2023 10 Best Engines and Propulsion Systems

Dual Motors and Sport Mode Give Ariya Performance Cred

Compared to Nissan’s first BEV, a 2011 winner, the Ariya churns out 309 more horsepower in its top-of-the-line dual motor configuration.

Christie Schweinsberg, Senior Editor

October 5, 2023

3 Min Read

Thirteen years ago, we chose the propulsion system in the Nissan Leaf as our first-ever battery-electric winner of a (then) Wards 10 Best Engines award.

Debuting in 2010, the original Leaf represented the world’s first mass-market all-electric vehicle, with a single AC synchronous motor and an air-cooled, 24-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. With that propulsion system, the first-generation Leaf produced a humble 80 kW (107 hp) and boasted just a 73-mile (117-km) EPA-estimated range.

But BEVs, Nissan’s included, have come a long way.

This year, we bestow a Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems award to the propulsion system in Nissan’s new Ariya, a BEV spot-on for current times.

For 2023, the Ariya’s front and rear externally excited eight-pole AC synchronous motors land the CUV in our winner’s circle thanks to their potent power and torque. The motors are relatively unique in the BEV mass-market in that they’re driven by direct current instead of having a magnetic core, for reasons of improved efficiency and reduced noise and vibration, Nissan says.

While it may seem like just another grocery-getting crossover in Normal and Eco modes, popping the Ariya into Sport mode reveals a performance car in disguise. In fact, the Ariya we test nearly matches Nissan’s venerable Z sports car on horsepower and tops it on torque.



The always-on dual front and rear motors in our Platinum+ “e-4orce” all-wheel-drive test vehicle put out a collective 389 hp (290 kW) and a walloping 442 lb.-ft. (599 Nm) of torque, compared to the 400 hp and 350 lb.-ft. (475 Nm) churned out by the ’23 Z’s 3.0 twin turbocharged V-6. Even the performance-oriented Nismo version of the Z still only achieves 384 lb.-ft. (521 Nm).

In Sport mode, the Ariya is a revelation, catapulting this judge from 20 mph to 50 mph (32 km/h to 80 km/h) in the blink of an eye and exerting G-forces on my face akin to some of the most athletic vehicles we drove this year.

But the Ariya’s propulsion system isn’t only about a strong low-speed launch.

“Some BEVs can feel weak at 80 mph (129 km/h), but passing maneuvers in the Ariya are a breeze,” observes judge Drew Winter, who adds the Ariya has “great drivability for a family vehicle.”

The Ariya’s battery packs (plural) help it far exceed the range of the Leaf of yesteryear. The CUV has two liquid-cooled, lithium-ion packs for buyers to choose from, one with 63 kWh of usable capacity and the other 87 kWh.

While the more modest single-motor, 238-hp Venture+ grade with the 87-kWh packs nets a driver the best range, 304 miles (489 km), our Platinum+ e-4orce AWD tester wasn’t a slouch. It tops out at 267 miles (430 km) on paper, on par with many BEV CUV competitors and we were easily able to regen an extra mile here and there, without being too conscious of braking or coasting.

The 2023 winners will be honored during the Wards 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems award ceremony Oct. 18 on day two of AutoTech: Electrification at the Fort Pontchartrain Hotel in Detroit, MI. Learn more about the event and book your ticket by visiting https://bit.ly/3REayqc. All credentialed media are welcome and qualify for free admittance to both the awards ceremony and AutoTech: Electrification Oct. 17-18.



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