Long-Term 2018 Nissan Leaf: Adding more sport utility with a Yakima bike rack


Car reviews / Пятница, Октябрь 19th, 2018

Bradley Iger, Contributor: Earlier this year, my wife was sideswiped while headed home from work in our 2003 Ford Explorer. She was fine, but the Explorer was not. The insurance company quickly deemed it a total loss and paid us a reasonable sum for what was essentially our beater work truck. Since we are fortunate enough to have fun weekend cars to use in the meantime, we decided to take our time replacing our trusty workhorse to find the right one.

But with prime bike-riding weather fast approaching, we were starting to miss that cargo capacity. Since we live out in California in the middle of a city, it was standard procedure for us to put the rear seats down, throw the bikes in the back of the SUV and head out to our favorite bike paths, like San Gabriel Valley’s 17-mile Rio Hondo River trail, which runs from Arcadia to Whittier through the middle of the city, with very little surface street riding required.

With a 4.6-liter V8 nestled in the engine bay that made all of 240 hp, the Explorer wasn’t particularly sporty or efficient, but use cases like this one have made big sport-utilities an easy answer for decades. So when I found out our Leaf long-term tester would come with a Yakima Fullback rack, which accommodates up to three bikes, I was pretty stoked. Although I discovered a few caveats along the way while using the rack, emissions-free bike transport is definitely feasible with the Leaf and this rack.

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1 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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2 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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3 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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4 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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5 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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6 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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7 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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8 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

2018 Nissan Leaf Photo 92018 Nissan Leaf Photo 9

9 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

2018 Nissan Leaf Photo 102018 Nissan Leaf Photo 10

10 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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11 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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12 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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13 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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14 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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15 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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16 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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17 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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18 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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19 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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20 of 21The 2018 Leaf features a 150-mile driving range, aerodynamic exterior, high-tech interior and advanced technologies including ProPilot Assist and e-Pedal. &nbsp

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21 of 21Next Gallery: EV startups could find a helping hand in AM General &nbsp

The first caveat to consider is setup time. Yakima recommends cleaning the vehicle before putting the bike rack on to prevent dirt and debris from getting ground into your car’s paintwork by the rack’s padded mounting points, and that’s advice worth heeding if you care about your car’s finish. While that wouldn’t be much of an issue if setting it up was a one-time thing, the reality is that stealing the rack probably wouldn’t take more than a few seconds by just horizontally sliding the attachment hooks off the top and bottom of the tailgate. Once the first one comes off, all the rest can be removed with relative ease, so even with the Leaf securely parked in my driveway, I never left the rack on and the car unattended for any extended amount of time. Yakima provides a security strap that feeds an anchor into the vehicle’s trunk, but it’s fairly awkward to install, and then they warn that water can get into the car this way. 

The other half of that setup equation involves mounting the bikes to the rack securely. We were used to simply stacking the bikes on top of one another in the cargo area of the Explorer, closing the tailgate and heading off. That’s probably not the safest method in the event of an accident, but it meant that loading the bikes up took about 45 seconds.

Since the bikes are outside and susceptible to movement on the rack at speed, it’s understandably a more involved process that uses anti-sway cradles, three “ZipStrips” per bike, a safety strap and a lock. To keep the bikes from rattling against each other while driving, we also wrapped bungee cords around them at both ends.

The Yakima rack felt mighty heavy, too.

The other major caveat to consider is rear visibility. Because of the Leaf’s design, the bikes are mounted directly behind the rear glass and obscure the rear camera’s view, so I had to rely on the side mirrors when backing up or changing lanes. It certainly wasn’t a deal breaker in my experience with it, but it does require an extra measure of cautiousness when navigating through traffic and tight parking lots. 

But navigate we did. Though it might require a bit more effort than some of the alternatives, the Yakima rack adds versatility to the Leaf that helps chip away at another often-used excuse for oversize sport-utilities. It’s also reasonable to expect that as owners get more familiar with the process, setting up and taking down the rack will become substantially less time-consuming.

