The Nissan Armada is big and burly, but is it easy to live with?
What is it?
The 2017 Nissan Armada is a full-size, body-on-frame, three-row, eight-passenger SUV with a big honkin’ V8 under the hood. It is both a throwback to yesteryear when SUVs were huge and tough, and also modern in that it coddles its passengers.
Pricing and trims
Nissan builds the 2017 Armada in three trims and with either 2WD or AWD. Starting at under $45K, the Armada is a ton of SUV for the money. Or three tons. The base SV has 18″ wheels, Bose Premium Audio, and Navigation standard. The middle trim SL adds heated leather seats, 20″ wheels, Nissan’s fantastic around-view monitor, and a remote starter. You’re going to want those things, so consider the true starting point for an AWD Armada about $51K. Still a LOT of vehicle for your dollar. Our tester was the Platinum trim which adds a moonroof, cooled seats, and a “tri-zone” entertainment system (of questionable value), pushing the price tag up by about $10K.
Our Platinum 4WD trim was well-appointed and we couldn’t think of a single thing that the Infiniti version of this vehicle we tested had that we missed.
Like all full-size SUVs, the Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD has size on its side in any two-vehicle crash. Are you worried about people drift into your lane while texting? This is the solution. Our test vehicle also had automatic forward emergency braking and Nisan’s excellent backup collision intervention system that applies the brakes when you back up. It is difficult to gauge what’s happening way back there, and we had the system stop us more than once in the driveway. Nissan’s around-view also helps when one is moving the Armada in and out of port. It makes it possible to see the corners and sides.
IIHS has not rated the Armada, but as a substitute, we will let our readers consider the value of size when it comes to safety as well as the value of AWD:
- Study Indicated All-Wheel Drive Vehicles Are Much Safer
- Myth Busted – Larger, Heavier Vehicles Are Not Necessarily Safer
The V8 engine in the Armada is fantastic. It is smooth, offers gobs of torque, and has great power in every situation. The spec sheet says 390 hp , but it feels like 500.
Nissan’s tuning of the Armada’s throttle and engine mapping is absolutely spot-on. It moves out smartly when you toe the power pedal, but it does not lurch. When you want to be someplace ahead of you, simply poke that go pedal a bit further and the Armada will take you there as fast as any large vehicle on the market.
Although the vehicle name says 4WD, Nissan switches to all-wheel-drive in its advertising information. The system has three basic modes; Automatic, 4L and 4H. There are tow and snow modes as well. The engine and AWD system work well with the 7-speed automatic transmission to provide a great experience. Although there are no paddle shifters, the gear selector has a manual mode so that when towing, or when one wants to hold a gear in the mountains with a full load it is easy to do so.
Ride and handling
The Armada can be a handful for those used to smaller vehicles like a Nissan Rogue or Murano. It takes some getting used to, particularly in tight situations. The steering is slow and the vehicle large, so when moving it around one needs to be very deliberate. Once under way it handles well, turns fairly accurately, and sucks up bumps despite its huge 20-inch tires. On the highway, the Armada is stable and comfortable. And super quiet.
The front seats of our Armada Platinum 4WD were comfortable and spacious. We loved that the rotary-knob seat-heat controls can remain on all the time. No need to peck through the infotainment system to actuate them every time one enters.
The second row of our Platinum trim tester had the three-across bench with heated seats. A pair of captains’ chairs are the only option on the Platinum and they cost just $450. The middle seat is very large and legroom is a generous 41 inches. The Chevy Tahoe, by comparison, offers 39 inches. The two seats in our tester could be separated by a wide armrest with cupholders. Two adults could sit in that row very comfortably on a long trip. The seats tip forward and can also then tumble forward very easily to allow access to the rear row.
Although it is an eight passenger vehicle when equipped with its standard second-row bench seats, the Armada is like all three-row vehicles in that the third-row seats are for children. We inserted the image above from Nissan’s Armada page because we felt it accurately portrays third row’s space. As you can see, two teens sitting in back negate the middle seat. The Armada is really a “four plus four” when equipped in this configuration, and a “four plus three” when it has two captains chairs in the second row. The Armada has three inches more third-row legroom than does the Chevy Tahoe, but two inches less shoulder room and a half inch less hip room in that area.
The cargo area of the Armada is very large. Only the XL versions of vehicles like the Suburban offer more. There is also a storage cubby under the rear-most cargo area floor. We slid an eight-foot ladder into the Armada easily. You cannot do that with a smaller crossover. The tailgate is power operated on all Armadas. Unlike with a small crossover, you really need it on a vehicle this big.
Infotainment and controls
The Armada Platinum 4WD has an 8-inch color display and both touch and rotary knob operation. The knob is on the front face of the dash under the screen. There is a panel below the screen that has some helpful controls as well. For example, this is where the audio station presets are located. Infotainment systems are a matter of taste. We liked that this one does not require the use of an annoying console-mounted mouse and was relatively simple to use. Android Auto and Apple Car Play are not available on Armada, but with navigation standard, the primary use for those apps is negated. We found the Bose Premium Audio excellent.
Like small EVs, the Armada is a vehicle that falls at one end of the Bell curve in terms of size. It is a large, comfortable vehicle for those that want to tow and also be able to carry up to eight passengers. The engine’s smooth, ideal operation is a standout on Armada, as is its real-world handling on the open road.
The Armada needs to be judged in comparison to its peers. Those who think the Pathfinder is not up to the task will find the Armada does take things to another level. The Armada remains a true SUV in a world that has moved towards crossovers and seems like an absolute steal at its asking price.
Test car year/make/trim
Base price: $44,995 (2WD SV)
Price as tested, $61,585 including $1,095 destination charge:
Options: Not a Single One
- Engine and Transmission
- Comfortable Seats
- Slow Steering In Tight Maneuvers
- 15 MPG combined