the legroom for rear passengers. With 215 miles of range (according to the Monroney Sticker) you have more than enough battery to get you between cities. It’s styling is a lot less controversial this time around and shouldn’t alienate potential buyers like the first generation Leaf.
When it comes to technology, the Leaf SL Plus doesn’t surprise us, which is a good thing. The 8-inch infotainment system included with the Plus makes it very easy to pair your mobile device and even includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The HD radio and a seven speaker Bose premium audio system provide your ears with a quality listening experience. The model we test drove also included heated seats and steering wheel although in the heat of summer we didn’t verify how well they worked.
We were delighted with both Nissan’s e-Pedal (one pedal driving) and their ProPILOT driver assist feature, but found that the latter was sometimes unpredictable and when left to its own devices could be hazardous. Even still, we love that Nissan is making an effort to offer semi-autonomous features in their vehicles and applaud them for the progress they have made so far. Very few manufacturers outside the luxury brands have even attempted to include these features.
However, for all that we liked about the Nissan Leaf, we found as much that we didn’t like. Nissan STILL hasn’t included active thermal management on their battery pack, leading to increased degradation. This means a decreasing of real world range more quickly than its competitors, and when the vehicle already falls short on range compared to that of other vehicles in the segment, this is an issue we simply can’t overlook.
The Nissan Leaf SL Plus that we tested was $42,550 MSRP, and after dealer installed extras was being offered for $44,395.
Even after a tax incentive of $7,500 (for those who would qualify for it) this car simply doesn’t live up to the expectations we would have for a car of that price. When the Leaf was one of the very few electric vehicles on the market (in its early days) Nissan could get away with this unbalanced value proposition. But now with so many other models available from its competitors we feel that the Leaf is overpriced by $10,000.
Because of the smooth power delivery, it lacks the gut-punch of instant torque that we’ve grown to love about so many EVs, and we might even go as far to say that it lacks that automotive “soul” that causes you to fall in love with your car. The motor does put out 215 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque which allowed it to sprint to 60 mph in 6.97 seconds, but it took advantage of a slight downhill. Completing the 1/4 mi in 15.27s at 91.71 mph puts it in line with our time for the Chevy Bolt.
We do have to keep in mind that the Nissan Leaf was not designed to be a performance vehicle, but even so, we were left wanting more from it. The suspension is soft, handling can be described as mediocre at best, and the steering just doesn’t provide the connection with the road that we were hoping to feel.
Our feeling about the Leaf is that it is mediocre and generally just not special enough to capture our interest. There are definitely people with an interest for this EV but it’s likely a shrinking group as even Nissan seems to be focusing their energy on the upcoming Ariya crossover.
With that said, maybe it is time to retire the Leaf and remember it for what it really is, a relic of the past that just hasn’t been able to keep up with the ever changing EV landscape.
We find the Nissan Leaf SL Plus is just too little, too late, and too expensive.
Since its 2017 model year, the Chevy Bolt EV has been a flagship for General Motors' electrification progress. While the Bolt EV wasn't GM's first all electric offering (that was the EV-1 in the 90s), the 2016 release marked a milestone for the company being that it was the first year a vehicle with more than 200 miles of range had been offered by any non-Tesla automotive brands. Additionally, even though sales have declined from its initial 2017 offering, it has been the best selling non-Tesla EV (full battery electric vehicle) every year since. In 2019, more Bolt EVs were sold than even the Tesla Model S. This year, Chevrolet has offered significant discounting and incentives on the Bolt EV making sure it stays an attractive EV option to potential buyers.
The design and styling for the Chevy Bolt EV originally started in 2012 by GM's Korea design studio. Even though it is officially classified as a "small station wagon" by the EPA, the Bolt EV has been called a crossover as well as a sedan because of its mid-size profile. Bright color choices from "shock" yellow to "oasis blue" give buyers plenty of choice for "can't miss" aesthetics. For others, traditional colors like black, white, grey, and silver are also available.
Battery, Efficiency, Range, and Charging
The 2017-2019 model year Bolt EVs came with a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery and provided an EPA estimated range of 238 miles. More than enough for the average consumer's daily commute, and enough for longer trips as well. The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV comes with a slightly larger 66 kWh battery pack providing a 21 mile bump in range to 259 total miles on a full charge. The official combined city/highway EPA rating for the Chevy Bolt EV 119 MPGe, however, many Bolt EV owners report to be able to drive the vehicle more efficiently without significant or unusual effort to do so. Charging at home on a 110/120 volt AC plug will recharge the Bolt EV at approximately four miles per hour charging. Using 220/240 volt AC will recharge the Bolt EV in ten hours or so. The 2017-2019 Bolt EVs had a maximum charge rate of 50 kWh while the 2020 model year was increased slightly to 55 kWh on a DC fast charger.
