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2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce AWD Review: More Grip, More Go

nissan ariya e 4orce platinum2B 2023 01 exterior front angle jpg 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce | Cars.com photo by Damon Bell
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Senior Research Editor Damon Bell has more than 25 years of experience in the automotive industry, beginning as an Engineering Graphics researcher/proofreader at model-car manufacturer Revell-Monogram. From there, he moved on to various roles at Collectible Automobile magazine and Consumer Guide Automotive before joining Cars.com in August 2022. He served as president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association in 2019 and 2020. Email Damon Bell

The verdict: The Ariya e-4orce brings the all-weather capabilities of all-wheel drive to Nissan’s likable pure-electric compact SUV along with a big boost in power. However, as with other AWD EVs, you’ll pay a significant price premium for those upgrades.

Against the competition: Like its front-wheel-drive sibling, the Ariya e-4orce doesn’t match the maximum driving range or the DC fast-charging speeds of some class rivals, but its nicely finished cabin, quietness, simple control layout and balanced performance are big pluses.

When the new-for-2023 Ariya launched late in 2022, it gave Nissan a solid contender in the heart of the mainstream EV market. Only front-wheel-drive models were available at first (read our original Ariya review for more on that), but as promised, Nissan is now adding the all-wheel-drive Ariya and dubbing it “e-4orce” — a name that gives our copy editors extra gray hairs. The “force” part of the name is appropriate, however, because the AWD Ariya gets a big horsepower bump over its front-drive sibling, enabling it to compete directly against AWD versions of compact all-electric SUV rivals such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and Volkswagen ID.4.

I drove a pre-production 2023 Ariya e-4orce during a press preview in Northern California, where rainy conditions provided an opportunity to sample the added grip of the AWD powertrain. (Per our ethics policy, Cars.com pays for its own airfare and lodging when attending such manufacturer-sponsored events.)

Related: 2023 Nissan Ariya EV Priced From $47,125 for Estimated 300-Mile Range

More Grip, More Go

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Adding AWD adds cost and weight to gas-engine vehicles, and so it is with all-electric vehicles, but AWD EVs are usually more powerful than their two-wheel-drive counterparts because they need another electric motor to power the other pair of wheels (in the Ariya’s case, the rear wheels).

The single-motor Ariya has up to 238 horsepower, 221 pounds-feet of torque and a Nissan-estimated 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds. The dual-motor AWD Ariya is significantly gutsier: up to 389 hp, 442 pounds-feet of torque and a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds. By the seat of my pants, the Ariya e-4orce easily feels that quick. Though it’s content to cruise sedately, the power delivery is immediate when you dip heavily into the accelerator pedal, and acceleration is smooth and strong thereafter. I briefly drove a front-drive Ariya for comparison at the press event, and while it’s no slouch, the e-4orce feels a lot stronger at any speed.

Like the FWD Ariya, the e-4orce’s Sport drive mode adds quicker, sportier-feeling steering and sharper accelerator-pedal response, but it also adds an artificial “acceleration sound enhancement” the FWD Ariya doesn’t have. I found this feature oddly spooky; it sounded to me like Nissan added a sprinkling of “ghostly banshee wail” or “unnerving ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ choir” to the expected electric whirr that rises in pitch and intensity with ground speed.

Crisp Handling, Comfortable Ride

Nissan says the Ariya’s AWD system is constantly checking for grip; it can optimize front and rear torque allocation and apply individual brake control at all four wheels to help keep the vehicle on its intended path. I drove the AWD Ariya on a short autocross-style course during the press event, and it displayed respectably nimble cornering capabilities even on wet pavement. As is typical of EVs, the Ariya is no lightweight: The curb weight of the base e-4orce is 4,608 pounds and the topline Platinum+ trim I drove checks in at 5,057 pounds. For comparison, the AWD version of Nissan’s Rogue compact SUV weighs 3,737 pounds in its line-topping Platinum trim. Despite the Ariya’s weight, I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of the vehicle’s heft in fast corners. Likewise, the AWD system delivered confidence-inspiring traction on the rain-slicked roads of our test-drive routes; in the FWD Ariya I sampled, the drive wheels slipped more often and the traction control engaged more frequently.

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Still, with either front- or all-wheel drive, the Ariya is not as overtly athletic as some of its competitors. Its suspension is tuned a bit more for comfort than agile cornering, which pays dividends in ride quality. Even with the optional 20-inch wheels my test vehicle wore (19-inch wheels are standard), the Ariya’s suspension capably soaks up most bumps and pavement imperfections and maintains its composure nicely. The brakes felt strong and stable, too; Nissan says the regenerative brakes at the rear help control nose dive when braking.

