We're still getting to know the all-electric Nissan Ariya, but it appears engineers at the Japanese automaker are a few steps beyond the trim levels currently available. A fresh set of spy photos from the Nurburgring capture an Ariya turning laps, but it's not any version we've seen thus far. Tweaks to the body combined with sticky tires and a lower stance suggest this is an Ariya Nismo.
What specifically makes this Ariya different from others? Let's start at the front, where Nissan installs a different fascia. It's not radically different, but the vertical vents at the ends are a bit shorter. A single, horizontal body line crosses the bumper instead of sloping downward from the vents, giving the Ariya Nismo a chunkier face. Below that, a large lower vent is more aggressive in design, and there's a bit of a chin spoiler beneath it. Small winglets adorn the very edges of the lower fascia.
Moving rearward, side skirts give the appearance of a slightly lower ride height, though we think this prototype actually sits lower based on the visible wheel gap. Speaking of wheels, this Ariya foregoes an aerodynamic design for twin-spoke 20-inch five-stars, and the tires aren't designed for low rolling resistance.
They are Michelin Pilot Sports in 255/45 guise, not the most aggressive performance tires out there but certainly not standard spec for the Ariya. The brakes (at the front anyway) look a bit larger, and a small lip spoiler is mounted just below the glass. The rear fascia has sharper edges, too.
Gallery: Nissan Ariya Nismo Spy Photos
Such body modifications are consistent with what we often see on Nismo-tweaked models, such as the Z Nismo. If Nissan sticks to this formula, that likely means only a modest horsepower bump over the current Ariya in its most powerful form. That would be an e-Force AWD model in Engage+, Evolve+, or Platinum+ trim, generating a combined 389 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. Stepping over 400 hp for an Ariya Nismo seems like a safe assumption, though if Nissan wants to compete with the Kia EV6 GT and Hyundai Ioniq 5 N, something closer to 600 hp would be needed.
At this time, we don't have information on when the Ariya Nismo will debut. Considering this model is out and about without any camouflage, it wouldn't be a total surprise to see something by the end of 2023.