– In the sports world, there’s a common saying: “the best ability is availability,” and while the front-wheel drive 2023 Nissan Ariya EV started trickling into Canada by the end of 2022, Nissan has admitted that there have been various delays with Ariya production. But company officials at the launch event of this here 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce (all-wheel drive) version insist this more popular AWD version is still on track to arrive at Nissan dealers in early spring – so basically now, or imminently.
Ariya production and therefore availability will ramp up in the coming months and years, officials here confirmed and will be available in all provinces with EV-certified dealers. Nissan estimates the number currently at roughly 60 percent of its Canadian dealers, a figure set to increase with this AWD, battery-electric (BEV) compact crossover that enters a hot market with lots of demand.
But this launch of the Ariya e-4orce version is not just the addition of an all-wheel drive option, but it adds two different levels of power to the Ariya, depending on battery choice, as well as sophisticated comfort and handling upgrades over front-wheel drive versions.
The least expensive Ariya (FWD, standard 63 kWh battery) starts at roughly $53,000 and offers 214 hp. The Ariya e-4orce (pronounced E-Force) with that same battery jumps up to 335 hp, and almost doubles in torque, to 413 lb-ft of silent and refined oomph. The Ariya e-4orce starts at $60,598, and is also available with a larger 87 kWh battery (91 kWh gross), pumping up the power even more, to 389 hp, and 442 lb-ft of torque.
Our pre-production top-line AWD tester came with the 87 kWh battery. It was a U.S. spec model and similar to the Platinum+ trim level which we’ll get here that comes fully loaded with all options at an as tested price of $69,198, before a $2,085 freight fee. Or right around the starting price of a base Tesla Model Y Long Range, which comes with all-wheel drive standard, at the moment.
These Ariya e-Force power figures put it right near the front of its family AWD BEV class, though still behind that base Model Y. Acceleration is a major jump up with all that extra power, not surprisingly, with the e-Force extended battery model doing the 0-100 km/h dash in just 5.1 seconds, versus 7.6 seconds for the FWD model with the same battery.
Range is a slightly different story, since AWD cuts into it. The 87 kWh e-4orce comes in at an estimated range of 428 km, versus 490 for an equivalent FWD model. Top models here feature 19-inch wheels all around, which will provide a slight range improvement over the 20s offered in the U.S. in top trims.
Official 2023 Ariya fuel economy figures including range from Natural Resources Canada aren’t available yet, strangely not even for front-wheel drive models, so it’ll be important to test these estimated figures in true Canadian temperatures and conditions once they hit our shores.
But judging from all the technology underhood – sorry, no frunk in the Ariya – both cold and warm conditions have been impressively addressed. Importantly, the Ariya offers a standard heat pump to improve cold weather range, and a battery pre-conditioning system to help DC quick charge the Ariya faster. There’s also a liquid cooling system for the battery that will help with thermal management after a few DC quick charges on long drives – lessons all clearly learned from the Leaf, which debuted in 2011 without any of these items.
Still different compared to even the current Leaf is that the Ariya uses the CCS charging standard for DC quick charging, which charges faster and located in many more places than the Leaf’s CHAdeMO system. It’s another nail in CHAdeMO’s coffin, at least here in North America, where both Kia and now Nissan with the Ariya have switched to CCS in their latest products.
Being able to DC quick charge multiple times in the Ariya on longer drives is a positive, and an advantage over the Toyota
EV twins that don’t recommend DC charging more than twice per day. But it may take a little longer than usual because a) the Ariya features some of the largest batteries in its class, and b) some of the slowest DC charging speeds, with a max of 130 kW. Nissan says that a 20 to 80 percent charge will take 35 minutes in the smaller battery Ariya, and 40 minutes with the larger pack, whether e-4orce or FWD.
Granted, the vast majority of current EV owners charge at home overnight, some of those just using a standard wall outlet to sip as many electrons as possible, but most are using a Level 2 home charger at 240-volts (often called a Level 2 EVSE, or more commonly just an L2). The Nissan’s 7.2 kW onboard charger is on the slow side too, and if you ever manage to roll into your garage with a 0 percent charge, Nissan says it’ll take roughly 14 hours to charge it back up to 100 percent.
These are all important considerations on the EV side of owning an Ariya, but Nissan’s stylish new EV does well on the more traditional and emotional side of SUV ownership too.
It starts with the styling, as this Nissan stands out as a futuristic yet handsomely upscale all-electric offering. There’s an illuminated badge in front, and Land Rover-like looks around back, with painted black body accents along the lower body and roof that contrasted with our tester’s fiery red hue.
Sure, there may be a touch of style sacrificed at the altar of aerodynamics, but the Ariya is on my personal list of top-three best-looking electric SUVs. And without the headroom limitations inside of the Kia EV6 and the much pricier Jaguar i-Pace.
There’s a similarly stylish and futuristically luxurious interior to match, one that could be worthy of an Infiniti badge. Nissan’s zero gravity seats are standard and notably comfortable. The centre console and lower dash elements appear to be high-grain, low-gloss wood accents, until one notes integrated haptic buttons, so they’re almost totally flat to the eye, but just raised enough to feel by touch, with positive feedback to let you know they’ve been activated. Plus unlike on touchscreens, these buttons actually work with gloves!
There’s a powered sliding centre tray that smoothly slides in and out, and can be used as a laptop tray. The centre console that houses the Z-like shifter and cupholders can be powered back and forth, allowing the driver to tailor a perfect driving position. And the passenger receives powered memory seats on upper trims, unlike some rivals. There’s wireless Apple CarPlay, but Android Auto is wired.
Dimensionally, the Ariya may be roughly the size of a Rogue, but lines up more with the Murano for interior spaciousness, with cargo room landing in between. There’s plenty of leg and headroom for all passengers, along with standard outboard heated seats, heated steering wheel, and both types of USB ports in the front and rear.
On the road, while there’s no sub-four-second performance Ariya version to compete with the pricier GT versions of the EV6 and Mach-E, Nissan is justifiably proud of the handling upgrade provided by its e-4orce system, which is a full-time AWD system, and doesn’t turn off a motor at any point to increase efficiency. A quick pylon course on a Sonoma raceway parking lot demonstrated how the driver can feel grip and how power zips back to front, and left to right on both dry and wet portions of the course.
“There is roughly 10 times the speed of data coming in from the electric motors versus traditional mechanical systems, and can respond correspondingly quicker,” said Jim Mastronardi, the Ariya’s senior engineer in charge of dynamic performance
The e-4orce system also improves comfort, he said, as it syncs up the front and rear motors to automatically reduce pitch and dive from regeneration, which is great for kids prone to car sickness. This may disappoint some folks who may wish for true one-pedal driving, or at least more pronounced regeneration when accessing the e-Step button on the centre console, which slows you down, but not quickly, and not to a full stop.
Overall, the 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce stands out for its fine looks and interior appointments but gives up some charging speed and range to its competition. However, from the driver’s seat, the Ariya e-4orce with its advanced AWD system and refined interior is an excellent new addition to the rapidly growing EV market.
Nissan Ariya e-4orce Platinum+
Compact electric five-seat SUV
Front-motor, all-wheel-drive, 1-speed automatic transmission
Dual-motor, extended 87 kWh battery (389 hp, 442 lb-ft)
4.8 km/kWh (observed) / 428 km
(check) 646 litres (22.8 cu-ft); Seats down: 1,691 litres (59.7 cu-ft)
62,685 (standard battery e-4ORCE)/as tested $71,293 (Platinum+ e-4ORCE, not including taxes and fees) (check if options)