Nissan moved in the right direction with this redesign, but there’s still room to improve.
The Good: For 13 years, Nissan pumped out an Armada based on the original Titan pickup truck platform. As a vehicle, it registered a “meh.” Today, the new Armada is based on the Nissan Patrol, a worthy competitor to the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser sold outside North America. This new Armada features the same frame, transmission, engine, and chassis as the Patrol, which has long been used as a workhorse in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East. Read: It’s tough. It’s also priced almost $40,000 less than the Land Cruiser offered here in the United States.
The Bad: Despite the Patrol’s adventure DNA, Nissan prepped the Armada more for family-hauling duty. Despite the availability of 4WD-low gearing for serious hill climbing and terrain-crawling duty, the Armada lacks the Patrol’s descent control, a locking rear differential, and a surface selector that optimizes the suspension and gearing for sand, snow, or rock. For serious off-roaders in need of a V8 for towing (or those who want to turn the Armada into an overland/round-the-world vehicle), Nissan would rather have you cast your eyes at its new Titan, a full-size pickup spec’d out in its Pro off-road package.
The Verdict: On the hills and highways around Carmel, California, the Nissan Armada proved itself a smooth driver. On a closed, mini-golf-sized off-road course, the stiff frame performed admirably despite its three-ton heft. For the money and the list of standard features (three rows of seats for eight adults, 9.1 inches of ground clearance, 8,500-pound towing capability), the Armada is a good buy. Still, this Armada is positioned to go up against the Ford Expeditions and Chevy Tahoes of the world, not the Land Cruisers or Land Rovers. And that’s a shame.
- Price: $45,395 (base)
- Engine: 5.6-liter V8
- Drivetrain: 7-speed automatic; 4WD with 4WD-low
- Fuel Economy: 12 mpg city*; 18 mpg hwy (4x4); 17.1 mpg observed
Nissan’s 5.6-liter V8 is new for the company. It pumps out 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque—enough power to tow 8,500 pounds. To put that in Airstream terms, that’s enough for a 28-footer. The price of all that grunt and power is fuel economy in the meager 16 to 17 mpg range. Fortunately, the seven-speed transmission works smoothly with the engine to provide low-end torque and easy high-speed cruising.
Hop into the driver’s seat of the Armada and you realize this thing is huge. From up there, you have a commanding view of the road ahead, thanks to the old-school body-on-frame construction, which the Armada shares with Nissan’s pickup trucks. This helps make the Armada stiff but not pickup truck stiff. Its heft and suspension make for a pleasant interstate hauler.
Third-row seats eat into cargo capacity in the rear and reaffirm the Armada’s prime role as a people hauler. To wit: Its second-row seats are some of the most spacious in the vehicle’s class, a nod to the Armada’s potential as a go-to livery vehicle (think of all the black Chevy Tahoes ferrying pols in Washington, DC).
The Big Picture
Since 2010, the only way U.S. buyers could tap into the Patrol legend was to buy an Infiniti QX80, which is built on the same frame and comes with the same engine but is more soft leather and bling than overland legend. Now Americans can get their Patrol fix (sorta) for $20,000 less than the Infiniti version—and not worry so much about getting it filthy.
Those who want a competitive option in the full-size SUV market will like the Armada. Its fit and finish, plus its generously well-equipped standard options, shouldn’t be overlooked. Yes, this Armada comes across as a castrated Patrol, but it still shares the toughness of a Patrol underneath its Americanized sheen—something its competitors can’t touch.
*These numbers have been corrected