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This Experimental Nissan Leaf With AWD and 502 LB-FT Is the Hot Rod EV We Want

Instant throttle response and all-wheel-drive traction would make this a dream to drive. Shame it's not headed to production.

Nissan has built an all-wheel-drive Leaf EV with power figures that’d put it head and shoulders above the hot hatchback competition…if it planned to put the thing into production.

Last week, Nissan demonstrated the car to press outside the Nissan Advanced Technology Center in Japan, where it explained that the prototype uses a twin-motor setup powered by the 62-kilowatt-hour battery from the Leaf Plus. Together, they generate 304 horsepower and a monstrous 502 pound-feet of torque, all of it with the smooth delivery and instant response we’ve come to love about electric power.


If this didn’t excite you enough, Nissan reportedly told those present at the car’s demonstration that the motors’ maximum power was limited by what the battery could safely discharge, meaning that a bigger battery could mean still more power. By our math, two Leaf Plus-spec motors at 214 horsepower apiece could allow this drivetrain to generate as much as 428 horsepower, which is starting to encroach on Tesla Model 3 Performance territory.


But don’t get your hopes up for a Leaf with Tesla-tier performance. Nissan explained to The Drive earlier this year in no uncertain terms that it won’t sell an AWD Leaf because the car’s platform wasn’t designed to accommodate a rear-axle motor, instead focusing on rear cargo space.

So why has Nissan built an AWD Leaf if it has no apparent intent to sell such a vehicle? The answer reportedly lies in one of its 2019 Tokyo Motor Show concept cars, the Ariya crossover. Supposedly due for introduction in the United States as soon as 2021, it’ll reportedly be the Ariya rather than the Leaf that makes use of this high-performance electric drivetrain.

“Soon, Nissan will launch a next-generation EV that will be a true breakthrough,” said Nissan’s Senior Vice President for Research and Advanced Engineering, Takao Asami. “The new electric-drive four-wheel-control technology now being developed integrates Nissan’s electric propulsion and 4WD control technologies with our chassis control technology to achieve a huge leap in acceleration, cornering and braking performance, on par with the latest sports cars.”