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Nissan vows to hop back on EV podium with Ariya

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TOKYO — Nissan’s next electric vehicle, the long-awaited Ariya crossover, is a technological powerhouse with performance chops and a 379-mile range that the Japanese carmaker hopes will rekindle its reputation as a leader in battery-powered vehicles.

In showing the production version of its Tesla fighter in an unveiling online Wednesday, Nissan Motor Co. promises an EV that beats the brand’s all-electric Leaf hatchback in almost every way.

The Ariya will be longer, wider and taller, while packing more power and a longer driving range. Lower grade models will target eco-friendly, tech-savvy customers, while high-end variants go for gusto.

“For Nissan, the Ariya is not just another new model. It is a model that opens a new chapter in the history of Nissan,” CEO Makoto Uchida said at an online launch on Wednesday. “The Ariya itself represents the future Nissan envisions.”

To herald the new nameplate, Nissan also unveiled a new logo. The refreshed brand emblem is a more two-dimensional, minimalistic reimagining of today’s stylized sun badge. Nissan said the new logo will be used on all upcoming vehicles as they are introduced or refreshed.

The Ariya will go on sale in Japan in mid-2021 and land in North America, Europe and China by the end of next year. U.S. pricing has not been revealed. But in Japan, pricing will start at around 5 million yen ($46,770). High-performance grades are expected to push the price band up by at least another $10,000.

Chief Vehicle Engineer Hikaru Nakajima said the Ariya’s sales launch is not behind schedule despite earlier speculation it would hit showrooms as early as this year.

Nakajima said his team, which has been working on the vehicle for five years, benchmarked the Tesla Model Y crossover, though the goal wasn’t to compete with it on all fronts. Among the Ariya’s advantages, Nakajima said, is much more cabin space than the Model Y.

The Ariya will be offered in two-wheel and all-wheel drive layouts and have two battery options.

According to the crossover’s Japan-market specifications, the smaller 65-kWh battery version will achieve a range of about 280 miles in the two-wheel layout and about 267 miles in the all-wheel configuration. The Ariya’s larger 90-kWh powerpack will deliver about 379 miles in the 2wd variant and 360 miles in the awd offering.

Powertrain output will range from 160 kilowatts for the two-wheel 65-kWh battery version, to 290 kilowatts for the all-wheel drive Ariya with the bigger 90-kWh battery.

The Ariya is using one battery supplier for all variants, but Nakajima declined to identify the company or say whether the batteries are made in Japan or imported.

The Ariya’s electric motors are made in-house by Nissan.

Torque on the big-battery, awd model will hit 600 Nm (443 lb-ft), close to the Nissan GT-R sports car’s 467 lb-ft. The top-shelf Ariya will do 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds, topping out at 124 mph. It uses Nissan’s new e-4ORCE powertrain. The setup has two motors — one on the front axle, one on the rear — to deliver high torque, stability and precise handling.

Nissan said e-4ORCE provides “sports car-level power delivered in the blink of an eye.”

The Leaf Plus, by contrast, has a 62-kWh battery, with 250 lb-ft of torque and a 226-mile range.

But the real competition for the five-seat Ariya will be other electric crossovers, foremost among them Tesla’s Model X and smaller Model Y. The long-range Tesla Model X has a range of 351 miles, while the long-range Model Y can cover 316 miles on a full charge.

Nissan’s first EV in the important crossover segment, the Ariya is critical to the company’s bid to reboot the brand’s ho-hum image. The Ariya is the lead vehicle in what Nissan says will be 12 new models over the next 18 months designed to replace an aging product portfolio. The Ariya will also underpin Nissan’s push to sell more than 1 million electrified vehicles a year by March 31, 2024.

Aside from its new all-electric powertrain, the Ariya will get Nissan’s latest ProPilot 2.0 hands-off automated driving system. ProPilot 2.0, introduced last year in Japan, allows no-hands auto-navigating highway driving from on-ramp to off-ramp. Nissan hasn’t detailed plans for deploying the 2.0 version in other markets. But Nakajima said the U.S. version is expected to debut with the technology.

Nissan previously announced plans to introduce ProPilot systems in more than 20 models in 20 markets worldwide as part of a new four-year midterm business plan.

The Ariya also will get Nissan’s ProPilot Remote Park, auto-parking system, and the company’s e-Pedal feature, which combines accelerator and brake functions into one pedal, like in a go-cart.

A new interface technology will enable people to use natural speech to adjust the Ariya’s vehicle settings, and the crossover’s software system will be upgraded through over-the-air updates.

The Ariya also ushers in a new design language, inside and out.

The all-electric architecture allows for a flat floor and “lounge-like interior” equipped with “zero gravity” seats that are lower and comfier, for a more planted feel.

Nissan said the Ariya will have the most spacious cabin in its class. That is partly due to wide open areas along the floor. Engineers cleared away the center tunnel from the front seat by pushing the air conditioning and heating unit into the front motor compartment. The front row now has a roomy, walk-through feel.

The instrument cluster uses two 12.3-inch screens, arranged in an undulating S-shape.

The clean, technical exterior, meanwhile, embodies fresh styling that Nissan calls “Timeless Japanese Futurism.” The design stays remarkably true to the Ariya Concept that debuted at last autumn’s Tokyo Motor Show.

The Japan version gets two charging ports, one on each side of the vehicle. One is for quick charging, the other for normal charging. Overseas models may get only one port.

A newly adopted copper paint option will be the Ariya’s signature color.

Nissan will build the Ariya at its Tochigi plant north of Tokyo for the Japanese, U.S. and European markets. The vehicle will also be assembled locally in China for Chinese market. Nakajima predicted that China will be the Ariya’s biggest market, followed by the U.S. and Europe.

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