Concept cars are a tried and true method for generating excitement around the future of an automotive brand. In most instances, however, a concept only makes a few appearances on the auto show circuit before being retired, never to be seen (much less driven) again.
That's why we were so excited to get behind the wheel of the Nissan Leaf Nismo RC concept. To actually drive a concept is a rare opportunity--not one that we've enjoyed since our episodes featuring the Rolls-Royce 102EX Phantom EV
and Land Rover DC100
more than a year ago--but taking to the track in a show car is even rarer.
The Nissan Leaf Nismo RC originally debuted at the New York International Auto Show
in 2011. A radical departure from the standard Leaf, the Nismo RC loses two doors, drops its roofline by a foot and adds a giant spoiler, extending from the deck lid. A sportier rear-wheel drive setup provides better handling and weight distribution over the Nismo RC's front-wheel drive counterpart.
Perhaps most notable is what didn't
change. The car retains the Leaf's main mechanical components: battery pack, motor and inverter. Their layout has been rearranged, but the parts are exactly the same.
A 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack powers an 80 kilowatt AC synchronous motor with an output of 107 horsepower. 207 pound-feet of torque is available immediately off the line, propelling the vehicle from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just under 7 seconds. Those specs may sound modest, but the Nismo RC's performance and handling are a big improvement over the stock Leaf, especially considering it shares the same guts.
As to be expected, there are some tradeoffs that come with converting a conventional electric car to something more fit for the race tack. The Nismo RC dispenses with creature comforts like carpet, cup holders and infotainment. You also won't find a trunk or rear seat. Those subtractions combined with the car's new carbon-fiber body save over 1,000 pounds in vehicle weight.
Despite dropping some pounds, the Nismo RC has a running time of only 20 minutes at race speed. Compare that to the stock Leaf's 75 miles of range per charge under normal driving conditions. To address this, Nissan could have added more batteries, but we commend them for sticking with same setup as the standard Leaf.
"You have to keep the original production battery, motor, inverter," said Nismo President Shoichi Miyatani. "Otherwise, if you use another component, then it could be another thing."