LeasePlan recently had the opportunity to drive the brand-new Nissan LEAF, which boasts impressive features, including semi-autonomous capability. How did it stack up against the previous model? Becky Langmandel, vice president of analytics, consulting and transformation (ACT), and Kristofer Bush, vice president of marketing showcase their experience with the Leaf and its path into the future of mobility.

Becky behind the wheel:

I was stopped at the door on a normal Friday morning by my energetic boss, Ricardo. Before I could get a word in, he told me to grab my driver's license and follow him outside. I instantly knew something fun would entail – and was not to be disappointed. A representative from Nissan (I will call him Mike), was standing outside in front of a two-toned sleek white car with sharp black detailing. Now I knew I was getting to show off my driving skills to my boss and our new friend from Nissan. With all the hype, I forgot to even check what car I was getting into. Instead, I opened the door to the driver's seat and sat in the very well-appointed black leather interior with more technology features than I knew what to do with.

Mike asked me to navigate to a road where we could get over 45 mph to test the adaptive cruise control features, and we were off to the highway. In the meantime, he told me to press a blue button located next to the shifter to turn on the automatic breaking feature. With the press of this button the brakes are now activated by simply letting up on the gas pedal – eliminating the need for the brake pedal altogether. I could see this feature being perfect for the constant stop-and-go of 5 p.m. traffic. Although, with being a novice to this feature I might have given my passengers a bit of whiplash as I adjusted to it.

Once on the highway, I had no problem picking up speed to quickly merge to the middle lane and once there, pressed the adaptive cruise control button located on the steering wheel. I was told to trust the car while keeping my hands on the wheel, but let the car do the steering for me. Suddenly, the car was practically driving itself as it used technology to identify lanes and surrounding vehicles. This was cool and I was quite impressed by the level three autonomous features offered.

As we were turning back into the parking lot, we started talking about the previous generation LEAF and at that moment I finally made the connection that I was driving the brand new LEAF. Just from that brief drive, I am definitely a fan of the new LEAF and cannot wait to talk to our clients about this new offering!

Kris on cruise:

When I heard the new LEAF was here for test drives, I knew I had to make some time to get behind the wheel and find out what this new model is all about. Before I took the wheel, my expectations were based solely on driving previous LEAF models. Although my impressions of the previous LEAF were okay, I drive a truck and rather like it. So I was pleasantly surprised when my actual experience with this new and improved model far surpassed my expectations.

Nissan has truly performed a complete makeover of the vehicle which is immediately noticeable. From the new two-toned paint option to the futuristic feel of the cockpit, there is no doubt you're experiencing advanced technology in action.

The makeover extends to more than just the look and feel though, and that is what made this test drive unforgettable. It wasn't simply the electricity that made the LEAF so interesting, but rather how close the vehicle is to autonomy. While uncomplicated, the functionality of activating the many safety features for the first time might have been daunting if it weren't for our instructor riding along in the back seat. He helped get everything set properly as we bordered right on the edge of driving autonomously. Fortunately for the me, the vehicle knew when I got a little brave and removed my hands from the steering wheel – just to see how truly autonomous it might be. It's probably important to note that we were on an empty, relatively well marked stretch when trying these features. That initial feeling of surrendering control to a car I had been in for no more than a few minutes, though, was both scary and exhilarating.

When the test drive was over, I took a moment to stand back and admire the progress shown in this new LEAF model. While I'm not ready to give up my truck, I walked away very impressed with the new LEAF and excited about what's next for the future of electric vehicles in the U.S.

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