Nissan turns the electric Leaf into a hot hatch with supercar-like acceleration

In its standard from, the Nissan Leaf is hardly the most exciting car on the market. It’s electric, affordable, and practical, but there’s nothing about it that tugs at the heartstrings of driving enthusiasts. It has potential, however, and the Japanese firm demonstrated just how far it can stretch the concept of electric mobility by turning a Leaf into a battery-powered hot hatch for the track. It made its debut in November 2018, but we saw it for the first time at CES 2019.

The 2018 Leaf Nismo RC is a follow-up to the eponymous model introduced in 2011. Nismo — Nissan’s racing arm — cranked up the performance dial in order to make the new car twice as quick as its predecessor. It’s powered by two electric motors (one over each axle) that work together to zap the four wheels into action with 321 horsepower and a stout 472 pound-feet of torque. The result is a silent, 3.4-second sprint from 0 to 62 mph.

Nissan noted the RC shares its 40-kWh lithium-ion battery pack with the regular-production Leaf sold worldwide. It hasn’t quoted a range figure yet. Using lightweight materials such as carbon fiber to build the car allowed engineers to offset the not-insignificant mass of the battery pack. The RC weighs about 2,700 pounds, a figure that makes it nearly 100 pounds lighter than a Subaru BRZ and a whopping 733 pounds lighter than a stock Leaf.

It helps that there’s not much left of the Leaf on the RC. Every single body panel is new. Nismo made the front and rear sections removable for easy access to the motors, installed fixed windows, added LED lights on both ends, and dropped a sizable wing on the rear-end to create downforce. It’s the same story inside, where the dashboard is a piece of carbon fiber and a tablet replaces all of the instruments.

Don’t start saving up money quite yet; the Nismo Leaf RC isn’t heading for production. Nissan will build six examples of the car to use during demonstration runs around the world. You might see one lapping a Formula E track before a race or racing up the hill at next year’s edition of the Goodwood Festival of Speed. While Nissan hasn’t announced plans for a hotter Leaf, we wouldn’t rule out seeing one sooner or later.

Product Review

Mercedes-Benz updates the timeless G-wagen for the modern world

For decades, the G-Class has been an outlier in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, a body-on-frame brute with the soul – and driving manners – of an off-road pickup. With the all-new G550, Mercedes seeks to smooth out some of the rough edges.
Cars

Watch a modified Audi e-tron electric SUV drive straight up a ski slope

A modified Audi e-tron climbed up an 85-percent gradient on an Austrian ski slope in a tribute to a classic Audi commercial. The vehicle used for the stunt sported an extra electric motor and spiked tires.
Cars

Nissan is using old Leaf batteries to power and connect off-the-grid campers

Nissan has teamed up with trailer manufacturer Opus to design a mobile, weatherproof power pack built with battery cells sourced from the first-generation Leaf. Called Roam, the pack stores enough electricity to power a camper for up to a…
Cars

2020 Kia Soul and Soul EV continue to think inside the box

The 2020 Kia Soul is the third generation of Kia's boxy curiosity. The Soul maintains its signature look, but gets tech and powertrain upgrades. The all-electric Soul EV returns as well.
Cars

The Polestar 2, Sweden’s answer to the Tesla Model 3, begins taking shape

Volvo sister company Polestar has released a teaser image to give us our first look at the 2, its second model. Polestar tells us the 2 will arrive as a four-door fastback with a 400-hp electric powertrain and about 300 miles of range.
Cars

2019 RAM 1500 Classic Warlock special edition: Badass style without the whoop

If you like the looks of blacked-out badass trucks without the cost of a desert racer, FCA announced the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock, a special edition pickup that focuses on appearance with only a touch of additional off-road capability.
Cars

2020 GMC Acadia toughens up on the outside, gets smarter on the inside

The 2020 GMC Acadia crossover gets styling updates and a more rugged AT4 trim level. Under the skin, the Acadia sports a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a wider array of tech features.
Cars

Alfa Romeo’s latest Ferrari-powered F1 race car is ready to hit the track

Alfa Romeo is doubling down on Formula One racing after a decades-long hiatus. Now essentially a support team for Ferrari, its 2019 driver lineup includes a former world champion and a potential future star.
Cars

Researchers teach self-driving cars to predict pedestrians’ next moves

University of Michigan researchers are developing a system that teaches self-driving cars to predict pedestrian movement. Humans don't always act in their own best self-interest, so autonomous cars will need to practice protective driving.
Cars

Subaru’s latest VIZIV concept car is pumped full of adrenaline

The Subaru VIZIV Adrenaline is the seventh member of the Japanese automaker's family of VIZIV concept cars. It debuts at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, but for now, all we're getting is a shadowy teaser image.
Cars

Audi is advancing the tech that teaches cars to talk to traffic lights

Audi is teaching its cars the language of traffic lights. The company developed technology that tells motorists what speed they should drive at in order to catch as many green lights as possible.
Cars

Waymo rules and Apple trails in California self-driving car benchmarks

California's DMV releases annual reports of self-driving car disengagements on public roads. In the most recent reports. Waymo had the best performance, GM Cruise came in second, and Apple's self-driving program was in last place.
Cars

Mamma mia! Alfa Romeo will unveil a new model at the Geneva Auto Show

Alfa Romeo told Digital Trends it will unveil a new model at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. It stopped short of revealing what it has in store, but rumors claim it will be a crossover positioned below the Stelvio.
Cars

Citroën says you could drive its tiny Ami One electric car without a license

Citroën's Ami One concept car is an electric vehicle that's as cute as it is compact. The miniature motor only has a top speed of 28 mph, so the French automaker imagines it as a shareable runaround for short drives.