Looks like: The Nissan Murano of the future
Competes with: Tesla Model X and upcoming Model Y SUVs
Powertrain: All-electric drivetrain; a 65-kilowatt-hour battery in the standard-range Ariya or a 90-kilowatt-hour battery in the long-range model, with the latter good for up to 300 miles of range (estimated); front- or all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Mid-2021 in Japan, end of 2021 in U.S.
Nissan enters a burgeoning class of all-electric SUVs with the Ariya, an all-new nameplate poised for fleeting association with a certain plucky character from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Stark, too, is this Ariya — at least in its contrast with Nissan’s other electric vehicle in the U.S., the Leaf hatchback.
Related: Nissan Teases Future Lineup, Including Next-Gen Z Car, Amid Massive Shake-Up
Unlike the front-wheel-drive Leaf, the Ariya will offer dual-motor all-wheel drive, something Nissan has developed for EV applications. Much like the 2019 concept that bore its name, the production Ariya bears the high-beltline stance of a fastback SUV.
Roughly the size of Nissan’s popular Rogue compact SUV, the production Ariya closely follows its concept forebear. A short hood and long, downward-sloping roofline, as well as sharply creased body, characterize the profile, while diagonal lighting flanks a gaping, shieldlike grille.
Nissan says the shield incorporates a 3D version of a traditional Japanese kumiko pattern that covers sensors used for driver assistance features. It also houses a redesigned version of the automaker’s logo, which is made up of 20 LEDs.
In back, the sharply raked C-pillar flows into the deck lid, split by a one-piece light blade that runs the length of the rear. It also wears rear fender flares and a high-mounted rear wing.
Nissan says the cabin looks more like the interior of a “sleek cafe lounge on a starship,” and there’s something to that description; it’s very modern and minimalistic. Like the concept, the production Ariya employs a horizontal dashboard with screens that form a thin, horizontal plane.
There are two 12.3-inch screens — one an instrument monitor and the other a central display for the multimedia system — and Nissan says they are programmable and customizable to prioritize what the driver wants most prominently displayed. The multimedia system uses Nissan’s intelligent personal assistance technology, a voice recognition system with advanced natural language understanding. It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa; wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
Also of note: The Ariya is the first Nissan vehicle to offer over-the-air software updates for things such as the multimedia system, electric and electronic architecture, chassis, climate system and EV settings.
The center console between the front seats can motor forward or backward, with a surface you can extend from the dashboard that forms a workspace while stopped. Retract everything, and the center space between the dash and seats is unencumbered — a nice provision for storage or knee clearance. That’s an approach once frequented by minivans, at least until one model after another traded it for flow-through consoles that prioritize aesthetics over functionality.
We’re happy to see the Ariya keep things open. Concerning, however, is the appearance of touch-sensitive panels in place of physical dashboard controls. We’ll reserve full judgment until we climb around the Ariya, but it’s worth noting that we aren’t the only ones who prefer real buttons and knobs over touch panels: Motorists surveyed by J.D. Power largely hold the same view.
Motors and Driver-Assist Features
The Ariya employs a front-axle motor for FWD models; an available rear-axle motor enables AWD. Nissan will offer a choice between two batteries: a 65-kilowatt-hour battery in the standard-range Ariya or a 90-kilowatt-hour battery in the long-range model, with maximum range for the latter of up to an estimated 300 miles. Other ranges below that were unclear, but if the EPA certifies Nissan’s maximum range as such, the Ariya will land in the thick of anticipated ranges for the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E.
The Ariya debuts Nissan’s second-generation ProPilot Assist to the U.S. market. ProPilot Assist 2.0 combines adaptive cruise control with hands-free lane centering on certain roads, making Nissan the fourth automaker to announce hands-free steering stateside. (GM was first, debuting hands-free lane centering for the 2018 model year, with BMW joining the fray for 2019 and Ford announcing a rollout for 2021.) Like the others, Nissan’s execution doesn’t allow for attention-free driving; the Ariya will keep tabs on you via a driver-facing monitor to ensure you’re ready to take action if needed.
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Price and Release Date
The Ariya hits U.S. dealerships by the end of 2021, but it wasn’t immediately apparent if it will be a 2021 or 2022 model. Nissan expects a starting price of around $40,000 before federal tax incentives, and the Ariya’s batteries should easily qualify for the maximum federal credit ($7,500) to lower your net expenditures considerably.
Still, if the SUV proves popular, Nissan might overrun a federal cap of 200,000 cumulative plug-in sales in short order. Cumulative U.S. sales for the Leaf, Nissan’s primary qualifying vehicle, hit about 142,000 units at the end of 2019, by the government’s accounting. GM and Tesla have exceeded the 200,000 cap, rendering their current plug-in vehicles ineligible for the credit.
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