My favorite magazines as a kid were Car and Driver issues from the late 1980s with all of the glossy concept cars. The 1986 Buick Wildcat, 1986 Pontiac Trans Sport and 1988 Pontiac Banshee had the sleekest next-century style. The Wildcat even flashed a flatscreen instrument cluster while the Trans Sport ported a laptop in its dash. They prefigured today’s rides, but none fully match the 2023 Nissan Ariya electric crossover.
Nissan’s bomb EV wears its turntable style with pride. I wish you could have seen my neighbors’ faces and cranked necks as I glided this fantasy into the driveway, lifted the garage door and plugged in.
I find it beautiful. Where a grille would normally be is a black panel adorned with the new Nissan badge, illuminated by 20 LEDs and flanked by angry headlamps. The fluid design embraces the Japanese term iki, which implies cutting-edge nature. I’ll take that to mean it looks to be shaped by water and microchips. It’s especially fetching set over 19-inch slicer alloy wheels.
Interiors embrace ma, or a belonging to both space and time. Designers aimed for the feel of a starship lounge that GM only wished for 35 years ago. The minimalist space with curved twin flatscreens benefits from a wide flat floor and center console that powers back and forth. There’s no transmission tunnel, so legroom is abundant. A panoramic moonroof, crisp 10-speaker Bose audio and heated steering wheel add filthy luxury.
Especially during stressful days, I couldn’t wait to enter the Ariya’s tranquil space. Details delineate. Take a close look at the wood panel across the dash. It’s not wood, and climate controls are flush integrated to the panel with capacitive haptic switches. It’s like changing temperature by clicking your finger on thin timber. I doubted I’d like the bluish-gray color of the Nappa leather seats against red paint, but they feel light and are heated/ventilated up front. Wireless phone charging keeps phones humming while a head-up display for speed, navigation, and safety systems focus eyes forward.
GM formed its aerodynamic concepts to excite drivers and improve fuel economy, but Nissan employs its next-decade vibe to enhance driving range. Our vehicle’s 87 kWh lithium-ion battery pack delivers 267 miles, but also lays down a vigorous 389 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque through the all-wheel-drive system. Skip the more spirited Sport mode and leave it in Eco for the best economy. Also depress the e-Step button for more aggressive regenerative braking. Recharging 10%-80% on a fast charger takes 40 minutes — longer than competitors — and expect a 14-hour recharge on a 240v home or commercial charger. Monitor it all via the phone app and Apple Watch.
I get a good laugh out of movies like "Demolition Man," where GM’s Ultralite concept is supposedly run over by classic American muscle cars like the 1970 Oldsmobile 442. That’s adorable. The high-performance 442 W30 harbored a 7.5-liter (455 cubic-inch) V-8 delivering 370 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. Unholy power for the time, but it all reached for pavement through skinny rear tires, which meant 0-60 mph in 7 seconds. The Ariya, with all-wheel-drive and near 50/50 weight distribution, runs 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. After defending its honor, the Ariya is perfectly happy to load bicycles through its hands-free hatch, drop kids at piano lessons, or carry the entire family to dinner … without an ounce of petrol.
Driving further into the future, our car was equipped with Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist 2 system that allows for hands-off cruising on designated highways. It’s not as smooth as some competitors, chopping its way around curves, and it performed an upgrade in the middle of my trip, but it was a nice addition to the adaptive cruise control for a relaxed cup of coffee en route. Automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and rear cross path detection with auto brake added to the margin of safety.
The suspension can be a little harsh and range could be better, but the Ariya is an absolute work of art that happens to be easy to use. Base models start at a very reasonable $43,190, but our Platinum+ e-4ORCE with the larger battery pack, AWD and Nappa leather interior came to a lofty $62,770. Competitors include the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Kia EV6 GT, Cadillac LYRIQ, and upcoming Chevy Blazer EV.
2023 Nissan Ariya Platinum+
Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
Powertrain: Li-Ion batteries/motors
Output: 389hp/442 lb.-ft.
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
Brakes f/r: regen disc/disc
Driving range: 267 miles
0-60 mph: 4.8 seconds
Recharge (10-80%): 40m
Economy (comb): 90 mpg-e
Assembly: Tochigi, Japan
Base/as-tested price: $43,190/62,770
(Casey Williams is an Indianapolis-based automotive journalist and a long-time contributor to the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at AutoCasey@aol.com and on YouTube @AutoCasey.)
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