With its distinctive styling, roomy interior and reasonably generous range, the new Nissan Ariya caught a lot of attention when it finally went on sale earlier this year. Now, the Japanese automaker is dialing things up with the debut of a second Ariya package.
With the addition of a second motor and e-4orce all-wheel-drive technology, the battery-powered crossover delivers a much more sporty, fun-to-drive personality — though it does sacrifice a bit of range in the process.
While a bit pricey, the 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce is a welcome addition to a brand that desperately needed to move beyond its original battery-electric model, the Leaf. I got a good feel for the e-4orce model while spending time behind the wheel at test course at Sonoma Raceway.
To get a feel for the all-wheel-drive model, we spent a few days out in California wine country wandering coastal and inland roads recovering from weeks of heavy rain. Here’s what we experienced.
Pronounced like the song an opera diva sings, a concept version of the Ariya made its first appearance at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. Compared to the Leaf, the breakthrough — but by then badly aging — Nissan battery-electric vehicle, Ariya looked much more modern and attractive. It was significantly roomier, and promised substantially longer range and better performance.
Unfortunately, turmoil back in Japan, later complicated by COVID, set back many of the new models in Nissan’s product pipeline. The original, front-wheel-drive version of Ariya only arrived in showrooms during the second half of 2022, with the sportier, all-wheel-drive e-4orce packages now set to reach U.S. showrooms in April. And, as with the FWD models, potential buyers could be in for a wait due to production snags back in Japan.
Nonetheless, many customers may find the Ariya worth the wait. Even four years after making its debut in concept form, the electric crossover remains stylish and offers a number of appealing features.
With the exception of more realistically sized wheels and tires, Nissan Ariya didn’t stray far from the design of the original Tokyo concept model.
In turn, there are virtually no exterior changes on the e-4orce models compared to the original, front-wheel-drive model that went on sale last year. The design is what the automaker has dubbed “Japanese futurism.” It has a distinctly Asian feel with plenty of high-tech details, such as the multi-LED headlamp system.
As with most of today’s battery-electric vehicles, the original concept spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel, good aerodynamics translating into improved range and performance. A close inspection reveals a number of details meant to cheat the wind, starting with the sealed panel replacing a conventional grille — with a backlit Nissan logo reminding you it’s an EV. The turbine blade-like wheels and the aggressively curved roofline that wraps up with a built-in spoiler, also help enhance range.
The 2023 Ariya is roughly the same size as Nissan’s conventionally powered Rogue SUV, but the EV features a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase, stands an inch taller and is about 2 inches wider. Since its batteries and motors are mounted below the load floor, space normally devoted to an engine compartment has been repurposed for passengers and cargo. That translates into a class-above cabin that’s as roomy as the Nissan Murano, while cargo space is an impressive 59 cubic feet.
Ariya is roughly the same size as Nissan’s conventionally powered Rogue SUV, but the EV features a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase, stands an inch taller and is about 2 inches wider. Since its batteries and motors are mounted below the load floor, space normally devoted to an engine compartment has been repurposed for passengers and cargo. That translates into a class-above cabin that’s as roomy as the Nissan Murano, while cargo space is an impressive 59 cubic feet.
The sense of roominess is enhanced by the flat load floor and the power-operated sliding center console.
Nissan designers opted for a boldly Japanese look for the cabin, adding traditionally influenced details such as the “Kumiko Lantern” on the firewall below the instrument panel.
At the same time, the feel is more high-tech than existing Nissan crossovers. A major reason is the use of twin 12.3-inch displays: a reconfigurable gauge cluster and a touchscreen infotainment display. My test vehicle also boasted a 10-inch head-up display.
Like other new EVs, the Ariya makes good use of ambient lighting, including a bar across the top of the instrument panel that can signal various functions — such as when the ProPilot 2.0 system is operating. A more unusual feature is the “Kumiko Lantern” on the firewall below the instrument panel.
First out of the box, Nissan delivered a single-motor version of the 2023 Ariya making an acceptable, if not overly inspiring, 238 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The e-4orce package takes things to another level, bumping the numbers to a more competitive and enthusiastic 389 hp and 442 lb-ft.
That trims 0-60 launch times down from 7.2 to 4.8 seconds which is a significant boost in the fun-to-drive category, even if the Ariya with e-4orce isn’t the fastest vehicle in its class. Nissan does get bragging rights compared to its archrival Toyota, however. The industry giant’s own bZ4X manages a comparable 7.1 seconds in front-drive configuration — but that only drops to 6.9 seconds with all-wheel drive.
Nissan has a bigger edge when it comes to range, where it stands up well in the compact EV crossover segment overall. With the extended battery pack, Ariya e-4orce gets an EPA-rated 272 miles per charge, down a modest 32 miles from the FWD package. The e-4orce system with a standard-range pack drops to 205 miles.
The EV’s 400-volt electrical architecture isn’t quite state-of-the-art — Hyundai Motor Group products use a 400/800-volt charging system. But it’s still in line with most competitors, requiring 35 minutes to go from a 10% to 80% state-of-charge using a public charger putting out at least 130 kilowatts. With a home charging system, expect to stay plugged in overnight to get back up to 100%.
The e-4orce system uses what can be called through-the-road all-wheel-drive technology. There are no mechanical links between front and rear axles. By using brake intervention while entering a curve, the system slows the inner wheels, allowing full torque to those on the outside to help carve a tighter turn.
Safety and Technology
The twin 12.3-inch displays are critical elements of Ariya’s design — and anchor the sophisticated range of high-tech features in the EV crossover.
Like so many other new battery-electric vehicles, Nissan has minimized the number of traditional knobs and buttons. And, in many cases, it’s opted for virtual buttons for things like the vehicle’s climate controls and the driving mode selector behind the electronic gear shifter. They work reasonably well but I found myself having to take eyes off the road more often than I might have with traditional controls that could be found solely by touch.
