by Jay Traugott
The Nissan Leaf is no longer the Japanese automaker's sole all-electric model. Introducing the all-new 2021 Nissan Ariya, an EV crossover coupe that not only shows a potential new design direction for the company, but also a desire to battle segment leaders such as Tesla. It's a tall order for an automaker currently struggling financially, but the Ariya could be exactly what's needed to help get things back on track.
Not only does the Ariya pack the latest battery-electric technology, but also features autonomous driving features, voice personal assistance, and an estimated 300-mile range. What's more, the Ariya is Nissan's first model to have over-the-air updates. There's no doubt the Ariya represents a significant step forward for Nissan and we think it will be a hot-seller when it arrives in dealerships.
Nissan describes the Ariya as the "ultimate expression of style and technology." It's hard to disagree. With its "Timeless Japanese Futurism" design philosophy, the Ariya's V-Motion grille features a 3D pattern with the brand's new logo that lightens up thanks to 20 LEDs. This aerodynamic grille also acts as a shield for the Ariya's sensing equipment for the ProPilot system.
Those LED running lights blend down into the grille while an interrupted horizontal line crosses the vehicle's sides, connecting the front and rear fascias.
The rear end is also quite stylish thanks to a raked C-pillar and a one-piece blade with a blacked-out look when not in use. For even more style, Nissan is offering six two-tone paint and four full-body color combinations, among them the signature Copper paint pictured here. A black roof is included with two-tone paint. A set of sporty 19-inch aluminum wheels come standard and 20-inchers are optional.
Exterior styling is certainly bold and compared to the Tesla Model Y, it's clear where the eyes will drift to first.
The Japanese-influenced styling continues with the interior. There are two large 12.3-inch displays for the infotainment screen and driver's instrument gauge cluster. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa are all standard. The minimalist dashboard doesn't have the typical buttons because all main controls are integrated into the touchscreen. One particularly cool idea was to make mechanical-related functions vibrate when touched in order to simulate an actual button.
The center console is adjustable according to the driver's preferences and, along with seat positions, can be saved as part of the driver's profile. There's plenty of storage available, including a large box hidden under the center instrument panel and fold-out tray for laptops.
The slim profile Zero Gravity seats help provide additional legroom for both front- and rear-seat passengers. The Ariya's EV platform made it easy for engineers to free up cabin space in unique ways, such as mounting the climate control system under the hood where a combustion engine would have been. A transmission tunnel also isn't necessary with EVs and the Ariya's flat floor generates even more passenger and cargo space.
The Ariya will be sold in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, as well as two battery sizes, 66 kWh and 87 kWh. Nissan hasn't announced range figures just yet, but the FWD 87 kWh is expected to hit about 300 miles on a single charge. AWD models receive Nissan's new e-4ORCE system, which shares technology from the torque-split system found in the Nissan GT-R.
The less powerful Ariya will produce about 215 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque and the upgraded version will have 388 hp and 443 lb-ft.
Three driving modes enable drivers to select the ideal setting based on road and weather conditions. Excellent handling will be made possible by the near 50:50 front/rear weight distribution, yet another benefit of the heavy battery pack located beneath the floor.
Safety-conscious buyers will appreciate the standard ProPilot Assist 2.0 suite of systems that include lane centering, navigating stop-and-go highway traffic, and helping to maintain vehicle speed based on upcoming road conditions. The standard Nissan Safety Shield includes Intelligent Around View Monitor, Forward Collision Warning, and Emergency Braking.
Official pricing will begin at about $40,000 though this doesn't include the federal or any state tax credits worth a few thousand bucks. The Ariya will actually cost less than the Tesla Model Y Long Range, which begins at nearly $50,000. Even with less driving range, the Ariya and Model Y are going to compete for buyers.
Of course, the Model Y won't be the Ariya's only competition. The upcoming Volkswagen ID.4 will be another prime rival, as will the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron, though it'll carry a higher price tag. Another likely future rival is the Fisker Ocean, which will supposedly begin at around $37,500 before any tax credits.
The era of all-electric sporty-looking crossovers has arrived.