We’ve never been all too enthusiastic about all-wheel drive for all-wheel drive’s sake. In our opinion, most vehicles are simply better off just driving two wheels, especially the rears—at least, that was the case before the proliferation of EVs. Since then, we’ve found ourselves more impressed by the EV models with dual motors driving both axles. Why? Because they are often a lot more powerful and far quicker than their two-wheel-drive counterparts. One such example is this 2023 Ariya e-4ORCE, which is Nissan’s funny new nomenclature for its all-wheel-drive electric powertrain.
When we tested the front-wheel-drive Ariya, we were disappointed by its acceleration performance. The regular Ariya’s single electric motor drives the front wheels and makes 238 horsepower, but at 7.5 seconds to 60 mph, that model lacks the satisfying zip we enjoy in other EVs. That changes with the addition of the all-wheel-drive model, which adds a second electric motor that drives the rear wheels and increases the total horsepower to 335 ponies in base Engage guise and to 389 horsepower in the Engage+, Evolve+, and Platinum+ trims.
With two motors on board, the Ariya is far fleeter. We estimate that the higher-powered 389-hp models will hit 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds. That’s not Ford Mustang Mach-E GT levels of performance, but it’s a big improvement and one that makes stop-light launches and highway passing maneuvers more satisfying.
Adding more power doesn’t, however, improve the Ariya’s handling, as the all-wheel-drive model is just as bland as the front-wheel-drive one. Quiet comfort best describes the Ariya’s demeanor, which means that for Nissan devotees coming out of a Murano and looking to go electric, the transition will be seamless.
There is a Sport driving mode, but other than conjuring up an artificial whirring sound and minutely sharpening throttle response, it does little to enhance the EV crossover’s road manners. The Ariya’s all-wheel-drive system will sometimes apply braking to the inside wheels during cornering to combat understeer, but it’s more useful for staying in better control on low-friction surfaces than for hunting apexes. Unseasonably heavy rainfall in Northern California’s Sonoma County provided plenty of wet corners on which to test the system, and it does work reassuringly well at maintaining stability.
Some dual-motor all-wheel-drive electrics—such as early versions of the Tesla Model Y—offer more driving range than their two-wheel-drive analogs due to careful calibration to only use a single motor during the EPA’s test cycles. But not here. Nissan offers the same two battery packs in the e-4ORCE as it does in the standard model, and the range for both is slightly lower with all-wheel drive.
The entry-level Engage trim gets a 63.0-kWh battery with an estimated driving range of just 205 miles per charge. The three more expensive trims—Engage+, Evolve+, and Platinum+—all come with a larger 87.0-kWh battery pack. The driving range estimate for the Engage+ and Evolve+ trims is far more competitive at 272 miles, while the Platinum+ carries an estimate of 267.
The Ariya’s inspired interior design is its main advantage over rival EV crossovers. Patterned panels on the doors and bulkhead beneath the dash are backlit with ambient lighting and look quite elegant, while thoughtful touches such as a built-in smartphone charging-cord organizer are designed to reduce clutter. The cabin is spacious in both the front and the rear seats, and a modern-looking dashboard features a pair of curved 12.3-inch digital displays. A wood-trim piece that runs across the dash is also backlit and houses the SUV’s climate controls, which operate with just a light tap, but the controls for other functions located on the center console require a harder push.
All models are well equipped, but the loaded Platinum+ we sampled at $62,770 pushes the boundary into the luxury category, both in terms of price and features. That price tag gets you niceties such as heated and ventilated rear seats, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, genuine leather upholstery, a self-parking feature, and navigation-enhanced adaptive cruise control. The addition of the rear motor has little impact on cargo room—overall luggage space is identical to the FWD model, but the underfloor storage bin has been sacrificed.
As with all-wheel-drive variants of internal-combustion vehicles, all-wheel-drive EVs come with benefits as well as compromises, so one thing that hasn’t changed in this transition from gas to electric is carefully considering your own needs. The minor sacrifice in range and the major improvement in acceleration that the Ariya e-4ORCE offers over the standard model seems like a decent tradeoff to us.
2023 Nissan Ariya e-4ORCE
Vehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Engage, $48,525; Engage+, $52,525; Evolve+, $55,525; Platinum+, $61,525
Front Motor: current-excited synchronous AC
Rear Motor: current-excited synchronous AC
Combined Power: 335 or 389 hp
Combined Torque: 413 or 442 lb-ft
Battery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 63.0 or 87.0 kWh
Onboard Charger: 7.2 kW
Peak DC Fast-Charge Rate: 130 kW
Transmissions, F/R: direct-drive
Wheelbase: 109.3 in
Length: 182.9 in
Width: 74.8 in
Height: 65.4–65.7 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 53–55/44–46 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/R: 60/23 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 4750–5650 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 5.0–5.9 sec
1/4-Mile: 13.7–14.5 sec
Top Speed: 103 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 90–95/93–101/86–89 MPGe
Range: 205–272 mi
Managing Editor, Buyer’s Guide
Drew Dorian is a lifelong car enthusiast who has also held a wide variety of consumer-focused positions throughout his career, ranging from financial counselor to auto salesperson. He has dreamed of becoming a Car and Driver editor since he was 11 years old—a dream that was realized when he joined the staff in April 2016. He’s a born-and-raised Michigander and learned to drive on a 1988 Pontiac Grand Am. His automotive interests run the gamut from convertibles and camper vans to sports cars and luxury SUVs.