Review: 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus Brings a Bigger Battery to the Popular CarPlay-Equipped EV

Earlier this year, I spent some time in a 2019 Nissan Altima, checking out how CarPlay interfaces with the native NissanConnect infotainment system, and I came away fairly impressed with the flexibility and ease-of-use of NissanConnect and the carmaker's decision to make ‌CarPlay‌ standard across all trims.

Looking to show off more of its technology and how some of it integrates with iPhones, Nissan recently asked me to take a look at the 2019 Leaf, specifically the Leaf Plus, a new-for-2019 extended-range version of the popular electric vehicle that's been on the market for nearly a decade.


The base Leaf starts at $30,000 before tax credits that can knock $7,500 off the price, and it comes with a 40 kWh battery that delivers up to 150 miles of range. There are three trims of the regular Leaf, with only the entry-level S model lacking ‌CarPlay‌ support. In fact, that base model comes with a basic 5-inch non-touchscreen display for the infotainment system, so most technology-heavy users will want to step up to at least the second-level SV trim on the regular Leaf.

The Leaf Plus begins at $36,550 before tax credits and upgrades to a 62 kWh battery that offers up to 226 miles of range. The extended-range Plus lineup also comes in three trims, all of which include ‌CarPlay‌ and Android Auto support.


My test vehicle was the top-of-the-line Leaf SL Plus, which checks in at an MSRP of $42,550 before tax credits, with a couple of minor add-ons like floor mats and splash guards pushing my vehicle's sticker price to just under $44,000. For those looking to squeeze out every last mile of range, it's worth noting that only the lowest S trim of the Leaf Plus can reach the 226 miles of rated range, with the SV and SL trims dropping back a bit to 215 miles due to some of the additional technology in the car sapping some of the battery's energy.

All Leaf Plus models come with an 8-inch touchscreen very similar to that I experienced on the Altima, albeit with the hardware buttons located in clusters on either side of the display rather than in a strip below. The 8-inch display is plenty big for showing off NissanConnect and ‌CarPlay‌ making it easy to hit the desired icons on the screen, while the hardware knobs and buttons help you get a few common tasks done more by feel.

Behind the steering wheel, there's a combination analog speedometer and digital information display, with the display offering a number of different views to suit your preferences, including such features as digital speedometer, compass, and current audio information (including ‌CarPlay‌ track information).


Importantly, all views also include a digital readout of your current battery level and estimated range, as well as a digital power meter to help you understand real-time power consumption and regeneration. One of the customizable views also lets you see the battery temperature, as charging times can vary significantly depending on the temperature of the battery.

My top-level trim naturally came with all of the tech bells and whistles, including Nissan's Intelligent Around View Monitor for a bird's eye view of your vehicle, intelligent cruise control, and ProPILOT Assist, which not only helps maintain a safe following distance automatically but also keeps your car centered in the lane, even on curves.

Intelligent Around View Monitor

NissanConnect


I covered NissanConnect and ‌CarPlay‌ in my review of the Altima earlier this year, and the experience on the Leaf is very similar. As on the Altima and most other vehicles, the Leaf's ‌CarPlay‌ implementation is a wired one, so you'll need to plug your phone into a USB port.


There is a single USB-A port near the base of the center stack, right next to the start button, and there's a convenient phone cubby located right below the port. Unfortunately, this is the only USB port included on the Leaf, with nothing in the center console compartment or for rear passengers.

One of up to three customizable NissanConnect home screens

From there, it's a relatively traditional infotainment experience. The 8-inch touchscreen is bright, with enough color to help individual items on the screen stand out a bit. NissanConnect allows for multiple customizable home screens with shortcuts and informational widgets for functions like the clock, audio, and phone. Unlike the Altima that I tested earlier, my Leaf Plus tester came with built-in navigation that performed well as an alternative to mapping apps available through ‌CarPlay‌.

