It appears Nissan is planning to offer a sportier version of its electric Ariya SUV wearing the Nismo badge.
A spy photographer has captured a prototype of the performance variant powering up at a Tesla Supercharger near the Nurburgring in Germany.
The front fascia has been modified to include deeper air intakes sitting below the headlights, and there’s a sportier bumper with a lower lip.
The rear has also received a makeover with a small spoiler at the bottom of the window and a more aggressive bumper.
While the spy photos don’t give us a glimpse at the interior, previous Nismo models like the Z Nismo have received enhancements like unique trim and grippier seats.
The spied prototype looks to be almost production-ready, suggesting we could have an official reveal on the cards for next year.
Currently, the most powerful Ariya features a dual-motor e-4ORCE all-wheel drive powertrain with 290kW of power and 600Nm of torque, with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds.
It’s equipped with a 90kWh battery.
If the Ariya Nismo is to be considered a rival to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N in the performance electric SUV segment then Nissan will have to find considerable performance to match the 5 N’s 3.4 second 0-100km/h sprint.
Nissan has previously confirmed it plans to introduce more Nismo-branded EVs, which would receive changes to their suspension and powertrain.
It already has the Japanese-market Leaf Nismo, which features a different steering tune, sportier suspension, revised traction control, as well as a different ECU tune and the requisite interior and exterior tweaks to give it a more aggressive look.
The Nissan Ariya started rolling out across international markets almost a year ago, but the Japanese brand still hasn’t given a firm launch date for Australia.
However, speaking to CarExpert last year, Nissan Australia’s managing director, Adam Paterson, basically said the Ariya is more of a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ proposition for our market.
“Timing itself is difficult for a couple of reasons; first we know the Ariya will do very well in the Australian market when it does arrive and when we can get it here,” Mr Paterson said.
It’s unclear whether any Nismo-badged Ariya would be offered here.
There is certainly interest from Australian customers in the Nismo arm, with the first allocation of the high-performance Z Nismo sports car selling out in less than an hour.
Nismo branding has been used on more than just sports cars before. There’s a Patrol Nismo in the Middle East and Nismo versions of the Leaf and Note hatchbacks and Skyline sedan in Japan, while Nissan has previously applied the name to enhanced versions of models like the Juke and Micra.
In October, Nissan opened the door to a potential Nismo Navara.
Ivan Espinosa, Nissan’s senior vice president of global product strategy and product planning, said the focus on this product would be all about high speed, Baja style – similar to what Ford has done with its Ranger Raptor.