2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce takes AWD beyond traction

The surefooted traction and all-weather capability of all-wheel drive is something many families now see as a must-have in any utility vehicle. 

Likewise, we’ve come to expect that AWD electric vehicles like the 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce are quicker-accelerating, too, with dual motors rather than a single motor. 

With its additional motor unit at the rear wheels, the dual-motor e-4orce effectively doubles the single-motor Ariya’s propulsion setup—amounting to 389 hp and 442 lb-ft, which is a 63% bump in power in the e-4orce and exactly double the torque of the single-motor version. That means 0-60 mph acceleration drops to just 4.8 seconds, versus 7.2 seconds in the FWD Ariya. 

In a first drive this past week on storm-battered highways and backroads connecting Northern California wine country to the coast, it didn’t take me long to feel the extra punch of the dual-motor muscle. At all but a standing start, it’s not subtle. While the front-wheel-drive Ariya feels quite quick from about 10 mph up past 50 mph, the Ariya e-4orce delivers a near-silent punch, making it much quicker through those speeds to well past speed limits. And it can be breathtakingly quick in the 40-70-mph zone at which you might be likely to stomp your right foot down for a pass. 

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

But wait, there’s more. If the stylized e-4orce badging isn’t enough of a hint, Nissan wants us to see its take on AWD as something transcendent versus all the rest of the entries in this crowded field now including the Tesla Model Y, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, and Volkswagen ID.4.

Ariya e-4orce ride and handling

In the interest of ride, handling, and overall dynamics, e-4orce can actuate each of the four wheel’s brakes individually while running each of the two motors individually in its propulsion or regenerative braking mode. 

As Nissan points out, e-4orce is a direct descendant of the GT-R supercar’s ATTESA all-wheel-drive system, as well as prior traction-oriented AWD systems. But if Nissan GT-R-style four-wheel drifts are on the menu—or even balancing corner attitude on the throttle, or throwing your passengers around with g-forces—you’ll be sorely disappointed. Then again, why would you be expecting to get the tail out in a rather tall crossover? 

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

Nissan has instead dialed into the system the personality that makes sense for the Ariya, which essentially makes it feel like an unbelievably well-coordinated front-wheel-drive vehicle. And here, the way Nissan has harnessed all those vehicle-dynamics smarts goes to something better: It makes you feel like a better driver, and it will make everyone in the vehicle happier. 

What this also means is that Nissan has been able to tune the Ariya e-4orce softer than rival dual-motor electric SUVs. That’s a big selling point. This is among the most buttoned-down crossovers that can accelerate to 60 mph in less than five seconds, and it does so without complex air suspensions or adjustable dampers. It’s just working the motors and brakes from time to time to prevent any uncouth body motions. 

Dynamically, Nissan has made it hard to fluster the e-4orce system. Try to trip it up by tucking in the front wheels even tighter and the rear inside tire tugs as hard as it can for traction while it scrubs just a little bit of speed away. Again, it makes you look like a better driver.  

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

In an exercise at Sonoma Raceway, replicating a quick lane change and corner with an increasingly tighter radius (like the above, but dry), I could feel e-4orce at work from the driver’s seat. Yet while I stood back and observed other drivers doing the same, I saw much body lean from the outside.  As a testament to the system, it isn’t something you feel from inside the vehicle.

Ariya e-4orce range and charging

The Ariya e-4orce has Normal, Eco, Sport, and Snow modes, and the Sport setting adds a supplemented propulsion sound and makes the accelerator a little touchier and the steering a little firmer, while Eco softens your inputs to the accelerator. But unlike some other AWD EVs it doesn’t change the torque distribution between the front and rear motors. Most of the time, the e-4orce system hovers around a 50/50 distribution, according to Nissan, making small adjustments to vary the torque between the front and rear wheels. 

That doesn’t seem to be to the detriment of real-world range or efficiency. Over nearly 170 miles of spirited driving on backroads and freeways, switching off between modes and styles, the Ariya e-4orce averaged 3.3 mi/kwh according to the trip computer—enough to easily beat the 267-mile range rating that came with this top-of-the-line Ariya e-4orce Platinum+, equipped with the larger 91-kwh battery pack (87 kwh usable). 

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

Platinum+ models—including the one I tested—offer available 20-inch wheels, which are factored into that lower range rating. But that and the lack of a brittle ride are further testaments to the effectiveness of the drive system and its tuning. 

Temperatures were mild, ranging from the mid 50s to low 60s Fahrenheit, but I had the climate control on for most of the day. The Ariya includes a battery warmer and heat pump to help minimize losses in the cold and speed up fast-charging. 

With the larger pack, Nissan says that the Ariya can DC fast-charge from 20-80% in 40 minutes. On a 240-volt AC connection, the Ariya’s 7.2-kw onboard charger boosts the battery from  0-100% in 14 hours. 

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

Ariya e-4orce comfort

The Ariya’s overall level of cabin quiet left me awestruck. On a sunny but still quite breezy day after a turbulent series of storms that left California wine country flooded and still recovering, dried mud and dusty grit covered many of the road surfaces, and I could feel the crosswinds from time to time through the steering wheel. But with an acoustic windshield and acoustic glass not only at the front windows but the rears too, the Ariya seals out wind noise as well as virtually all road noise. It’s an impressive level of quiet—perhaps aided by all the soft, textured surfaces inside. If Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand were to ever get a version of the Ariya, it’s hard to fathom where it could even improve in comfort and quiet. 

In seating and materials, the Ariya feels plush and well-equipped. Front seats have long cushions and good bolstering, and the back seats feel soft and adult-sized in a class where they can sometimes skimp. Top-notch details establish a certain texture and pattern to everything from the dash to the lighting; it’s all coordinated to keep satisfying on the finer points, yet at first look it’s refreshingly simple. 

The center console has power-sliding adjustments in most models, with a built-in tray table as well. Second-row passengers get full climate control vents. 

Ariya e-4orce pricing and tech

Upper trims of the Ariya include a head-up display, a panoramic roof, power tailgate, power front seats, heated front and rear (outboard) seats, and a wireless charging pad. 

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce

The Ariya e-4orce costs $4,000 more than in front-wheel-drive form. The version I drove was the top, e-4orce-only Platinum+ model that cost $61,485, including the $1,295 destination charge. 

With the smaller 66-kwh battery pack (63 kwh usable), the Ariya e-4orce starts at $44,485 in base front-wheel-drive Engage+ form and $48,485 with e-4orce. If you want e-4orce in combination with the larger pack, the entry point is the $52,485 Engage+ model. 

Among e-4orce models, the Platinum+ I drove is the only one to include ProPilot automated parking and ProPilot Assist 2.0, which now permits hands-free lane changes and allows you to cruise on limited-access highways while touching the steering wheel only periodically. From my initial testing, it keeps close tabs on your attention though, and it’s hesitant with those lane changes. We’ll bring more about this system when we’ve spent more time putting it through the paces. 

Altogether, the Ariya is a very different entry in the crowded electric crossover market—capable and quick, yet quiet and comfortable and seemingly without compromise. It warrants a much closer look, especially in e-4orce form. While its price and exterior might not lure you in, a drive is really all it might take to be charmed by what’s inside.


Nissan provided travel and accommodations and a route that took us to some very sustainable wine. 

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