NissanConnect audio app with ‌CarPlay‌ icon in dock for easy access

‌CarPlay‌


When you plug in your phone and activate ‌CarPlay‌, NissanConnect makes it fairly easy to hop back and forth between the two systems as needed, with a dedicated ‌CarPlay‌ icon in the dock at the bottom of the NissanConnect's screens. When you're in ‌CarPlay‌, you can use either the Nissan app icon on the ‌CarPlay‌ home screen or the convenient Home/Menu hardware button to jump back into Nissan Connect.

‌CarPlay‌ home screen

When active, ‌CarPlay‌ takes over the entire display of the infotainment system, and while I do prefer systems that offer at least minimal dual-system function with an app strip or even a small supplemental information screen on a widescreen setup, Nissan's system certainly isn't bad. The hardware buttons, steering wheel controls, and driver's information display all help ease interactions with the systems, whether it be moving between ‌CarPlay‌ and NissanConnect or adjusting/viewing details for one while the other is active on the main screen.

Google Maps in ‌CarPlay‌


EV Features


As an EV, the Leaf has a lot of technology built-in for managing the battery and its charge level. The Leaf has a pair of charging ports located under a cover on the front center of the car. On the right is a standard port that lets you connect a Level 2 charger (220-240V) for normal charging that can give you a full charge in 11-12 hours or a Level 1 charger for trickle charging from a standard 110-120V outlet, although that would take on the order of two and a half days to fully charge the car's battery.

CHAdeMO quick charge port (left) and standard L1/L2 charging port (right)

On the left is a CHAdeMO quick charge port that lets you use higher-powered chargers often found at public charging stations to recharge to 80 percent in as little as 45 minutes under ideal temperature conditions and when connected to a 100kW quick charger.

One welcome feature of most EVs is the ability to schedule charging, letting users take advantage of cheaper energy rates during certain times of the day if their electric utility charges variable rates, and the schedule can be managed either right in the vehicle after you park it, or from your phone.



App Control


With an EV, your phone can become a crucial tool since you can refuel your car from home or work without needing to stop by a gas station. Your phone gives you nearly instant access to information about your car's charge level without needing to go out to the vehicle, so you can judge when your car has been fully charged or manage charging right from your phone.

Nissan offers an iOS and Android app to manage much of this from your phone, not only for battery management but for other features like remote start, car finder, plug-in reminders, and climate control remote start/stop so you can be sure your car is comfortable when you hop in. There's even an Apple Watch app to let you perform most of those functions right from your wrist.


Unfortunately, the app has received many poor reviews from users, with numerous complaints about sluggish response times within the app, difficulty getting a connection to the car that sometimes results in commands failing to register, and other issues. Nissan regularly updates the app with bug fixes, but hopefully a more comprehensive overall is in the works to improve functionality.

NissanConnect EV also integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant to let you check on the car's status and activate functions with your voice.

A basic set of NissanConnect EV features including remote charge start, remote climate control, and more is complimentary for the first three years of ownership, but there are a couple of paid upgrade tiers that offer additional functionality on 2018 and 2019 Leaf models. A Select tier includes remote lock/unlock, maintenance alerts, and Alexa/Google Assistant support and is priced at $11.99/month after a three-year trial.

A Premium tier adds features like remote horn/lights, valet alert, curfew and speed alerts, automatic collision notification with emergency calling, roadside assistance calls, and stolen vehicle locator. After a free six-month trial, the Premium tier is priced at $8.00/month and requires the Select tier, so once the three-year Select trial ends you'd be paying a total of $19.99/month for the full suite of NissanConnect services.

Wrap-up


Overall, I remain a fan of the NissanConnect infotainment system and the useful combination of hardware and software controls that make it easy to interact with. It plays quite nicely with ‌CarPlay‌ on the large 8-inch screen, and touch response is good.

For an EV where technology is a major focus, though, the phone app integration seems like it really needs some improvement, including app performance and perhaps some additional features like managing the charging schedule rather than limiting remote charge controls to manually starting a charge cycle.

I'd also like to see a bit more connectivity in the car, such as more USB ports or even an option for wireless phone charging. I realize that every power-drawing feature has the potential to impact the range of an EV, and manufacturers are generally trying to eke out every last mile from their batteries, but more and more of these technology features are becoming expected equipment on cars that can hit $30,000 or more like the Leaf Plus.