The Nissan Leaf Nismo is a sign of things to come Photo 1The Nissan Leaf Nismo is a sign of things to come Photo 1

1 of 5Nissan’s in-house performance group, Nismo, worked over the all-electric Leaf. &nbsp

The Nissan Leaf Nismo is a sign of things to come Photo 2The Nissan Leaf Nismo is a sign of things to come Photo 2

2 of 5Nissan’s in-house performance group, Nismo, worked over the all-electric Leaf. &nbsp

The Nissan Leaf Nismo is a sign of things to come Photo 3The Nissan Leaf Nismo is a sign of things to come Photo 3

3 of 5Nissan’s in-house performance group, Nismo, worked over the all-electric Leaf. &nbsp

The Nissan Leaf Nismo is a sign of things to come Photo 4The Nissan Leaf Nismo is a sign of things to come Photo 4

4 of 5Nissan’s in-house performance group, Nismo, worked over the all-electric Leaf. &nbsp

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Mark Vaughn, West Coast Editor: When Yakima contacted me with information about one of its bike racks, I figured, why not borrow one to try out on the Long-Term Leaf? This one is at the top of the line for trunk-mounted bike racks. The sticker price of $209 is way more than many trunk-mounted bike racks, many of which range from $30-$100.

Why pay $209 for a Yakima? Well, the arms from which the bikes hang are retractable, meaning you don’t risk gouging the eyeballs out of passersby when your car is parked in a parking lot. Plus, foldable arms mean you can park closer to a wall or have more room to walk around in your garage. The Yakima adjusts nicely to fit any number of vehicles, both hatchbacks and sedans. The frame of the Yakima is heavy too — I weighed it on the bike scale at Pasadena Cyclery and found it was 26 pounds. The other, cheaper ones look like they weigh much less than that. Why so heavy? I asked Yakima and got this response:

"FullBack and HalfBack (two trunk-mounted bike racks from Yakima) are heavier than a lot of other strap racks on the market for sure! That large frame provides structure and allows us to go from six straps to four (no more side straps). As trunk lids get lighter, we need the main frame of the FullBack to be wide to help provide stability and reach a more structural part of the trunk lid. And getting rid of side straps helps with a few different issues with some newer vehicles: the shape of some trunk lids are very slanted and therefore have no good point for the straps to hook. Side strap hooks often need to mounted right where taillights are positioned, and we can avoid tripping some sensors that can be right in the mounting points for the side strap hooks. Everyone wins with an easier, more secure install!"

It's a little more challenging to lift the Yakima into place and strap it down because of the weight. And the cost difference compared to other racks is significant.

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1 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, our man Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. It took about 15 minutes to go from a 50% state of charge to 80%. Due to the laws of physics and chemistry, the process starts to slow down once the battery charge hits about 80%. But Iger estimated that you could charge the Leaf’s battery from almost flat to completely full in less than an hour, or to 80% full in about 30 minutes. Photo by Bradley Iger

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2 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

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3 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

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4 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet at CalTech and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

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5 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

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6 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 4Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 4

7 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 5Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 5

8 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 6Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 6

9 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 7Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 7

10 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 9Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 9

11 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 10Fast-Charging the Nissan Leaf Photo 10

12 of 13While most Leaf owners charge their cars with a 240-volt Level 2 line, Bradley Iger found a fast-charging Level 3 outlet and plugged in. Photo by Bradley Iger

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But there are a lot of benefits of a bike rack in general: You could conceivably commute into work, park someplace farther away than you normally would that costs less, then bike into the office the rest of the way. You could do something similar at sporting events and concerts — park cheap then bike the rest of the way. If your workout includes cycling, you would be able to try different locations instead of just pedaling around the same streets of your neighborhood every time. Plus, people will think you lead an “active lifestyle;” you can impress total strangers! In the same way that everybody had surfboard racks on the roofs of their cars in the ‘70s and ski racks in the ‘80s, it looks like it’s bike racks for the 21st century.

Nissan offers a number of official accessories for the Leaf, from a $295 illuminated front grille and $150 doorsill kickplates that say “Leaf,” to a $200 cargo organizer and a $120 four-piece all-season floor mat set. There’s even an official Nissan $35 illuminated ashtray that fits into a cupholder. But there is no bike rack, as far as we could tell. For that, there is the aftermarket.