The new Armada sits atop Nissans
four-vehicle SUV lineup. It is just plain huge, with seating for eight in an interior that
feels more like a conference room than a car. The company claims the best legroom in the
second row of any full-size SUV, at just under 42 inches.
This new SUV delivers all the attractions of its rivals but with a
distinctly different style. The slab-sided fenders bulge out from the doors, the window
line dips distinctively at the rear doors, and the chunky nose pushes through the air in a
different way from the domestic manufacturers offerings.
Inside, the same massive effect is drawn across doors and dash, with
upright surfaces and bull nosed corners, contrasted with a sharply defined instrument
panel. The center stack is set apart by color, texture, and shape, and features a friendly
assortment of big round knobs and rectangular buttons. If you order a navigation system,
it sits in its own tray atop the center stack.
The door panels place the window and mirror buttons directly on top
for easy access. A parallel armrest is perfectly located, so on the highway, you can rest
both arms while still holding the handsome three-spoke steering wheel. The left and right
spokes carry useful controls for the sound system and the cruise control. The lockable
center console is big enough to hold plenty of cargo, and door pockets, glove box and
little corner bins on the dash all pitch in too.
Armadas come in two- or four-wheel drive, in SE, SE Off road, and LE
models. My Sahara Gold tester was the upscale LE model with four-wheel-drive. The SE is
the most affordable model, and the LE benefits from things like standard leather seats,
puddle lamps on the outside mirrors, power operated rear quarter windows, and a sparkling
chrome grille and bumper up front.
For real utility, the second row and third row seats fold virtually
flat for loading boxes and pieces of furniture. The front passenger seat drops, too, so
you can carry a ten-foot ladder inside and still close the rear lift gate. In the LE
model, that hatch is electric. You simply push a button on the remote key fob and with a
beep-beep-beep the massive gate opens up or closes down, pulling in with a whir. Even with
the third seat up you have plenty of room for most cargo.
All Armadas come with a powerful V8 engine. The brand new 5.6-liter
powerplant, built in Decherd, Tennessee, puts out 305 horsepower and 385 lb.-ft. of
torque, one of the highest horsepower / torque ratings in the full-size light duty SUV
class. The vehicle leaps off the line when you press the gas pedal, and with the towing
package, it can haul 9,100 pounds. The price you pay for this much power is fuel mileage
ratings of 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway. I averaged 14.1 mpg during my test week.
Every Armada comes with a floor-mounted five-speed automatic
transmission. Four-wheel-drive models get a two-speed transfer case with automatic
full-time 4wd and a low gear that lets the Armada perform well offroad. Despite the more
than 200 inch length, the trucks overhangs are reasonable, so offroad
maneuverability is good.
Every Armada is loaded with safety features inside and out. Rear
sonar sensors beep when you approach an object (or person). Vehicle Dynamic Control and
Brake Activated Limited-Slip Traction Control use the vehicles computer to help you
avoid accidents. The Armada gets four-wheel disk brakes with antilock and Electronic Brake
Force Distribution (for even application of stopping power) and Brake Assist (which
ensures full braking power in emergency situations).
If an accident is unavoidable, the Armada provides standard
supplemental curtain air bags for side impact and rollover protection for all three rows
of seats. Nissans high-tech front airbags can tell if someones in the front
passenger seat and can turn off that airbag if a child (or nobody) is sitting there. The
body has crush zones to absorb impact and everybody gets a nice three-point seatbelt.
Built in Canton, Mississippi in a brand new plant, the Armada has
build quality and materials that look and feel more than competitive with the Ford and GM
offerings. The rear bumper looked tacked on, with a big gap between it and the rest of the
vehicle, but I found nothing else to complain about.
Pathfinder Armadas start at $33,950 for the SE with two-wheel drive.
My test unit, a four-wheel-drive LE, came to $45,150, including the $3,900 Technology
Package. This package supplies an easy-to-use navigation system with a color 7-inch
screen, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, a sunroof, a 6-way power seat for the front
passenger, and the aforementioned power lift gate. Attention Ford and Chevy dealers: Start