The Leaf has proven to be a popular EV, and the fact that it is still supported by the full federal EV tax credit makes it a competitive vehicle. The Plus lineup costs a good bit more than the regular version, but pushing the range above 200 miles is a significant improvement to the EV experience and lets even longer distance commuters rely on it for a full day without needing to worry about running low on charge, and makes longer road trips more palatable with fewer charging stops required.

Tag: Nissan

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CarPlay Makes First-Ever Debut in 2020 Toyota Highlander, Nissan Versa, and All-New Hyundai Venue

Ahead of the annual New York International Auto Show, several automakers have announced new vehicles with first-time support for CarPlay, including the 2020 Toyota Highlander, 2020 Nissan Versa, and 2020 Hyundai Venue.

2020 Toyota Highlander with wide 12.3-inch touchscreen in Platinum model

CarPlay will be a standard feature in the 2020 Toyota Highlander, equipped with a wide 12.3-inch touchscreen display on the highest-end Platinum trim and an 8-inch display on all other trims. Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Waze, SiriusXM, and Wi-Fi connectivity through AT&T in the U.S. also come standard.

CarPlay and Android Auto come standard in the 2020 Hyundai Venue, the Korean automaker's all-new subcompact crossover SUV. All trims of the vehicle are equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen display.

Nissan is making CarPlay and Android Auto available as upgrade options in its 2020 Versa, equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen display.

CarPlay is wired in all three vehicles, with USB ports for connecting an iPhone via Lightning cable, providing convenient access to frequently used iPhone apps such as Phone, Messages, Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, Apple Music, Spotify, and those from the MLB and NHL directly from the dashboard.

Fully gas 2020 Highlander models will arrive at Toyota dealerships in December 2019, followed by hybrid models in February 2020. Hyundai says the 2020 Venue will arrive at dealerships in the fourth quarter of this year, and the 2020 Nissan Versa goes on sale in summer 2019. No prices were disclosed.

The New York International Auto Show opens to the public Friday.

Related Roundup: CarPlay

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Review: 2019 Nissan Altima Offers CarPlay Standard Alongside an Updated NissanConnect Infotainment System

Since debuting CarPlay in the 2017 Maxima, Nissan has been gradually expanding support for Apple's in-car platform throughout much of the carmaker's lineup, integrating with its NissanConnect infotainment system.

I've had an opportunity to spend some time testing out CarPlay and NissanConnect on a new 2019 Nissan Altima, one of the most popular midsize sedans on the market, and I've found it to be a solid combination.


For the redesigned Altima, Nissan is offering CarPlay standard across all trims, meaning that even the base model starting at $23,900 will support it. That's a welcome distinction from many other vehicles where a higher-level trim or a special package is needed in order to get CarPlay. Not all Nissans include CarPlay on the base trims, but the company tells me that it's moving in that direction and the Altima redesign for 2019 was a good opportunity to make it a priority.


My tester was an Altima SR with front-wheel drive, which represents the model's second-level trim and starts at $25,250. It includes a spacious 8-inch touchscreen display atop the center stack that's standard across the lineup. The SR trim does not include built-in navigation or more advanced NissanConnect subscription services, but it offers a good idea of what you can get at a relatively low-level trim that minimizes the hit to your pocketbook.

NissanConnect


The Altima comes with a standard 8-inch touchscreen and an updated version of NissanConnect that is similar to versions found in other recent Altima models but includes some improvements in visual appeal and performance, although some of the screens do appear a bit busy and cluttered.


The 8-inch touchscreen is large enough that it's easy to hit most icons on the touchscreen, whether it be in CarPlay or in NissanConnect, and you can customize some of the NissanConnect screens to make it easy to jump to your favorite audio sources or other functions. Nissan has also provided some hardware buttons in a strip below the touchscreen, as well as a volume knob at the left side and a tune/scroll knob at the right side.

