Nissan's has been leading the battery-electric charge since the first , and with the way the new-car market has been trending globally, it's kind of amazing that the company hasn't stuck all those cells in a crossover SUV yet. Judging by the new Ariya Concept unveiled Wednesday at the Tokyo Motor Show, that day is almost upon us.
This handsome crossover shows off an evolution of Nissan's design language that the company calls "Timeless Japanese Futurism." Despite looking like it's about the size of the current Nissan Murano in pictures, with an overall length of 181 inches, the Ariya Concept is actually slightly shorter than today's Rogue. If any of it looks familiar, you may be thinking of the , a show car whose avant-garde design led directly to the vehicle seen here. The fact that the Ariya doesn't have a name that's a three-letter sequence is noteworthy: Nissan's IM nomenclature denotes future-thinking concepts -- when a concept gets an actual name, it signifies that it's closer to production.
Other telltales that this vehicle is production-bound are realistically sized wheels (21 inches) and side mirrors, plus a greenhouse profile that's actually sized to accommodate normal human beings.
Despite the absence of a traditional grille (the plastic shield deftly hides a number of driver-assist sensors), there's plenty of surface interest to hold the eye, including matte copper accents on the wheels and most noticeably, outlining the roof shape. Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan's senior vice president for global design, assures Roadshow that this isn't just a show-car flourish. As a wry nod to the importance of copper as a major material in EVs (as seen in wiring, motors, batteries and inverters), it will show up on production cars.
At least for the moment, Nissan is disclosing frustratingly little in the way of specs, but officials confirm to Roadshow that when a production version hits the market, their new EV-specific platform will allow for different battery capacities and both single and dual-motor versions.
Naturally, the Ariya features ProPilot 2.0, the next-generation suite of advanced driver assist features that just became available on the Japanese-market Nissan Skyline. (Be sure to check out our man Tim Stevens'.)
Nissan says that learnings from the GT-R sports car's Atessa e-TS torque-split system have been applied to the Ariya's two-motor, all-wheel drive system to yield impressive performance, but without getting powertrain specs and getting behind the wheels for ourselves, we won't know for sure just where to place this car in our minds.
In a nod to the movement to offer alternative upholstery materials other than cloth or leather, the Ariya's cabin features synthetic leathers that play against satin-finish copper-colored aluminum trim accents.
The centerpiece of the SUV's cabin is a new 12.3-inch widescreen display, which is acted upon with a multifunction control knob and haptic touch controls. It's one of two different super-widescreen displays that form the heart of this interior. When the vehicle isn't on, the interior is starkly minimalist, but touch the starter button and not only do displays come to life with hidden switchgear, the woodgrain does, too.
While it's particularly common for concept cars at the Tokyo Motor Show to claim pie-in-the-sky technology, as telegraphed by the looks, the Ariya isn't a look at some distant future. The same is true for the car's underlying technology -- it seems very doable right now, including bits like a novel video chat functionality and Tesla-like Firmware Over The Air update. Even car-to-grid technology, where the vehicle can actually sell energy back to utility companies (or be used to keep the lights on at an owners' residence when the power gets knocked out) is starting to become doable in select markets around the globe.
With the Nissan Leaf having been on sale since 2010, you may be wondering what's been taking so long for the company to offer a production crossover. Today's second-generation Leaf rides atop a platform that's still very similar to the original car, and substantial investments and time were needed to develop a new scalable EV architecture including wiring and safety systems in order to make the most of the opportunity.
This new Ariya seems to be the embodiment of all that work. We should see it -- or something very close to it -- in Nissan showrooms soon.