On March 20th, I had the chance to participate in the all-new ARIYA e-4ORCE North American media ride & drive program and I can only wish all my Mondays were like this one! As one of Nissan Canada's Champion Employee Ambassadors, I flew to San Francisco, CA with a group of Canadian journalists from all over the country. The event was held in a beautiful hotel nested in the heart of the Sonoma valley. For someone born in France, spending some time in a viticultural area is always a pleasure.
The event started on Sunday evening with a dinner in a local restaurant. The journalists who were present are used to see each other during vehicle press launches around the world and it was the occasion to hear some of their most interesting and funny anecdotes.
On Monday, we started the day with a presentation of the vehicle. Various speakers from NCI and NNA (including Steve Milette, Chris Bolletta and Jill Young) introduced the all-new ARIYA e-4ORCE (e-4ORCE indicates that it is the AWD version), presented its strengths for the Canadian market and its key differentiating elements from the competition. Journalists also had the opportunity to ask some questions. Once the presentation was over, it was finally time to drive the vehicle! Journalists were paired and on my side, I had the chance to have Douâa Jazouli from the Corp Comm team as a co-driver!
The first leg of the trip consisted of 90 kilometers of highway and country roads and gave me the opportunity to enjoy one the three key strengths of the ARIYA: Technology. The vehicle is filled with technologies to assist, inform, connect and protect the occupants. It definitely is a car ready for tomorrow's world. The highway portion allowed me to try the ProPILOT 2.0 system, which is only available on US vehicles for the moment. It is the same ProPILOT system that we are familiar with, with the addition of the hands-off, eyes-on functionality. The system works only on mapped highways and, whenever it can be activated, a specific icon will light up on the instrument panel. From there, the only thing you have to do is cross your arms, relax and look at the road! The system is also capable of handling lane changes. Of course, when not on a mapped road, the regular ProPILOT system still works perfectly. I can't wait to see this technology available on Canadian vehicles!
We then arrived at the Sonoma Raceway, a perfect location to demonstrate the second key strength of the ARIYA: Performance. Nearly as much torque as a GT-R and up to 389 HP (on the e-4ORCE models only), the ARIYA is made for driving pleasure. As far as the revolutionary e-4ORCE system is concerned, it is capable of doing 10 times more calculations per second as compared with a conventional AWD system. Well, now was the time to enjoy the capabilities of the ARIYA! The activity on the track consisted of three exercises: a hard-acceleration/hard-braking section, a tight 3-turn slalom and a high speed cornering on a wet surface. I was amazed by the way the vehicle handled. I think I was the most impressed with the slalom section: it felt the only things I had to do were just floor the pedal, turn the wheel and look straight ahead, and the ARIYA played itself with the orange cones. The performance of the e-4ORCE system and the vehicle's grip in any situation will certainly be a big advantage for future lucky owners.
After these exciting moments on the track, we were all hungry! The next step of the trip was only a few kilometers away, at a wine producer's. Some journalists took advantage of the beautiful setting to make a video presentation of the vehicle or to ask Steve some questions. After the meal, another segment of about 70 kilometers led us to the beach of Bodega Bay. I was not disappointed to have forgotten my bathing suit as the Pacific water was rather cold but it was enjoyable to get this feeling of vacation days after these long winter months. And we also had the pleasure to taste some delicious California oysters!
Finally, we slowly made our way back to the hotel and it is time to talk about the third key strength of the ARIYA: Craftsmanship. On the outside, the vehicle looks sleek and modern and the build quality jumps out at you. The design is based on what Nissan calls "Timeless Japanese Futurism" and I am sure it will age very well. When equipped with some of the exclusive new colours like Northern Light Metallic or Sunrise Copper Pearl, it is unquestionably a showstopper. But the inside really is the masterpiece for me: you immediately get this feeling of "being in a coffee lounge", as described by Chris. The simplicity of the design and the spaciousness of the cabin are very relaxing, the integration of the technology is flawless and all the materials you touch are of the best quality: the premium feeling is undeniable. That's why the ARIYA is a car you're going to want to use for road trips, and it is capable of doing so: during the 230 kilometers we drove during the day, I never worried about the battery level and when we returned to the hotel, the autonomy was still above 50%.
The event concluded with a dinner at the hotel where everybody shared their impressions about the day. All the journalists I talked to were pretty impressed by the qualities of the ARIYA and I believe this was demonstrated in most of the papers that they published. Participating in this media ride & drive program was a bucket list moment and I want to thank the PR team, and specifically Douâa, for organizing it.