Nissan LEAF Nismo RC

Nissan Pits Electric Vs Gasoline In Race-Track Duel. Who Will Win?

What’s faster: a Nissan 370Z Nismo Sports coupe developing 250bhp from a meaty V6 engine, or a Nissan LEAF Nismo RC?

It isn’t exactly a fair test of course. On paper, the Nismo-tuned version of Nissan’s popular production sports coupe is far more powerful than the all-eletric race car, supposedly more power at the wheels than its silent sibling. But as AutoExpress recently found out, comparing the two cars proved a closer match than it first might appear.

Nissan LEAF Nismo RC

Nissan LEAF Nismo RC

To pit the two cars against each other, the popular British weekly motoring magazine timed how long each car took to complete a tight autocross handling course at Nissan’s recent 360 event in Southern California. At the wheel both times was gamer-turned Nissan GT Academy 2011 champion Jann Mardenboroug, tasked with driving the course as fast as possible.

While the Nissan LEAF Nismo RC uses the same electric motor, battery pack and controller found in the production LEAF hatchback, Nissan engineers have tweaked its controller settings to maximise acceleration and speed rather than range. In addition, the motor has been moved from its stock front-wheel drive configuration to a mid-mounted rear-wheel drive setup, while the battery pack has been placed in the centre of the car for improved handling.

That, combined with a sleek, race-designed carbon-fibre monocoque body shell, tuned double-wishbone suspension, shorter wheelbase, wider track, an ultra-low centre of gravity and racing-spec tyres, makes the LEAF Nismo RC more than fun to drive. As Jann illustrates in AutoExpress’ fun video, even with an electronically limited top speed of just 93 mph, its instantaneous torque and  glue-like road handling meant it was able to positively zip through the course on the former Marine Corps site without drama.

The 370Z Nismo meanwhile, gently modified from its road-legal state to make it a little more race-ready, squealed and squirmed its way around the corse like an angry bull. Lots of power, but perhaps lacking finesse of the race-ready LEAF.

The results were close , but despite managing the course in 42.85 seconds, the roaring V6 of the 370Z Nismo couldn’t quite keep up with the 40.16 seconds posted by the LEAF Nismo RC.

So what does this all show us? A race-tuned LEAF is capable of beating Nissan’s affordable sports coupe — the same car favoured by many drifting enthusiasts world wide — in a straight-forward race around a tight handling circuit.

More importantly, it proves that Nissan has what it takes to produce a performance-oriented electric car. While the LEAF Nismo RC is an out and out race car, we can’t help but wonder: what would an all-electric Nissan sports coupe be like to drive?

And could you drift in it?

We can’t wait to find out.


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