The 2023 Nissan Ariya EV enters the big leagues
Spring is in the air, and in Europe it seems to be the season to drive SUVs on race tracks. Barely a week after testing the Aston Martin DBX 707 at England’s Silverstone Circuit, we can offer the equally incongruous experience of driving the next Nissan Ariya EV exclusively on the nearly 2.4-mile Circuito del Jarama. Madrid.
Nissan quickly took the lead in the mainstream electrification. Nearly 600,000 Leaf sedans have been sold worldwide since 2010, and for most of that time the vehicle has been the world’s best-performing electric vehicle. Yet the speed at which this record was stolen by the Tesla Model 3 shows how demand is shifting from affordable electric vehicles to faster, more exciting models. The Ariya has considerably more of both qualities than its hatchback relatives.
Sitting on the CMF-EV platform developed by Nissan as part of its alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi, the Ariya is powered by one or two externally excited eight-pole synchronous motors. Front-wheel-drive versions will use a single motor that produces 214 or 238 horsepower, while the dual-motor version brings that total to 389 horsepower and includes Nissan’s intelligent e-4ORCE all-wheel-drive setup. This gives the ability to both vary the front-to-rear torque distribution and adjust the output and regeneration of each motor to counter dive and squat motions.
Another choice comes from two battery sizes, these having a usable capacity of 63 or 87 kWh. We don’t yet have EPA figures for any of the available powertrains, but in Europe, Nissan claims the 63kWh front-drive Ariya has a WLTP range of 250 miles. We’re told the larger pack is aiming for 300 miles on the stricter EPA standard. All configurations will support DC fast charging at speeds up to 130kW, thankfully using the universal CCS socket instead of the increasingly rare CHAdeMO interface the Leaf uses.
Regardless of the powertrain, the Ariya’s design is certainly distinctive. An overall length of 182.9 inches puts it pretty much at the heart of the compact SUV segment, just 0.2 inches shorter than the Toyota RAV4. But it looks taller in person, thanks to the height of its front end and the cab-forward wrap of the body, which places the base of the windshield roughly directly over the line of the front axle. The narrow LED headlights and expansive grille panel give plenty of presence up front, while the sloping roofline has been incorporated without seriously hurting cabin space. It’s certainly more interesting to look at than the Leaf.
The Ariya also feels different inside, with a spacious, well-finished cabin that manages to feel elegantly minimalist rather than lacking in equipment. Two 12.3-inch display screens for instrumentation and infotainment work together, with most physical switches for audio and cruise functions integrated into the face of the steering wheel. Heating and ventilation controls are via touch buttons embedded in the simulated wood of the dash, but these have a haptic resistance that makes them more satisfying to use than a pure touchscreen interface. Similar controls for the Dynamic Mode Selector and e-Pedal feature sit below the gear selector on the center console, along with a switch that opens and closes a motorized storage compartment under the dash. The rear seats seem less spacious than the front, but they are still suitable for adults.
Despite the racetrack location, the car we drove was a base, front-drive model with the smallest battery. Nissan attempted to replicate various real-world locations with a variety of gates and cone-marked weaves. Luckily, there was enough distance between these fabricated obstructions to allow the car to stretch its legs.
Straight-line performance seems solid rather than scintillating, with Nissan’s official 7.2-second 60mph estimate being rather leisurely for a modern EV; the AWD version is said to hit that mark in a much better 4.9 seconds. Even in its most basic form, the Ariya was keen enough to keep its traction control algorithm busy through Jarama’s tightest corners. As expected, the suspension feels soft under heavy loads, with plenty of tire squeal as speed increases. But that smoothness will likely translate to a decent ride on the street. Nissan engineers say there are no plans to offer the Ariya with adaptive dampers, and Sport mode makes no obvious difference to the feel of the car beyond increasing maximum sensitivity. of the accelerator.
Still, other details impressed. The Ariya cleverly mixes its friction and regenerative braking capabilities, and while the e-Pedal feature doesn’t provide true one-pedal operation – brake pressure is still needed to come to a complete stop – its level of retardation is adequate without feeling too aggressive. The steering is also linear and nicely weighted.
In short, it was a very limited first impression in a rather unconventional environment, but it made us think that the Ariya should cope well with the tougher challenges of the real world. Pricing for the standard line models has not been announced, but those with the larger battery will start at $47,125 and increase to $60,125, with deliveries expected to begin this fall.
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