Ariya is arguably Nissan's most important car launch of recent times. With it, the brand has set the direction it wants to go with its electrified vehicles – from styling through to technology and autonomy. It will supplement LEAF and allow Nissan to compete with forthcoming rivals such as the Volkswagen ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y.
At its core, the Ariya exploits two of Nissan's specialities: Leadership in EVs thanks to its experience in producing over half-a-million LEAFs, and the brand's history in dominating the crossover market. According to CEO Makoto Uchida: “With Ariya, Nissan is bringing the right car, at the right time to the marketplace. Ariya is at the core of our [Nissan's] expertise.”
Built on the new platform, which Senior Design Director Giovanny Arroba calls the “magic flying carpet”, and shared across the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, Ariya is now leading the way to Nissan achieving annual EV sales of at least one million. Furthermore, such is the importance of the car that Nissan has chosen it to be the first car to wear a newly updated brand logo.
Underpinning the Nissan Ariya is not only a new platform, but an entirely new set of powertrain options developed to offer choice and (presumably) different levels of financial outlay for buyers. There will be five key variations of the car in Europe, with two battery sizes and two drive options, as well as a high-performance variant.
The two battery sizes are 63kWh and 87kWh. On each, both a single motor, rear-wheel drive version and a twin motor, all-wheel-drive version using Nissan's new e-4ORCE system will be available.
At the low end of the model range the single motor, rear-wheel drive model with the 63kWh battery gets 215bhp, a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds and a range of 223 miles. Power is hiked to 239bhp and range shoots up to 310 miles (the longest range of any Ariya model) for the 87kWh version, though it is a tad slower at 7.6 seconds to 62mph. Top speed of the single motor versions is 99mph.
In twin-motor, e-4ORCE guise, the 63kWh car gets 275bhp, 0-62 in 5.9 seconds and a range of 211 miles, whilst the 87kWh variant gets 302bhp, a 0-62 time of 5.7 seconds and 285 miles of range. At the top of the pile a Performance model will get the larger battery size and a power hike to 389bhp, enabling the car to hit 62mph in 5.1 seconds and achieve a range of 248 miles. Top speed of all twin-motor setups is 124mph.
Nissan is making an awful lot of its new e-4ORCE all-wheel-drive system which it says has been developed thanks to the combined lessons learned through its GT-R supercar as well as the brand's long history of 4x4s through the Patrol. With no physical linkages and almost instantaneous torque vectoring, power (and braking) can be split between individual wheels to offer a more dynamic drive. This is helped out by battery packs which are uncannily thin and mounted low down for a better centre of gravity.
“We're able to control vehicle motion as soon as the brakes are applied, giving all occupants – especially passengers – a stable, smooth ride,” said Ryozo Hiraku, leader of Nissan's powertrain and EV engineering division.
As for charging, the 63kWh versions get a 7.4kW on-board charger for domestic use while the 87kWh versions gain a 22kW 3 phase charger. Maximum charging speed is a suitably rapid 130kW.
The Ariya defines how future EVs from Nissan will look. According to Design Director, Givanny Arroba, it has “...clean, electrified energy reflected with clean, powerful design. It is timeless Japanese futurism, which might sound like an oxymoron, but is reflected in a shape that can stand the test of time and details – like technology and new lighting – bringing in the futurism.”
Up front, where a grille would once have been is the new Nissan Shield – a smooth panel behind which sits various sensors for the ProPILOT 2.0 driver assistance system (more on that in a minute). New LED headlights and daytime running lights frame the Shield, whilst the new logo – comprised of 20 LEDs – sits at the centre.
From the side, the designers have been able to shift the A-pillar forward thanks to the new platform and EV powertrain. As is the trend for new EV crossovers, the roofline is low and large, while 19 (or 20 inch) wheels and minimal overhangs accentuate the car's wannabe 'sporty' nature. Steeply raked C-pillars frame a new rear spoiler and diffuser whilst a new light blade feature frames the new 'Nissan' lettering which we will see more of in future.
On the launch car (pictured), the exterior was painted in a newly-developed colour combo of two-tone copper-on-black. Nissan reckons this works to represent the light before dawn, as well as the copper acting as a reminder of how electricity is typically conducted.
Interior space has been significantly increased thanks to the new platform, with D-segment levels of space in a C-segment car. COO Ashwani Gupta said the platform enabled designers to create a 'living space' which is more like a café lounge on a starship than a vehicle cabin. Slim profile 'Zero Gravity' seats and a completely flat floor help create this effect, which Nissan reckons aids interaction between front and rear-seat occupants.
A nifty feature of the cabin is the floating centre console which can be moved forward and aft depending on the occupants' preference. Furthermore, a large 12.3 inch centre touchscreen and additional 12.3 inch high-definition digital dash works with a sleek, wide dashboard to add a sense of width to the cabin. A copper accent on the dashboard again represents the fact the car is powered by electricity.
One of the ways in which Nissan hopes to bring front- and rear-seat passengers together and make driving that bit more pleasant is through hands-on autonomy, enabled through its ProPILOT 2.0 assistance system. Already found in the GT-R and LEAF, ProPILOT uses a variety of sensing and 3D mapping technologies to provide semi-autonomous driving. Lane centring, adaptive cruise with stop-start, speed limit recognition and automatic slowing for up-coming corners takes some of the pressure off of the driver. Furthermore, an e-Pedal allows for one pedal driving in most circumstances.
As you'd expect, the Ariya will come with a huge level of connectivity. A key feature is the integration of over-the-air updates for both the car's infotainment software, and the firmware code that controls the car's systems. This negates the need to visit a dealer for updates, and should allow iterative improvements in the way the car operates.
The NissanConnect smartphone app enables owners to view and control various car functions remotely, whilst the intelligent key configures the car ready to go as the driver walks up to it. Integration with Amazon Alexa offers voice control that not only enables owners to monitor and configure their Ariya whilst sitting in their house, it also enables owners to control connected services in their house from the Ariya. This means that when they pull up at night, they could turn on the house lights before stepping out of the car.
Nissan hasn't given a firm time frame for launch either in Japan or in Europe, but mid-to-late next year would be our best estimate. In any case, the Nissan Ariya shows a clear direction from the brand, and given its specs, should be able to compete in everything from power, to range, to technology.