Indeed, I’d prefer to have a few more controls off the screen. It can take several steps to operate things like seat and steering wheel heaters. But such concerns were largely mitigated by the new voice-control system the automaker has come up with. Simply say, “Hey, Nissan,” to operate more than 100 functions, from setting a destination into the navi system, to operating climate control functions — including those seat and steering wheel heaters.
The head-up display, incidentally, is one of the largest out there and particularly easy to read under all road and lighting conditions.
Ariya has a full range of safety-minded ADAS, or advanced driver assistance systems. That includes an auto-park system, as well as ProPilot Assist 2.0. Depending upon where you are, it starts out as an active cruise control system, maintaining a safe distance from traffic ahead of you. The next level helps keep you centered in your lane, but requires you to keep hands on the wheel. In its most sophisticated mode, ProPilot Assist 2.0 lets you go fully hands-free, primarily on divided, interstate-level highways. You do need to keep your eyes focused on the road, however, and be ready to retake control quickly.
As with the original single-motor version of the 2023 Nissan Ariya, the e-4orce package proved delightfully quiet, a key selling point for Nissan. It helps to eliminate the internal combustion engine — though that can create what engineers call the “stumps-in-the-swamp syndrome,” where road and wind noise become more apparent, along with the sound of onboard motors and other powered components. Lots of noise insulation help, including acoustic and laminated glass.
Too quiet, some folks might think. For those who like a little aural feedback as they accelerate simply switch to Sport Mode which kicks in a subtle audio soundtrack that mirrors what your foot is doing on the throttle.
When it comes to performance, the e-4orce package is a big step up from the FWD Ariya. It cuts 0-60 launches down by a third, to 4.8 seconds. No, not the fastest in its segment, but it’s quick enough.
And while there are some more emotionally inspiring EV movers, such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Kia EV6, the all-wheel-drive system makes the Ariya a lot more fun to drive.
One disappointment I hope Nissan will quickly address is the lack of a 1-Pedal driving function. Like all EVs, the Ariya uses brake regeneration to recapture energy lost during braking and coasting, sending it back to the battery to extend range. You can adjust the level of “brake regen” but, unlike the similarly sized Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, you can’t go to a maximum level. 1-Pedal feels, essentially like downshifting a gas powertrain 3 or 4 gears, allowing you to slow, even stop, simply by modulating the throttle.
On vehicles with 1-Pedal, I seldom ever take my foot off the throttle while driving. And I’d personally not buy a vehicle without that feature. The good news is that Ariya is capable of over-the-air updates and could add 1-Pedal functionality if the automaker senses customer demand. OTA will allow it to tweak existing software and add other new features, as well.
Overall, the 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce is a pleasant, comfortable and easy car to drive. It’s a big step beyond the old Leaf and stands up well against key competitors. It’s nice to see Nissan finally get serious about EVs again.
2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce AWD Specifications
|Dimension||L: 182.9 inches/W: 74.8 inches/H: 65.4 inches/Wheelbase: 109.3 inches|
|Powertrain||dual synchronous motors, 1-speed automatic transmission, AWD|
|Fuel Economy||272-mile range with 87 kWh lithium-ion battery|
|Performance Specs||389 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $43,190; As tested: $60,190 plus $1,335 delivery fees|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The 2023 Nissan Ariya already is on sale around the U.S. in its front-wheel-drive configuration. You’ll have to wait until sometime in April to see the e-4orce package start rolling into U.S. showrooms, though many dealers already are taking orders.
Where a base Engage FWD model starts at $43,190, that jumps to $47,190 for the Engage in all-wheel drive. At the upper end, the AWD Ariya Platinum e-4orces model comes in at $60,190. (Add $1,335 to all those numbers for delivery fees.)
By comparison, the Engage e-4orces package starts at $2,805 less than the Ford Mustang Mach-E and adds some desirable features, such as its Head-up Display. Base versions of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Volkswagen ID.4 are a bit less expensive, however. To really outfit the Ariya in all-wheel-drive trim, you’ll likely be looking at the version I drove in California, which came in at $55,875. That’s a fairly hefty nut for many buyers. And, under the new rules put in place as part of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, no Ariya models currently qualify for EV tax credits.
For those willing to make that sort of investment, however, there’s a lot to like about the 2023 Nissan Ariya, especially when equipped with the e-4orce system. While not offering quite the thrills of a Mach-E GT, it’s fun to drive and handled quite well on both well-paved highways and the broken pavement I frequently ran into on the twisty, mountain back roads through Napa and Sonoma valleys.
It’s too bad Nissan hadn’t brought Ariya to market as early as it originally intended. Earlier in the decade it would have had a head start over players like Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen, and been better positioned to give a challenge to Tesla.
Still, Nissan should have a better chance to bolster its presence in the emerging EV market as long as it can fix its production problems back in Japan.
2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce AWD — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the range of the 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce?
The addition of twin motors and all-wheel drive does cost a little on the range front. The earlier, single-motor front-wheel drive Ariya musters up to 304 miles per charge with the extended-range pack. It drops to 272 miles in AWD and that bigger battery, while the standard-range e-4orce package dips to 205 miles.
Is Nissan e-4orcee a hybrid or all-electric?
Nissan offers a hybrid package dubbed e-Power. The e-4orce technology is all-electric and uses twin motors, one on each axle, to create all-wheel drive.
What is the power and performance of the Nissan Ariya?
The single-motor version of the 2023 Nissan Ariya makes 238 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. It can launch from 0-60 in 7.2 seconds. The twin-motor e-4orce package boosts the numbers to 389 hp and 442 lb-ft, while cutting launch times to around 4.8 seconds.