Those buttons offer convenient access to some features, such as a prominent Home button to take you back to the NissanConnect home screen, a Phone button to jump into the phone app (either NissanConnect or CarPlay), an Audio button to select sources or see the main audio screen, buttons for switching audio tracks or presets, and of course a Back button to get you out of whatever you're currently doing.

One of three available home screens – clock widget in particular could use an improved design

There's also a dedicated Camera button that on my tester simply allowed for adjusting picture quality for the rear camera but is more useful on higher-level trims that include features such as a front camera or a surround-view camera system.

As in many other vehicles, the Altima's touchscreen can attract some fingerprints that are most visible in direct sunlight, but there's a little bit of a matte finish to help reduce fingerprints and glare.

One of the home screens with shortcuts surrounding a central audio widget

On the software side, the Altima's implementation of NissanConnect actually includes three different home screens, all of which are customizable with various widgets and shortcuts. Widgets can share live bits of information like clock, phone, and audio apps, while shortcuts are simply icons that let you hop into a specific function or audio source.


Each home screen is based around a 4x2 grid of spaces, and you can fill up those spaces with whatever combination of widgets and shortcuts will fit in your layout. Widgets can take up larger spaces such as 2x1 or 2x2, and then you can scatter 1x1 shortcut icons in any remaining spaces.

Once you have your home screens set up, you can easily swipe between them, so it's convenient to have something like a central home screen with your most used functions and then a swipe to the left or right can access more focused home screens, but the choice is yours.

CarPlay


Unsurprisingly, the Altima's CarPlay implementation is a wired one, and you can use either the USB-A or USB-C port up front to connect to the system. CarPlay setup was seamless, as CarPlay popped up on the car's display the instant I plugged my phone in, without having to jump through any hoops other than granting permission on my phone to allow CarPlay to function while the phone was locked.


CarPlay appears big and bright on the large 8-inch screen with a traditional aspect ratio that includes the usual 4x2 grid of icons on the home screen. In addition to all of your Apple apps and CarPlay-compatible third-party apps, the home screen also includes a Nissan app icon that makes it easy to jump back to the NissanConnect system. You can also use the hardware home button centered under the screen if you prefer a more tactile method.

CarPlay icon at left side of launch bar at bottom of main audio screen

Going in the other direction, the NissanConnect audio screens by default place an icon at the lower left that will take you to functions for a paired phone or, if an iPhone is connected via USB, into CarPlay.


My preference for infotainment systems is for there to be some way to display information from the native system alongside CarPlay, whether it be a split widescreen or portrait display or even something like FCA's Uconnect system with status and menu bars that can display a little bit of information for increased integration. The Altima doesn't offer that, but it does make it fairly easy to jump back and forth.


Fortunately, car manufacturers are also moving toward digital driver's displays that can display some additional information and be customized to suit your preferences. On the Altima, the driver's display can be set to show full audio track information, or if you choose a digital speedometer, for example, you can have audio information displayed at the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, only the channel name is shown for SiriusXM, but for other sources (Bluetooth, USB, FM radio when track data is broadcast) it will display the song name.

Driver's display with digital speedometer and SiriusXM channel shown below

As is nearly universal among car manufacturers, the voice control button on the Altima's steering wheel serves dual duty, with a short press bringing up the Nissan assistant and a long press activating Siri. The hardware Tune/Scroll knob can also be used to control the CarPlay interface if you prefer a more tactile feel than the touchscreen, but its location at the far side of the display from the driver makes it a bit inconvenient, so you're pretty much going to want to use either the touchscreen or Siri to control CarPlay.

Siri/voice control at bottom center of right cluster

Ports and Connectivity


The 2019 Altima is among the growing number of vehicles offering USB-C ports for connecting devices. At the base of the center stack is a smartphone storage tray (which is a bit too small for an iPhone XS Max with a Lightning cable sticking out the bottom) and a pair of USB ports: one USB-A and one USB-C.


It's certainly nice to see USB-C starting to make its way into vehicles, as even though USB-A is still common, cars are designed to last ten years or more and it's good future-proofing to include these newer ports even though they're still just starting to gain traction with consumers.

iPhone XS Max in phone tray putting strain on Lightning cable

There is a second set of USB-A/USB-C ports on the back of the center console for rear passengers, but these are only for charging, not for connecting media devices to the NissanConnect system for playback. Nissan does not offer wireless charging or Wi-Fi hotspot functionality as options on the Altima.

