Anyone who says travel doesn't matter should try a bike like this. That 180mm of coil-sprung suspension sticks the tire to the ground and takes the kick out of all the imperfections that bit more than a 160mm bike, allowing you to look further down the trail and leave the brakes alone more of the time. I don't like to describe a bike as "fun" because that word means different things to everyone, but the extra traction and confidence this suppleness offers is very enjoyable in my book. And while bigger wheels do help with smoothing-out and carrying speed over rough terrain, the suppleness of the Ariel's suspension more than makes up for its smaller wheels when compared to most 160mm-travel 29ers.
Don't think it's a soft sofa when pushed either. The coil spring combined with the leverage curve offers plenty to push against in the middle of the travel. This made me wonder if the 500lb/in spring was a little too firm at first, as it feels pretty stiff just after sag, but once up to speed the support was appreciated, and while I never had any harsh bottom-outs, I used all the travel on bigger landings. Meanwhile the shock's linear rebound tune is very active and tracks the ground well over high-frequency chatter when wide open, yet returns in a reassuringly controlled manner when landing hard from deep in the travel. I do like my rebound a little faster than most, but I found it worked best within a click or two of fully open despite running a stiff spring. More than a handful of clicks slower and it started to bog down and become harsh on high-frequency braking bumps. Like most bikes, the Ariel gets the same damper tune for all sizes, so very light riders may struggle to get it fast enough to extract as much suppleness as I did.
The air-sprung RockShox Zeb fork can't match the back-end's composure - it uses up the middle third of its travel a little too eagerly before ramping up rather abruptly before the end. It's no bad fork, but you have to over-inflate it slightly and put up with not accessing the end part of the travel to match the mid-travel support from the rear end. The basic Zeb R fork lacks compression adjustment, so you can't add compression damping to try and prop it up. The Fox 38 (fitted to the Pro model) would be a better match as it offers more mid-travel support. Nevertheless, the Zeb is super comfortable and sucks up big holes and rocks brilliantly, so the overall suspension package is still very supple and traction-rich.
If you haven't had the pleasure of riding a downhill bike made in the last few years, there's a good chance this will descend better than whatever dual-crown bike you rode last. The 510mm reach and 63.5-degree head angle make for a roomy front-center (865mm), while the short offset fork - compared to a DH bike - makes for slightly calmer steering in pinball situations. That means you can really lean on the bars and rip into turns with no fear of the bike tripping up or twitching. The biggest difference compared to those older downhill bikes is there's just more room in the cockpit thanks to the longer reach, so you have more choice of where to put your weight.
The short rear-center (438mm) and 27.5" front wheel occasionally makes the steering light and nervous compared to 29ers with longer chainstays. This took some getting used to, and had me sliding or steering off course a couple of times in flat, fast turns. The flip side is that it's very easy to loft the front wheel at a moment's notice, but personally I'd rather have a longer rear-center for more front-end grip.
One often-overlooked aspect of 27.5" front wheels is that it often results in a lower bar height. Despite a lofty 40mm of spacers under the stem and a 35mm-rise bar, the bar height on my XL was 109cm, whereas with a 29er/mullet with this much reach and travel I'd usually run about 111cm (with longer reach or a higher BB, you need a higher bar height). That difference is enough that I had to work a little harder to properly push the front end into holes or chutes, bending more at the hips so I could maintain enough bend in my elbows to extend and push when needed. Bigger wheels usually result in a higher front end and this goes a long way to explaining the feeling of being "inside the bike", which is often associated with a 29er. The bar height on the Ariel will be high enough for the vast majority of riders, but for me it's a touch lower than ideal and this does affect the ride in steep terrain. And while the supple suspension makes up for the 27.5" wheels in comfort and traction terms, a smaller front wheel is more prone to stall when you stray off-line into a big hole.
Another tall person problem I had is the 150mm-travel dropper post, which delivers just 144mm of travel according to my tape measure. For me, this just isn't enough for a bike of this category, as it limits the range of motion when pumping through whoops or pushing the bike into steep chutes. I soon started dropping the post manually another 50mm or so before dropping in. Again, for many riders this won't be an issue, but a 170mm post at least would be a big improvement.