Interior Styling and Features
The interior of the Bolt EV has bold styling. Asymmetrical seats and splashes of textured plastic give the car a futuristic feel while providing familiar features and controls in the places you would expect to find them in most traditional vehicles. Generous interior space allows for plenty of room for up to five occupants comfortably. Two digital displays provide feedback to the driver on all aspects of vehicle settings and statuses, from climate control and digital media, to the HD Surround Vision that comes included with the Premier trim level package. Heated seats and steering wheel are optional on the lower LT trim and standard on the Premier trim level where you would also have included heated rear seats. One standard feature we like is called "Teen driver." According to Chevy, this feature lets you activate customizable vehicle settings to help encourage better driving behavior, limit certain vehicle features, and even give you an in-vehicle report card on driving habits to help you to continue to coach your new driver.
Performance Specs and Acceleration
The electric motor in the Bolt EV doesn't disappoint when it comes to power. The 150 kW AC motor provides just over 200 hp, and 266 lb-ft of instantly available tire-spinning torque. In a test by Car and Driver, they were able to get the Bolt EV to accelerate from 0-60 in 6.3 seconds on a prepared track while Chevy reports this time to be 6.5 seconds. Bolt EV owners who have taken their vehicle to the track have reported that it completed the 1/4 mile in 15.1 seconds. That being said, we performed our own tests using our Dragy (GPS Performance Box) and got some real world numbers from unprepared surfaces like what you would experience out and about driving on normal roads. The Bolt EV we tested was a 2019 Premier model with 215/50R17 Michelin Energy fuel-saving tires.
Two things to note. First, regular roads are not designed for performance testing of automobiles. Second, neither are fuel-saving tires. The nearly instant torque of the electric motor on the Chevy Bolt is enough to spin the hard Michelin tires on the best of surfaces and traction was an issue even with the traction control left on. The Bolt EV had about a 50% state-of-charge, so the numbers you see above would likely be improved if we had the opportunity to have a full battery. Acceleration was smooth and linear from the start, which made for a comfortable test. Not surprisingly, our results do not compare with the numbers that have been achieved with the Bolt EV on the test track or drag strip. Our best 0-60 time was 7.18 seconds (or 6.8 seconds with a 1ft rollout), and best 1/4 mile time was 15.32 seconds. When the drag strip opens back up after the COVID-19 illness subsides, we definitely want to perform a new test.
While the Chevy Bolt EV is easily one of the most important electric vehicles to ever be made, we find that it falls just short of what it could be. It's a good car, but it's not great. We like the regenerative braking and one pedal driving. We also like the styling both of the exterior and interior however we wish the Chevy would have used less hard plastic on the interior. The seats were also too hard and while we didn't take a long trip in the Bolt EV, we could imagine that you could easily be sore after a few hours. On the highway, we liked the "passing power" of the Bolt EV and found that it was more than enough for any normal situation. However, we found that if you want to have the drivers window down, it would be best to prepare for significant buffeting even with the rear window rolled down as well. The last thing, and maybe we should have focused on this more: DCFC provision should be STANDARD... and it's not. All said, the Bolt EV is a good car. We aren't surprised that it has sold as well as it has, and look forward to seeing more on the road.
Chevy's Spark EV... the "hot hatch" you didn't know about.
While the mainstream news about electric cars seem to be centered around Tesla and other newer models, it seems that people have forgotten about the little EV sleeper hot hatch: The Chevy Spark EV. After GM crushed most of the EV1 models in the early 2000's, they seemed like they wanted to redeem themselves with their next offering, and redeem themselves they did. The 2014 model year Spark EV had some impressive numbers packing 140hp and a tire smoking 400lb.-ft. of torque. In 2015, they made some small changes to the gearing and also reduced the torque rating to just 327lb.-ft... however that is still more than a 2020 V6 Camaro!
Considering that the Spark EV weighs less than 3000lbs, when you can put the power to the ground, it will move. From 15-55mph this car is a blast to drive! Unfortunately, choosing to focus on the Bolt EV, GM made the decision to cut the Spark EV from it's lineup after completing the 2016 model. Which in ways is a big shame because this car had a lot of potential. However, there is a fairly significant benefit too: Price. Even the 2016 Spark EVs can be had for less than $12,000 on models with under 30,000 miles. And you don't have to worry about the usual concerns of buying a used car either. The Spark EV came with an eight year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery and major components. Sure, for around the same money you could buy any number of used gas powered cars, but then you'd have all the expense and maintenance to worry about. So if you really want a "hot hatch," for very little money, you can't beat the Chevy Spark EV. So what are you waiting for? Go get one!