Is This The New 2016 Nissan LEAF? One Owner Says ‘Yes’ — Although We Still Don’t Know About That Battery Upgrade

With the Nissan LEAF electric car approaching its sixth year of sales, there are plenty of rumors flying around to suggest that Nissan is readying a late-cycle update to the popular plug-in in order to offer an optional larger battery pack for 2016 model-year customers. Indeed, we’ve seen plenty of evidence for ourselves to suggest that the rumors of a 30 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is on its way, including a dealer who openly previewed the supposed upgrade on its website.

Now, courtesy of a Nissan LEAF owner in Tennessee, we’ve got a spy shot of what looks to be a 2016 Nissan LEAF in the wild.

This unusual color of Nissan LEAF appears to be a new shade just for 2016.  (Photo: JP White)

This unusual color of Nissan LEAF appears to be a new shade just for 2016. (Photo: JP White)

Enter Jean-Pierre White, a long-time electric vehicle owner who spotted an unusual Nissan LEAF wearing manufacturer plates and parked at Nissan’s headquarters in Franklin Tennessee. Plugged into Nissan’s long bank of electric vehicle charging stations, there’s nothing unusual about the car, save for the color: a dark, bronze brown.

As Jean-Pierre notes, Nissan has never offered that particular color on any model-year of LEAF to date, but according to Autobytel, the 2016 Nissan LEAF will indeed come with a color choice called ‘forged bronze’. Based on the swatch on the Autobytel website, it perfectly matches the color of the LEAF Jean-Pierre spotted.

“The tires are not new looking so the car has been on the road for a while,” he notes on his blog. “There is little to distinguish this 2016 car from any other LEAF. The Michelin tires and Navigation console means it is probably an SL or SV trim.”

He also notes that the car has cloth rather than leather trim — but that’s hardly surprising since leather is optional on the Nissan LEAF SL and only included as standard on the SV. Given the fact the car in question is probably a pre-production engineering vehicle most likely built to test both the new color schemes and perhaps other hidden enhancements to the LEAF, we’d guess leather seats wasn’t on the top of Nissan’s priorities list for this particular vehicle.

As for the increased range? Sadly, the spy shot doesn’t give anything away, and we can’t see any exterior difference other than color between this car and any other LEAF we’ve seen.

Autobytel lists the color on its 2016 NIssan LEAF configuration page.

Autobytel lists the color on its 2016 Nissan LEAF configuration page.

This means we can’t say for sure if this model does indeed have the rumored larger 30 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack or not, but there’s something else we think worthy of note which leads us to believe that the rumors are true.

Last month as per its usual practice ahead of the launch of new model-year cars, Nissan published a press-release detailing the incremental improvements and upgrades made to its 2016 model year cars over the outgoing 2015 model year vehicles. While the majority of 2016 model-year cars were covered, improvements for the 2016 Nissan LEAF — along with the Nissan Sentra, Nissan Armada and Nissan Altima — were not discussed.

In the case of the 2016 Nissan LEAF, the Japanese automaker simply said “enhancements for 2016 will be announced later this year.” We note that phrase wasn’t used for the Sentra, Armada or Altima, for which Nissan simply said details would be available later this year.

While this particular differentiation doesn’t indicate for sure that we’ll be seeing that rumored battery upgrade, we’ve got to admit that combined with the other information we’ve seen trickling out of Nissan dealers — not to mention the unusual reluctance of Nissan staff to discuss the new model year car — we’re now convinced the battery upgrade is coming.

Like the rest of the auto world though, we’ll have to wait for an official confirmation before we’ll know for sure.

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