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Nissan Leaf ‘GT’ on the agenda

Sporting chance: This NISMO concept from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show could be a pointer to a sporty version of the 2014 Leaf.

Sportier version of Nissan’s Leaf electric vehicle possible with 2014 facelift

Nissan logo19 Jun 2012

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

NISSAN is set to offer a more driver-oriented Leaf variant when the expected facelift arrives in about two years.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the long-awaited EV in Sydney last week, the company’s product planning and strategy boss, Francois Bancon, revealed that a sporty version is on the agenda.

This would provide the ability for the driver to manually alter the feel and response of the electronically controlled throttle and steering systems, and perhaps the spring and damper rates.

Mr Bancon said that, while most Leaf owners were “very happy” with the car, Nissan has received some feedback from Japan, North America and Europe suggesting a sharper and better performing alternative for keener drivers.

Along with minor alterations to the appearance and interior, the 2014 update is believed to include significant improvements to battery efficiency for greater range and upgrades to the EV’s communications and media interfaces. “Of course, we can do more steering feel – it would cost nothing it is all in the tuning – but we have targeted the mainstream with this car,” said Mr Bancon.

“People who buy the Leaf are not necessarily sportscar people (but) some people would like to have something that is a bit more responsive in terms of performance and feeling.

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“Now that may be an improvement we put into the Leaf some time in the future, maybe in doing different versions that you can tune by yourself. It is an idea which is (being looked at) and it is something that is possible (with an EV) compared to an internal combustion engine car.

“It is just a set of software. You can do it with the electric steering and the throttle response you can modulate the torque because everything is electronically controlled with this car.

“So I think this kind of adaptability is going to be part of the next-generation Leaf. And maybe it can even be part of an improvement with this car in an update.

“This is something we can do from customer feedback, and not just from media feedback. 99 per cent of people are not only happy, but very happy.

“I was surprised. I was expecting more cynical feedback. The people who did buy the car are happy. They are very happy to be zero-emission, to be at the leading edge of this.

“We have some room for improvements, to make the information technology systems a little bit more friendly and accurate in terms of information, but this is in an update.”

Asked if Nissan is tempted to dub the go-faster Leaf ‘GT’, Mr Bancon said: “We would not call it GT because this smells too much of gasoline.”

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