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Prospective buyers must live within 65 kilometres of a Nissan dealership that sell the Leaf. (Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)
Prospective buyers must live within 65 kilometres of a Nissan dealership that sell the Leaf. (Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)

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Nissan now taking orders for Leaf in Canada Add to ...

Nissan Canada opened up sales of its 2012 battery-electric Leaf hatchback this week to the general public, as long as they live within 65 kilometres of one of the 27 Nissan dealerships certified to sell the Leaf.

Buying a Leaf is still very different from buying a regular car off the lot, and you may not be able to show up at a Nissan dealer and drive off in a Leaf for a long time. Previously, consumers were chosen from hand-raisers who signed up to receive electronic information about the Leaf and its arrival in Canada, about a year behind its debut in the United States, and then registered to buy the Leaf at an offshoot of Nissan Canada’s website.

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On Monday, Nissan Canada opened up the online registration process at leaf.nissan.ca to consumers who hadn’t signed up to receive e-info on the Leaf, after 350 of the advanced 2012 EVs were ordered by those on the e-list. Prospective owners will need to pay a $99 refundable reservation fee on the site, and then book a home assessment for an electric vehicle 240V charger, which will cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 installed, depending on the charger model and the layout and wiring of your home. From there, customers can request quotes from local dealers, who will handle negotiations over financing, leasing and trade-ins.

Don’t expect Nissan’s holiday incentives or low interest rates offered on some other Nissans on your Leaf, however. One Toronto dealer quoted a 6.9 per cent finance rate up to 60 months, or 5.9 per cent on a lease recently. Opening up the buying process beyond keen early adopters should at least help buyers acquire a little haggling room, especially if you lease or finance through them at these rates.

One perk of financing a Leaf through Nissan: the dealer will discount the provincial rebate directly from the purchase price. Otherwise, the buyer may have to apply to the Ontario government directly for the $8,500 rebate ($8,000 in Quebec, and a newly minted $5,000 one in British Columbia), Nissan acknowledges, where repayment takes about three weeks, according to the province.

At the same time, a Morgan Stanley study has slashed its prediction for EV penetration by 2025, now predicting electric vehicles will make up 4.6 per cent of the market, instead of its previously expected 8.6 per cent. The forecast cited a likely reduction in European government EV subsidies, an increase in internal combustion fuel economy, as well as lower than expected global sales, as customers discover their promised range (160 km for the Leaf) could be cut in half by cold weather, regular highway driving and hilly terrain.

New Acura NSX to debut in Detroit Honda

Honda will bombard the Detroit auto show with all-new product in a few weeks, starting with a new Civic-based ILX that will become the brand’s entry-level model on both sides of the border, a second generation of the RDX small crossover and the long-awaited successor to the Acura NSX supercar.

All of these 2013 vehicles are either confirmed or widely believed to be coming to dealerships by the end of 2012.

The NSX is the main question mark on that timetable, as Car and Driver has reported that it could arrive by the end of 2012, which seems plausible given that the NSX Concept will make its Canadian debut at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto in February, a show which sees very few new concept cars that aren’t headed to production.

Honda’s definition of a “concept” in the past few years have been barely tweaked production vehicles, perhaps with slightly larger wheels or deeper window tints, so this could be a sneak peek at what will arrive in Acura dealerships later on this year. But the second NSX’s launch has been delayed (and cancelled) many times over.

Although few official details have emerged on the NSX, various online reports suggest it will be a gas-electric hybrid, all-wheel-drive supercar, with a mid-ship mounted engine, although that doesn’t necessarily mean behind the driver, like the first NSX featured. Spy shots have emerged suggesting that a long hood, short rear deck profile may be in the works, more similar to Lexus LFA proportions than the exotic behind-the-driver engine mounting of serious sports cars like the Ferrari 458 and Audi R8.

Still, Acura provided a hot mid-engine convertible with Ferrari 458 Spider-like proportions (complete with similar Speedster-ish humps behind its two seats) that will be driven by Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark character in the upcoming Avengers superhero movie, planned for release in May. Though this sleek sports car features Acura’s trademark trapezoidal grille and sharp corners that will likely migrate to the next NSX, an Acura dealership blog suggests that this car was a “completely custom-made Acura,” the brand’s first for a major motion picture.

Much closer to market is the Acura ILX, which Honda confirms will be available with three powertrains, one of which will be Acura’s first gas-electric hybrid. To be based on the Honda Civic platform, in Canada it succeeds the Acura CSX, though unlike the Alliston, Ont.-built CSX, the ILX is to be built in Greensburg, Ind. Production is set to start in the spring, when the 2012 ILX will become Acura’s entry-level vehicle, though it’s unclear at this point whether it will replace the aging TSX as well.

Acura officials in the United States insist the ILX will not simply be a rebadged Civic like the CSX was in design, telling Autoweek magazine this week that it will be as different from a Civic as the TL is from the Accord, or the MDX from o the Pilot. The report said the ILX would offer a 2.0-litre four with an automatic, a 2.4-litre with a six-speed manual, and a gas-sipping 1.5-litre hybrid engine similar to the one in the Civic Hybrid.

Bentley to debut coupes in Detroit

New “entry-level” Bentley Continental GT coupes will soon be available with more fuel-efficient turbo V-8s, instead of their current 12-cylinder models.

The new engines, along with revised 2012 Continental GT and GTC two-doors, will debut at the Detroit auto show in a few weeks. Making 500 hp and 487 lb-ft of torque, and combined with a new closer-ratio eight-speed automatic, the new GT promises a zero to 100 km/h sprint in the four-second range, thanks to a much smaller 4.0-litre V-8 that is only 67 hp less than the 6.0-litre turbo 12 in the current GT.

Exact fuel consumption figures will be released early in the new year, though it’s debatable how much Bentley or any ultra-luxury car buyer truly cares about fuel “economy,” though they may be interested in its 800 km range, which presumably is much longer than the current car. Bentley’s estimated 40 per cent reduction in fuel consumption from the current GT’s figures suggests numbers close to 15 litres/100 km city, and 7.0 on the highway, with a current range of about 480 km.

Helping achieve these lower figures are direct injection, energy recuperation from the brakes, as well as a variable displacement system that shuts off half the cylinders under light throttle.

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