Hands-Free Driving With ProPilot Assist 2.0

It was too rainy for most of my drive for the ProPilot Assist 2.0 hands-free driver-assist system to work, but it cleared up enough by the afternoon that I was able to sample it. Though it doesn’t offer all the capabilities of GM’s Super Cruise (no hands-free lane changes, for instance), the Ariya’s system worked well during my test, with smooth lane-keeping steering inputs.

Simple white, green and blue indicator lights in both the instrument panel and the generously sized head-up display make it easy to see at a glance which mode the system is in: white for basic adaptive cruise control, green for hands-on-the-wheel steering assist and blue for hands-free steering assist. Changes in the system’s status are effectively communicated via chimes, and a red steering-wheel icon flashes when the driver needs to take hold of the steering wheel.

Cabin Space

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Overall, the Ariya offers good occupant and cargo space for its exterior dimensions, though it comes up a bit shy in both when compared to the Rogue. Average-size adults will be comfortable in the Ariya’s front and rear seats, but at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, my head rubbed the edge of the panoramic moonroof’s housing. (I have headroom to spare in the Rogue’s airy cabin.) By Nissan’s measurements, the Ariya has 22.8 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the rear seats and 59.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded; the Rogue offers 31.6 and 74.1 cubic feet, respectively. The Ariya e-4orce makes a minor concession to its FWD counterpart, too: It doesn’t have any underfloor storage under the cargo area’s load floor because the added electric motor takes up that space.

The Ariya’s small-items storage solutions are less than ideal. The center console cupholders are on the small side, and the bin under the center armrest is especially tiny — a USB cable and the vehicle’s key fob took up the space that wasn’t occupied by the wireless cellphone charger on my test vehicle. A somewhat gimmicky “hidden” storage compartment that powers open and closed from the center of the dashboard compensates somewhat, but I would prefer more space in the traditional places. I would also prefer at least some frunk (front trunk) space under the hood, as many EV rivals offer, but the Ariya doesn’t have one. A Nissan representative said the company chose not to offer one because the interior space is used more frequently.

One other novel touch: Similar to the manually sliding console available in the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the Ariya’s entire center console is power-adjustable; it can be moved several inches forward or back at the touch of a button. This feature is also a bit gimmicky, though it does allow the driver to position the gear selector and center armrest to their liking, and it can free up more floor space in front for a large purse or bag (or access to the low-mounted cellphone storage slot and charging ports). It can also move the console’s rear-seat climate-control vents, heated-rear-seat buttons and USB charging ports rearward so they’re easier for backseat passengers to access.

On the Platinum+ model I drove, cabin ambiance was a strong point. The muted Blue Gray color of the supple (yet oddly slippery) Nappa leather upholstery was repeated on the handsome faux-suede accent panels on the dashboard and door panels. The standard features list is generous, too: It includes heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a 10-speaker Bose audio system and ambient interior lighting behind Japanese-style kumiko-patterned trim panels.

Shop the 2023 Nissan Ariya near you

Used
2023 Nissan ARIYA EMPOWER+
6,189 mi.
$31,950
Used
2023 Nissan ARIYA ENGAGE
7,899 mi.
$28,886

Charging It Up, Adding It Up

Like its FWD sibling, the Ariya e-4orce is offered with a standard 63-kilowatt-hour battery (on the base Engage trim) or an extended-range 87-kWh battery (Engage+, Evolve+ and Platinum+). Nissan’s estimated driving ranges are 205 miles for the Engage, 272 miles for the Engage+ and Evolve+, and 267 miles for the feature-laden Platinum+. These numbers are in the ballpark of most similarly priced rivals, though they don’t trump any of them.

In terms of DC fast-charging speeds, Nissan says the e-4orce can go from 10% to 80% charge in 35 minutes for the 63-kWh version and 40 minutes for the 87-kWh versions when charging at 130 kilowatts. This isn’t as quick as the 800-volt charging capability of rivals like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 allows.

Considering all the extra hardware they require, AWD EVs are notably more expensive than their 2WD counterparts, and that’s the case with the Ariya. Across the model lineup, choosing an e-4orce Ariya over a comparable FWD model tacks on $4,000, a fee that lands near the middle of the AWD premiums charged by the Ariya’s rivals.

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Though the Ariya’s pricing and features stack up well to its main competitors, it gets quite spendy on the high end. The fancy Passion Red Tricoat/Black Diamond Pearl two-tone paint added $995 to the $60,190 base price of my Platinum+ test vehicle, and the floormats tacked on another $250. Destination added another $1,335 for a bottom-line price of $62,770. Among the Ariya’s mainstream-brand rivals, that’s more expensive than all but the super-performance Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and Kia EV6 GT.

Still, the Ariya e-4orce’s attributes cohere into a satisfying overall package that’s worth checking out against the competition. It’s set to arrive in dealerships by the end of spring.

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