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My Nissan Leaf life: How I almost leased one online – until my wife found out

The Nissan Leaf website is funky, informative and so seductive you might be ready to get one after the online experience. But take a test drive first.

By Staff writer / September 28, 2012

A Nissan Leaf is charged during a demo in April of the first ever quick-charge electric-vehicle charging station in Texas, located in Dallas. The Nissan Leaf is seductive online as well as on the road.

Lara Solt/The Dallas Morning News/AP/File

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– Fifth installment in an occasional series

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traces the triumphs and trials of Monitor reporter Mark Clayton, who made the move from a gasoline-powered Honda to an all-electric ride in early 2012.

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Buying stuff online has really gotten out of hand. At least for me. I just leased a car online without test driving it first. Oops.

Actually, it's not quite as bad as it sounds. Nissan's Leaf website is funky, informative, and seductive with those little futuristic metallic sounds that make you think you're in a spaceship. You may be lulled, as I was, into signing up for a Leaf entirely due to your online experience.

Of course, you’re not really buying online. The Leaf website is just vetting who among its online visitors is truly serious. So even though I had put down a $99 deposit and clicked “commit” to lease a Leaf with solar panel, fast-charge port, and fog lamps, I was just getting a salesman to e-mail us to come to the dealership, sign actual documents, and take possession. I could still pull out.

Anyway, those were the reasons I offered my wife, who was giving me "the look" when she found out what I had done.

I should note that I had ridden in someone else's Leaf while reporting on plug-in vehicles, so I felt I knew the car already. But Laura had not. So I blamed the clever website and agreed that we should go on a test drive.

We called the Nissan dealer identified on the website – back in January, there were only four in Massachusetts that had a Leaf demo available – and went to take a look.

Right away we were plugging and unplugging the vehicle, which was chirping at us to tell us it was charging. I took the keys to the "Ocean Blue" model and the salesman told us to go for a spin. The dashboard showed 90 miles of charge/range in the battery. "Just click this," the salesman said, showing the little metallic hockey puck that serves as a transmission shifter. "Push it forward."

We did that and the car counterintuitively moved backwards. Except for a slight whistling sound coming from the speaker under the hood to alert pedestrians and the sound of the tires on the highway, the car moved silently.

Stop and go driving was no problem, the little regenerative braking bubbles on the dash lit up to indicate we were recharging the battery as we coasted to a stoplight. The car handled well: peppy in "drive" mode, less so in "eco."

Eventually, I pulled over and Laura climbed behind the wheel. We sailed around Walpole, Mass., for another 15 to 20 minutes in blissful quiet. The little car had guts, too, its electric motor zipping us ahead of a pickup truck that was starting to tailgate us.

"That was fun," she said, handing the keys back to the salesman. It was then that I knew we would be getting a new car – no small thanks to the website. Within a week we had signed a lease.

Now all we had to do was wait. And wait. And....

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