I confess that at first the Nissan Ariya e-4ORCE had me confused. I was well-acquainted already with the Ariya, as a striking, smooth and classy sort of electric SUV/crossover. A bit big, and a bit pricey, but then nearly everything automotive seems to be these days. But the mysterious addendum “e-4ORCE”? It didn’t help that I got it mixed up with another Nissan name, “e-POWER”.
At first, I feared that Nissan had partly abandoned all battery-electric power for the Ariya, in favour of the weird/innovative e-POWER system fitted to some Qashqai models. This is where petrol is burned to fuel a battery-electric motor powertrain, an unusual and clever arrangement that at least prevents range anxiety – your electric car fills up at the usual fossil fuel pump.
But no, the Ariya with its clean lines is still pure electric. What they’ve done – not unusually in this market sector – is increase choice by offering an extra motor and four-wheel drive for your driving enjoyment. That doesn’t make the Ariya any more of a rugged off-roader (it’s sturdy enough, but not well suited to farm work). Instead, it is supposed to add to the car’s tractability and roadholding, Audi Quattro-style. This, I can confirm, it does. You can take a roundabout that little bit more swiftly, and the e-4ORCE feels more composed on the motorway.
Equipped with the larger of the battery packs available in the Ariya range, it’s notably faster than the two-wheel drive version with the 87kWh unit beneath you, so a very accomplished package indeed.
The premium is equally notable, though – an extra £11,000 on the lost price, or £140 per month on a typical lease deal. It takes it past the £50,000 mark, though still with a minimal benefit-in-kind tax charge for the business user. As ever, there’s a trade off on the range – about 30 miles less than in the two-wheel drive version.
Nissan Ariya e-4ORCE
Price: £61,109 as tested (base model at £39,645)
Propulsion: Twin electric motor, powered by 87kWh battery
Power (hp): 302
Top speed: 124mph
Range: 200-250 miles
CO2 emissions: 0
Otherwise, it’s all very much Ariya business as usual. That means a superb cabin with “haptic” controls on the wooden dash (you soon get used to them), plus all the electrically-driven comforts you’d expect – fully adjustable seats, a centre console that unusually slides forward and back, and a powered tailgate. The Nissan ProPilot part-autonomous drive system works as intuitively as it does on the Qashqai and is a joy to use. You also have a switchable “e-pedal”, which is well weighted and allows you to operate the accelerator as a brake as well; plus, settings for economy, comfort, sport and snow.
The fit and finish inside and out is faultless, and high-quality materials are used almost everywhere. The boot isn’t quite as big as you’d expect (batteries do eat space) and it’s a little bit high, but I was impressed with how tough the carpeting in the back is for load carrying, and how usable the space is with the back seats folded down.
As for the looks… during my stewardship it was suggested to me that it looks dead ugly, but I can’t see why. As far as I can see, every exterior surface has a sensual sort of curve to it as if hand-carved, and in the gorgeous signature colour of Akatsuki Copper with piano-black trim it looks smart enough for any occasion (“Akatsuki” means “dawn” in Japanese, by the way).
The giant alloy wheels also suit it – the proportions are just right. The only drawback is simply intrinsic to the genre the Ariya represents – it’s a little too long to feel confident about parking it on our congested streets.
The realistic typical range of 250 miles plus is reassuring, as is the speed of charging; but it’s funny how range anxiety is being supplanted by parking anxiety. We need electric cars for all the well-known reasons – but we also need some smaller cars.