We’ve never been too enthusiastic about four-wheel drive for four-wheel drive’s sake. In our opinion, most vehicles are simply better off driving just two wheels, especially the rear – 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 much more powerful and much faster 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 with its acceleration performance. The regular Ariya’s single electric motor drives the front wheels and produces 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 boosts total horsepower to 335 ponies in base Engage guise and to 389 horsepower in the Engage+, Evolve+ and Platinum+ trims.
With two cars on board, the Ariya is much more agile. We estimate that the higher-powered 389-hp models will hit 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds. It’s not Ford Mustang Mach-E GT levels of performance, but it’s a big improvement and one that makes stoplight launches and freeway-passing maneuvers more satisfying.
However, adding more power doesn’t improve the Ariya’s handling, as the four-wheel-drive model is just as dull as the front-wheel-drive one. Quiet comfort best describes the Ariya’s attitude, which means that for Nissan lovers coming from a Murano and looking to go electric, the transition will be seamless.
There’s a Sport drive mode, but apart from conjuring up an artificial hum and subtly sharpening the acceleration response, it does little to improve the EV crossover’s road manners. The Ariya’s four-wheel drive system will sometimes apply braking to the inside wheels during turns to combat understeer, but it is more useful to stay in better control on low-friction surfaces than to hunt apexes. Unseasonably heavy rainfall in Northern California’s Sonoma County provided plenty of wet corners to test the system, and it works reassuringly well to maintain stability.
Some dual-motor four-wheel-drive electrics—such as the Volkswagen ID.4 and early versions of the Tesla Model Y—offer more driving range than their two-wheel-drive counterparts due to careful calibration to use only a single motor during the EPA’s test cycles. But not here. Nissan offers the same two battery packs in the e-4ORCE as 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 range of just 205 miles per charge. The three more expensive trims—Engage+, Evolve+, and Platinum+—all have a larger battery pack of 87.0 kWh. The driving range estimate for the Engage+ and Evolve+ trims is much more competitive at 272 miles, while the Platinum+ carries a 267 estimate.
The Ariya’s inspired interior design is its biggest advantage over competing EV crossovers. Patterned panels on the doors and bulkhead under the dashboard are illuminated with ambient lighting and look quite elegant, while thoughtful touches like a built-in smartphone charging cord organizer are designed to reduce clutter. The cabin is spacious in both the front and rear seats, and a modern dashboard features a pair of curved 12.3-inch digital screens. A wood trim that runs across the dashboard 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 press.
All models are well-equipped, but the loaded Platinum+ we sampled at $62,770 pushes the envelope into the luxury category, both in terms of price and features. That price tag gets you goodies like 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 space—overall trunk space is identical to the FWD model, but the underfloor storage bin has been sacrificed.
As with four-wheel-drive variants of internal combustion vehicles, four-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 to carefully consider your own needs. The slight sacrifice in range and the big improvement in acceleration that the Ariya e-4ORCE offers over the standard model seems like a decent compromise to us.
2023 Nissan Ariya e-4ORCE
Vehicle type: front and rear motor, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Engaged, $48,525; Engage+, $52,525; Evolve+, $55,525; Platinum+, $61,525
Front motor: upstream synchronous AC
Rear motor: upstream 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
On-board charger: 7.2 kW
Peak DC fast charging rate: 130 kW
Transmissions, F/H: direct drive
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 182.9 inches
Width: 74.8 inches
Height: 65.4–65.7 inches
Passenger volume, L/H: 53–55/44–46 ft3
Cargo Volume, Rear F/R: 60/23 ft3
Combat weight (C/D east): 4750–5650 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (C/D EAST)
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 miles
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 advisor to car salesman. He dreamed of a Car and Driver editor since he was 11 years old—a dream realized when he joined the staff in April 2016. A born and raised Michigander, he 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.