Nissan’s Ariya concept gives us a glimpse at its EV SUV

By topgear, 28 October 2019

Nissan used its home motor show to unveil a radical 1,200bhp twin-turbo SUV. Psych! Course it didn’t. It followed the current trend for family-friendly electrified vehicles, showcasing a new EV SUV concept – one full of tech and slathered in a new, curvier design language.

It’s called the Ariya, a twin-motor X-Trail-sized concept that follows on from the IMx and IMq Intelligent Mobility concepts. Just as a reminder, IM is the umbrella title Nissan gives its future-thinking self-driving and electric propulsion ideas. The Ariya drops that nomenclature to make a point that it’s more production viable. 

Saying that, Nissan has given less info away about the drivetrain than those previous concepts. What we do know is that the electric powertrain will be a “high-performance, 100 per cent electric drive system” using dual motors, one on each axle to deliver all-wheel drive and power “equal or better than many premium sports cars”. Ah, the usual EV party trick then.

The previous IM concepts featured a high-capacity battery stored in the floor plus a pair of chunky high-output electric motors good for 320kW of leccy power and 700Nm of torque at all four wheels.

In old money, that’s 430bhp and more torque than a Nismo GT-R, all in a high-riding SUV. So expect similar. But Kunio Nakaguro, Executive VP and Global R&D boss, told us that this drivetrain secrecy is because a potential technological breakthrough could be on the horizon. Plus, this being a bigger car, it affords more space for a bigger, long-range battery.

But where the previous concepts were odd-looking things with harsh lines and bloated faces, the Ariya is softer. The sharp, defining bonnet lines and cut glass side panels are gone, giving way to more production-like surfacing that you could easily see being graphed onto the next X-Trail, Qashqai and more.

There are plenty of design signatures too. Take that bold backlit V-shaped “shield” at the front. That replaces the traditional grille and will be seen on all of Nissan’s future electric cars. On the Ariya, it hides a load of sensors, sonar and Lidar for autonomous driving.

See, the Ariya comes with Nissan’s latest self-driving software: ProPilot 2.0. It’s a Tesla Autopilot rival that allows for single-lane hands-free driving. It also works with the sat-nav, so that when a destination is plumbed in, the car can drive, change lanes and navigate exits on your route.

And thanks to onboard monitoring cameras, you don’t need to put your hands on the wheel every 15 seconds (so the car still knows you’re alive) meaning you can chow down on that packet of crisps happily. 

Being 4.6m long and 1.92m wide (so a tad shorter but a fair bit wider than the current X-Trail) it’s a hefty lump. But with that swooping fastback-esque C-pillar, the roofline is a good 100mm lower than that SUV – not exactly ideal for rear space. But up front there’s loads of room, primarily because there’s not all the internal combustion gubbins to get in the way.

Like many autonomous EV concepts, the cabin is meant to be a zenful place of space. So there’s a minimalist, uncluttered dashboard, haptic touch controls and a large 12.3-inch display.

As you can see, copper is used inside and out to highlight details; the roofline, short overhangs, face and large 21-inch wheels. It’s also got an incredibly fashionable full-width light bar, because no EV can be seen without one. But, on the whole, is the design a bit safe?

STORY Rowan Horncastle

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