Rear USB-A and USB-C ports

Wrap-up


The Altima along with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord remain the most popular midsize models in a shrinking sedan market, with those top manufacturers seeking to maintain some momentum while others scale back or even eliminate their sedan models in favor of crossovers that are dominating sales growth. As a result, the redesigned 2019 Altima brings some nice enhancements across the board, and the in-car technology is no exception.

I appreciate the spacious 8-inch touchscreen and CarPlay support across the board on Altima trims, giving everyone easy access to the ecosystems they're already familiar with on their phones. If anything, CarPlay is even more important to have on lower-level trims where built-in navigation isn't available, so it's great to see Nissan going all-in on CarPlay with the Altima and other models as their redesign cycles allow.

The native NissanConnect infotainment system is intuitive with a customizable interface, and the display is bright with vivid colors to help the interface elements stand out. Some of the pages can get a bit cluttered, and I'd like to see a little more modernization of some of the user interface elements, particularly the home screen widgets and shortcut icons.

For a mainstream midsize sedan intended for mass market appeal, the Altima does a solid job of presenting a clean and useful experience with NissanConnect and offering convenient integration with CarPlay.

The 2019 Nissan Altima starts at $23,900 with CarPlay included standard. A new all-wheel drive option is available for a $1,350 charge on all trims other than the high-end ones equipped with the VC-Turbo engine, and you can push pricing all the way to over $37,000 if you choose to max things out with an Edition ONE VC-Turbo trim.

Related Roundup: CarPlay
Tag: Nissan

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CarPlay Available in 2019 Mazda3 and Nissan Rogue Sport, 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

CarPlay will be a standard feature in the all-new 2019 Mazda3, excluding the base model, according to a company spokesperson. The vehicle is making its worldwide debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week and will be rolled out to global markets over the coming months, starting with North America in early 2019.

CarPlay in a Mazda vehicle

The 2019 model will be the first Mazda3 with CarPlay, accessible through the Mazda Connect infotainment system. CarPlay is also preinstalled in the 2018 and newer Mazda6, 2019 Mazda CX-5, and 2019 Mazda CX-9, with a $199 retrofit option available for select 2014 and newer Mazda vehicles in the United States.

CarPlay will also be available as a standard feature in the 2019 Nissan Rogue Sport and 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid, equipped with seven- and eight-inch touchscreens respectively. The new Rogue Sport is available now at Nissan dealerships in the United States, while the new Corolla Hybrid goes on sale in spring 2019.

Toyota and Mazda were among the last major automakers to offer factory-installed CarPlay, but each has expanded its lineup of vehicles integrated with Apple's software, which provides convenient dashboard access to apps such as Phone, Messages, Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Toyota now offers CarPlay in the 2019 Avalon, 2019 Corolla Hatchback, 2019 RAV4, 2019 Sienna, and 2019 CH-R in the United States.

Related Roundup: CarPlay

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Nissan Sentra Features CarPlay Starting With New 2019 Model

Nissan today announced that the 2019 Sentra, excluding the base Sentra S model, features standard CarPlay and Android Auto.


This is the first model year of the Sentra with CarPlay, following in the footsteps of the 2017 and newer Maxima, 2017 and newer Micra, 2017 and newer Murano, 2018 GT-R, 2018 Kicks, 2018 LEAF, 2018 Rogue, and 2019 Altima.

CarPlay enables iPhone users to access a range of apps from the NissanConnect infotainment system, including Messages, Apple Maps, Apple Music, Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, SiriusXM Radio, Pandora, WhatsApp, Downcast, Slacker Radio, Stitcher, and, starting with iOS 12, Google Maps and Waze.

The 2019 Sentra is on sale now at Nissan dealerships across the United States, with CarPlay-enabled packages starting at $19,090.

Related Roundup: CarPlay
Tag: Nissan

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