At the top of the Ariya range, Nissan's Platinum+ model is truly premium.
Since the first announcement of the existence of the all-electric Nissan Ariya crossover, the EV landscape has changed. Still, it has arrived with competitive specs and captured the stylistic zeitgeist of the EV's movement toward the mainstream. It also comes at a time when Nissan needs a new car to wow people with, and in our couple of days with the Ariya, we've been impressed with almost all aspects of the vehicle. We aren't impressed with the charging infrastructure to support the great number of electric cars available, but that's another story entirely.
The Ariya is billed as a compact SUV, but inside, there's midsize SUV space. And, after a delay, the AWD models are coming online, so Nissan sent one to us to check out over the course of a few days. And it arrived just in time for heavy rain and slippery conditions here in the Southern California desert and mountains. The Platinum + e-4ORCE trim reviewed here tops out the range with 389 horsepower and 265 miles of range.
Nissan has completely gone its own way with the Ariya's design, and we applaud that. While others are embracing retro styling or using historic nameplates, Nissan has firmly decided to start from scratch and embrace the new era with its take on Japanese futurism with iki (meaning cutting edge) shapes and kumiko (meaning three-dimensional) textures. From a distance, the Ariya looks smooth, but once you get up close, you can start counting the triangles and sharp-cornered yet flowing geometric shapes. With one of Nissan's paints that become positively phosphorescent in sunlight, the Ariya is full of shapes and accents highlighted, conversely, by shadows.
The 20-inch wheels on our Platinum+ trim crank serve to up the complexity of the geometry. It's a matter of taste, but they're one of the few complicated wheel patterns we've enjoyed recently. These are optional wheels available only to the top trim, while 19-inch items do duty as standard across the range.
The Nissan Ariya doesn't have a front trunk. Instead, Nissan pushed the hardware and electronics as far forward as possible and freed up the cabin to have a completely flat floor, using as much length as possible. The result would have you believe you're in a midsize crossover with plenty of space in the back as well as the front for adults. With no transmission tunnel, the center console between the driver and passengers is free to move backward and forward on electric motors and does not impede into the footwells. It also means the center back seat is perfectly useable.
There's also an electric cubby that emerges from the dashboard to hold a phone or tablet up while waiting for a charge or to use as hidden storage for wallets or electronics. The capacitive haptic climate controls housed on the wood trim are pleasing to the eye while removing the need for buttons or dials to stand out without having to put basic HVAC controls in the infotainment screen. The more advanced HVAC settings are accessed via the 12.3-inch, though.
Then there's the interior styling, which is a standout feature of the Ariya, particularly in the highest trim level. The seats are Nappa leather, while the dash and door cards are covered with synthetic suede. Running around the cabin is what Nissan describes as "multi-color contextual line illumination." The color changes with the various modes selected, most noticeably when using the ProPILOT Assist 2.0 driver assist system, where it shifts between blue and green depending on its state.
The interior is practical and well thought-out, with the highlight being a space to stand a phone in front of the center console and a spot to wrap the USB cord around to keep things neat and tidy. The wireless charging pad is inside the center console.
The infotainment screen is a duplicate of the 12.3-inch unit used for the gauge cluster, and both are housed under a single piece of glass extending across the dashboard. The central unit includes wired Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa integration, and an intelligent voice assistant that responds to the "Hey Nissan" wake-up command. It's a slick, quick, and intuitive system that makes it easy to switch between functions while on the move. The only downside is a Bose audio system which we're not overly fond of. This is something that become common in the higher-trim vehicles by brands that are not usually known for producing premium vehicles, and something we would love to see Nissan reach past. This car deserves a genuinely premium sound system, especially in its top trims.
We were underwhelmed by the base front-wheel-drive model's power with its 66 kWh battery pack and single motor generating 214 horsepower and 221 lb-ft with a 216-mile range. The step up to the 87 kWh pack brings 238 hp and increases range to a max of 304 miles. With the e-4ORCE all-wheel-drive system on the smaller battery, power goes up to 335 hp and 413 lb-ft but a range of 205 miles. Adding the bigger battery brings power up to 389 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque and a range of 272 miles on the + e-4ORCE trims. This drops to 267 on the Platinum+ e-4ORCE models, presumably because of the added equipment that sends its curb weight over the 5,000-pound mark - and, if you opt for those swanky wheels, you lose a further ten miles of range.
For charging, the peak charging rate is 130 kW, which isn't the most impressive number you will see, but Nissan claims the battery can charge at that peak for longer to keep charge time competitive.
Typically, a car with 214 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque would be plenty for daily driving, but electric cars are heavy. The increase in power from the AWD system's extra motor makes the Ariya quick, particularly on the Platinum + e-4ORCE model Nissan sent us. There's no need to dawdle, even with the lower range figures, and we had peace of mind during our 150-mile round trip to San Diego, followed by some poking around looking for photography spots and running a few errands before having to hook up to a charger.
We were also perfectly comfortable on the freeway as the Ariya is a pleasant car to drive with little road noise and compliant suspension. Much has been made of the Ariya using the GT-R sports car's torque-split system, but the Ariya is all about being a calm ride. The extra power is welcome, and it's quick when the throttle pedal is mashed into the carpet, but power delivery is smooth and tuned to not jerk heads back.
That torque-split system keeps everything stable, and we put it to the test a few times in our flooded city and on back roads. We felt a wheel slip a few times, pulling away on mud-covered junctions, but the Ariya pulled away perfectly straight each time. The only thing that threw us was how soft the brake pedal was and how much travel it took to dig into the brakes. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's something to get used to when not using the one-pedal style driving mode.
The Ariya is the first Nissan model in the US to get ProPILOT Assist 2.0, and it's a smooth semi-autonomous system that allows the driver to go hands-free when specific conditions are met. It keeps the car well-centered in its lane and uses a mapping system similar to GM's Super Cruise. We found it less fussy than GM's system, but when it comes to using the lane-change feature, Nissan's does require hands to be on the wheel while SuperCruise doesn't.
Nissan needs to evolve, and the Ariya is the first in what promises to be a salvo of electric cars. If this is a sign of what's to come, it's a good one. In its highest trim level, it hits the level of premium that Infiniti aspires to, and as a compact crossover, it firmly ticks off every box. Inside, it's spacious, stylish, and well-thought-out. Outside, it makes a statement without being ostentatious. With the e-4ORCE system, the driver will never be short of power, and the Ariya is sure-footed when the weather becomes challenging to deal with. It's an excellent, well-rounded crossover that will suit many families. The near-300 miles of range is plentiful for the vast majority of people's everyday needs, as is the 216 miles the smaller battery version offers.
Base models start at an MSRP of $43,190, while the top-end Platinum+ e-4ORCE we tested costs at least $60,190. The price tag will give some people shopping for a fully-equipped electric crossover with a Nissan badge pause for thought, but Nissan has truly upped its game when it comes to comfort, convenience, and technology, and we think it's well worth it.
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