Electric cars

The 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce will do more AWD than traction: technical preview

The 2023 Nissan Ariya e-4orce will do more AWD than traction: technical preview

Our first time in the driver’s seat of the 2023 Nissan Ariya missed out on the star of the lineup: the company’s dual-motor all-wheel-drive system, complemented by a next-generation chassis system called the e-4orce.

Although e-4orce is technology for electric vehicles, it draws on the tuning expertise of the all-wheel-drive GT-R supercar. With electric vehicles and their faster-reacting propulsion components, e-4orce can modulate and coordinate a full response of the two electric motors and four individual wheel brakes in tens of milliseconds rather than hundreds of milliseconds.

The goal is not just to provide improved traction and stability, but to work the physics of all four wheels to help adjust the attitude of the vehicle to prevent lifting during hard acceleration, nose-down during deceleration and balance in turns.

Nissan Ariya 2023 – driving preview (EU spec)

As I observed during a closed-course preview of the Ariya earlier this week, this electric crossover isn’t clunky in front-wheel-drive form by any means, but it promises to be a whole lot more nimble in form. e-4orce.

Due in part to supply chain hurdles, e-4orce versions of the Ariya will arrive in late fall, versus early fall for front-wheel-drive versions. While Nissan didn’t have a production Ariya e-4orce model to drive, the company brought back a familiar e-Force face – a Leaf demonstrator installed with a version of the system that can be turned on and off.

Nissan Leaf e-4orce demonstrator - updated to represent 2023 Ariya e-4orce

Nissan Leaf e-4orce demonstrator – updated to represent 2023 Ariya e-4orce

This demonstrator is the same car we drove in January 2020although updated to represent the final form software used in the Ariya e-4orce.

Basically, in this Twin-engine “Super Leaf” the layout is very similar to what will be featured in the Ariya e-4orce, with two motors and open differentials at each axle.

I jumped into the driver’s seat with a tech to turn the system on and off, and freshened up on the idea.

Nissan e-4ORCE Electric All-Wheel Drive System

Nissan e-4ORCE Electric All-Wheel Drive System

Nissan first had me accelerate and decelerate to city speeds in the B setting, which provides more regenerative braking, to show that the system works subtly at the wheels – even redistributing brake regen – to help keeping the car level even when you are well short of pushing the limits of tire traction. I performed the exercise once with standard stability control, then with e-4orce, and found the car to be flatter with e-4orce, with the potential to use more regen without disturbing the passengers.

It’s not a subtle difference, like the creeping jet lag I felt during the mid-morning drive through Spain; it’s like day and night.

The next step was a series of curves. First was a tighter curve taken at around 25 mph, then an S-curve set at around 37 mph. The system intervenes in such subtle ways that you may not even realize what it is doing. However, the net result is that you can corner faster, without feeling like the cabin is rocking back and forth.

During my demo ride, a near downpour left a burst of shallow puddles all over the ride. As I pushed harder with the system engaged, I could feel not only the traction management at the wheels, but also the car’s weight balancing away from the front plowing wheels.

Nissan Leaf e-4orce demonstrator - updated to represent 2023 Ariya e-4orce

Nissan Leaf e-4orce demonstrator – updated to represent 2023 Ariya e-4orce

The net takeaway is that you can enjoy the Ariya’s dynamics – or a more aggressive brake regen setting – without a clumsier ride the rest of the time and without bothering your passengers.

It should also be noted that e-4orce operates without the power consumption or additional components of an air suspension or adjustable shock absorbers.

To help the physics behind the idea resonate, Nissan recently integrated a version of the system into a small, twin-motor server tray used in a ramen counter. It shows how the nuanced control of the two motors can quickly deliver bowls of noodles and broth to customers without sloshing or spilling.

Nissan Ariya 2023 - driving preview (EU spec)

Nissan Ariya 2023 – driving preview (EU spec)

However, this demo did not replace experience of the system in the Ariya. There are key differences between this demo car and what we’ll see in the Ariya in component details. While the Leaf demo adds a second EM57 permanent magnet motor (PSM) to the rear wheels – the Leaf’s original motor – and is entirely based on existing Leaf propulsion components, the Ariya will be powered by an externally excited synchronous motor. This design creates the field with an applied current instead of rare-earth-dependent magnets. As Nissan told us, that makes it more efficient at highway speeds, but not as punchy as the PSM units.

Nissan CMF-EV platform

Nissan CMF-EV platform

The Ariyas CMF-EV platform is also designed around a new communication bus that should make e-4orce’s reactions faster and smoother. Nissan installed an auxiliary processor to replicate the system’s responses, but we were told before that it wasn’t quite the same.

The Ariya also likely weighs around 500 pounds more in its 87kWh e-4orce Performance form than the Leaf demonstrator, which Nissan said added up to 200 pounds over a front-drive Leaf Plus, for a total approximately 4,200 lbs. For comparison, the top-end front-drive Ariya we drove, with the smaller 63 kWh battery, weighed around 4,300 lbs.

Bottom line: Nissan is doing some very interesting things with all-wheel drive and its two-motor system, and it’s actually building on technology originally designed for internal combustion. But nothing replaces a real-world demo in a real Ariya e-4orce. We hope to bring you some apple-to-apple impressions of the system in an Ariya before it arrives in late fall.