Remember the Nissan Leaf. It was a pioneer, the first modern mass-produced electric car — sorry Tesla — and it’s still in the stable, but now Nissan is following-up with the ARIYA. We’re in the new SUV, heading past endless rows of Sonoma’s vineyards toward California’s coastline in the all-wheel drive version, known as the ARIYA e-4ORCE.
No, e-4ORCE is not the name of some new Marvelverse crime-fighting superhero squad. Pronounced e-force, it denotes the all-wheel drive version of the ARIYA, which is about the size of a Nissan Rogue on the outside but far roomier inside. It rides on an all-new and electric-specific platform, and comes with a range of 330 kilometres as standard. However, we’d opt for the pricier Premier or Platinum+ models, which have an extended-range battery good for 428 km.
This new-for-2023 SUV first arrived with front-wheel drive, but let’s be real, the new all-wheel drive model is the one most Canadians will be shopping for.
The ARIYA is good-looking, and while the solid grille informs onlookers that there’s no need to cool an engine behind it, the rest looks more mainstream, understated even. That’s the whole idea: This is not for serious EV-heads obsessing over the minutiae of Teslas, Taycans, or the Mustang Mach-E. The initial impression isn’t that you’re driving an electric SUV, but simply an SUV, period. Nissan intends the ARIYA to be a gentle “next step” for drivers looking to make the switch from gas to electric, rather than a giant leap into some alien world.
To that end, while the ARIYA e-4ORCE makes a very healthy 389 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, it’s not all about raw grunt off the line. Instead, drivers get smooth acceleration and premium-style performance that just happens to draw its power from a plug rather than a gas pump.
The all-wheel drive system includes torque vectoring on all four wheels, the motors adjusting power almost instantly as needed. We took the ARIYA onto a handling course at Sonoma Raceway — probably the first and last time you’ll ever see the ARIYA on a racetrack — but Nissan is bullish about the capability of its new EV.
This is the same Nissan that’s sending a heavily-modified ARIYA on a treacherous expedition to chart an all-electric route from the North to South Poles. (We’ve got the scoop on the Pole to Pole Electric Vehicle Expedition right here.)
Back in sunny California at Sonoma Raceway, a water truck just soaked the first turn and the instructor told us accelerate hard into it. That’s not how it’s supposed to be done, of course, but the ARIYA instantly adjusted the power to each wheel and did a surprisingly good job of getting us through without issue, even on standard tires.
The roads get twisty coming inland from the Pacific, and that’s where this EV let us have a bit of fun. There’s a button for “E-Step,” which increases the regenerative braking. Lifting off the throttle going into each curve the ARIYA slowed just enough on entry to get tucked into the bend, and then smoothly responded to the throttle to power out. It’s not going to pull anyone out of a two-seater sports car like Nissan’s new Z, but it’s a satisfying drive for something meant to be so usable day-to-day.
The ARIYA’s very-quiet cabin is surprisingly roomy, and while its power-sliding centre console and dash drawer seem a bit gimmicky, the interior design is clean and uncluttered. The seats are the latest iteration of Nissan’s “zero-gravity” design and they’re comfortable and supportive. Our American-spec car was equipped with ProPilot 2.0, which provides hands-free driving on pre-mapped roads. The feature is coming to Canada but with no timeline yet.
On California roads stuffed with all types of electrified cars, the ARIYA still garnered attention. It’s taken a long time for Nissan to create its second electric vehicle, but it was worth the wait.