A grey 2021 Nissan Kicks is driving on a highway past a city.

Nissan Shows Buyers What’s Next for the Brand

Nissan lovers will have a lot to celebrate in the coming months as the brand rolls out its Nissan NEXT lineup of vehicles. Over the course of 20 months, Nissan has promised to release 10 new models throughout 2021 and 2022. Reveals of three exceptionally exciting vehicles—the all-electric Ariya, the new Z Proto, and the recent GT-R Nismo—show some promising developments of what is to come, but those vehicles haven’t reached the US market yet. New models already available in the US include the 2021 Armada and 2021 Kicks, with several more vehicles preparing for release over the summer and fall. All of these options are certain to draw buyers to their local Nissan dealer to test drive the new technology and designs.

A focus of Nissan’s NEXT leans toward “intuitive” technology that “seamlessly” blends with modern life. Part of the Intelligent Mobility program Nissan incorporates into its vehicles with driver-assist features and connectivity that is meant to blend driving with technology in a way that both simplifies engagement and makes it fun. While we wait for the release of summer vehicles, a look at the features and designs of the new Ariya and Z Proto – what Nissan is calling the “A to Z” of its NEXT program – may help fill the void until they actually arrive. What we know so far is that the Ariya is wrapping up the final stages of testing, and it’s expected to hit the US market in late 2021 as a 2022 model. As for the Z Proto, only rumors are floating around the water cooler, but the hope is that November will be the month Nissan starts taking orders.

A blue 2022 Nissan Kicks is shown from the side driving through a city.

The Nissan Ariya

One thing Nissan is keen to do as a brand is to tap into what people really want to drive. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how popular SUVs are, especially in the US, so it stands to reason that Nissan would choose an SUV for its next big EV reveal. As we move out of the age dominated by compact hybrids like the Prius, EVs are opening up the potential for serious power and capability. While GM unveils its Ultium platform, starting with the new 2022 Hummer EV, and Ford breaks out of the stable with the new 2022 Mustang Mach-E, Nissan has quietly been leading the pack ever since the launch of the popular Nissan LEAF back in 2010.

A decade later, the new Ariya promises to be uncompromising in its capability and comfort as a fully electric SUV featuring a new platform that will give passengers a large interior space while maintaining a smaller footprint. The new powertrain built for the Ariya is expected to be the inspiration for the future EVs Nissan plans to build, “setting the tone” for the second generation of EVs, according to CEO Makoto Uchida. This fresh design is expected to deliver “more autonomy, more electrification, more connectivity… with a lounge-like interior brimming with advanced technology,” as stated during the Ariya reveal event in 2020.

Intelligent Mobility is key to making the Ariya an experience, not just a form of travel. From the new e4ORCE all-wheel drive with twin motors to the panoramic screen in the dash, the technology is what Nissan believes will set the Ariya apart from other brands. While that may be the brand aspiration, it’s worth noting that GM is proving itself in fresh tech territory with an almost game-like experience inside the 2021 Hummer, which utilizes the dash display, interior lighting, and premium stereo to create ambiance when you select driving modes. Ford offers similar experiences in the 2021 Mach-E. Nissan may not be going the route of outrageous animations but instead seems to be focused on making the tech intuitive to use.

For this second generation of EVs, Nissan has also developed a new battery that is thinner and flatter. In the Ariya, it is installed beneath the floor and provides stability and weight to the SUV so that it retains a good balance for performance on the road. Nissan states that the Ariya can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds, which is comparable to the Nissan 370Z sports car. Comparing again to GM and Ford, the Ultium battery packs are also thin, flat, and stackable, which makes them versatile for any vehicle size or shape. Ford’s Mach-E – another performance SUV – can go from zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds, which beats the Ariya by about 1.6 seconds if you convert kilometers to miles per hour. However, the new liquid-cooled battery system Nissan has developed may have an advantage in terms of longevity and performance by allowing the battery pack to maintain its optimal temperature.

Other aspects of the Ariya’s performance will include improved traction with the e4ORCE all-wheel drive, the option of semi-autonomous hands-free driving with ProPilot 2.0, and an e-pedal that starts, accelerates, and decelerates for simplified driving. Nissan says the Ariya’s battery should be able to charge up to 375 km of range in as little as thirty minutes with a 130 kW CHAdeMO rapid charger, which converts to about 233 miles. What may be more alluring to buyers than the engineering behind the scenes is the interior with its panoramic screen display, which incorporates both the driver’s instrument panel and the infotainment in one long line across the dash. This is complemented by innovative designs like the floating center console that slides forward and aft for flexible use of space.

This may not be an earth-shattering revolution in vehicles, but the Ariya does hold promise for making EVs more accessible with its intuitive technology and comfortable design. Nissan’s CEO Makoto Uchida says about the Ariya: “We want to define…a future beyond traffic jams and pollution, a future that takes us beyond mobility, where the car enriches your life and enriches society.” Bold words with an admirable sentiment.

A red 2021 Nissan Armada is parked on stones next to a river as a couple walks along the bank.

Nissan Z Proto

The Nissan Z (known as the Fairlady in Japan) has been around since 1969, when the original 240Z model of this iconic sports car hit the road. Since then, it has been redesigned through six generations, and the newest version promises to be a fresh revival that embraces a modern new look inspired by the 240Z and 300ZX designs. When introducing the next-generation Z in the digital reveal event, Nissan CEO Uchida shared his love for the Z, as it was his own first sports car. The Z was a pinnacle of what it meant to own an iconic sports car for Uchida, and having the opportunity to introduce the fresh design clearly brought him joy.

Some of the newer elements include scooped teardrop-shaped headlights, bar-shaped LED tail lights, sculpted sides, and shaping in the front fascia and hood line. The iconic shape of the roof and rear window remains, along with the long hood that stays true to the Z’s traditional sports car looks. A sleek new interior with bespoke color accents, bolstered sport seats, and a digital driver display makes this a drool-worthy car any enthusiast will want to drop into for a thrilling ride. Looking at this lovely machine, it’s easy to see Uchida’s description of the body being designed for “aerodynamics and body rigidity” which will easily translate to speed and agility on the road.

One common theme between the new Z and the Ariya is the intention to maintain a low center of gravity to ensure precision handling. With a twin-turbo V6 paired to a manual transmission, the new Z promises to be as engaging as past generations, yet delivering an even more powerfully tuned experience behind the wheel with modern tech at hand. Peering into the interior of the incredible new design reveals a cockpit that will fully engage the driver with the well-placed dials and displays meant to be glanced at while you drive so that you can keep your eyes on the road. From the low-slung prowl of the exterior to the dark cave of the driver-centered command center, the Z Proto is already receiving a lot of excited chatter from enthusiasts who can’t wait to get behind the wheel.

The Future Is Coming Soon

What’s NEXT for Nissan? The array of upcoming vehicles and concept cars that they have displayed so far reveals a manufacturer that is dedicated to pushing the limits and delivering a new generation of vehicles for the modern driver. From the cutting-edge Nissan Ariya electric SUV to the traditional sports car looks and performance of the Nissan Z Proto, it looks like this brand has all its bases covered as it moves into the future.