To most of us, it’s a crossover or a compact SUV, albeit one with a potentially transformative powertrain. To Nissan, it’s a key expansion of its footprint in the emerging North American market for electric vehicles. When it’s introduced later this year as a late 2021 model, the Nissan Ariya will join the Leaf sedan in its portfolio of plug-in, fully electric vehicles. With a claimed range of 300 miles that surpasses how far the Leaf can currently travel on a single charge, the Ariya is positioned to do battle in the showrooms with the likes of the Hyundai Kona, the Tesla Model Y and likely, the forthcoming Subaru/Toyota Solterra that’s now in the pipeline and that we discussed earlier.
What’s Zen got to do with it? If you only know the word by its sound, Zen is a school, and a lifestyle of Buddhism that embraces intellectual and emotional absorption, or meditation, for the purposes of personal expansion and the acquisition of wisdom. To those not school in Eastern contemplation, it’s somewhat esoteric, the practice from which the “Zen and the Art of …” books originate. Some people’s only connection to it is listening to “Bodhisattva” by Steely Dan. Zen has a deep reach into the arts, and by extension, into some disciplines of industrial design. In the case of the Ariya, Zen manifests itself in the selection of interior materials for tactile and visual harmony, not just simple utility. One such example is the placement of concealed, haptic pushbuttons for the climate control system elegantly behind a wood-themed inlay running the width of the dashboard. Besides soothing aesthetics, the Ariya will incorporate ProPilot 2.0, Nissan’s autonomous driving suite, and will offer front- or all-wheel drive.