On the Road Review: Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve

According to “Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary,” an Armada is a “large force of moving things.” Seems about right here; Nissan’s full-size Armada SUV is large, it is forceful, and it can definitely move things.

Sharing the same basic engineering and design as the Infiniti QX80, the Armada is 5 inches longer than the best-selling Chevy Tahoe and 4 inches longer than Toyota’s Sequoia, but at three tons, the Armada is also about 400 pounds heavier than the Tahoe. Running the revised 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 from the Titan pickup, the seven-to-eight-passenger Armada creates 390 hp running through a seven-speed automatic transmission. This is the highest standard output in the segment and translates into an 8,500-pound tow rating and powerful acceleration.

Rear drive is standard; 4WD models come with a rotary control on the console that utilizes auto-mode AWD until a locking 4WD mode is selected. Fuel economy for our brand-new Armada started out at a wintry 14 mpg. Six hundred miles later, everyday driving rendered 17-18 mpg — right in the hunt of the EPA estimates of 14-19 mpg.

Nissan equips the Armada with a fully independent double-wishbone suspension at each corner. Nissan claims “refined and rugged” as auto-leveling air assists and large front and rear stabilizer bars work to calm inherent body motions over uneven surfaces. The ride is at once posh but also with some movement that you might not notice in a smaller Rogue. Ground clearance is an impressive 9 inches with base 18-inch wheels, while 20-inch and 22-inch wheels are optional.

While the Armada looks big and drives big, it slipped into a 9-foot garage door opening much easier than a full-size pickup truck. Helped by vertical mirrors as opposed to wider horizontal mirrors — plus a 360-degree camera setup with front parking sensors as well as rear braking assist with the rear parking sensors — the Nissan knives into tight spots.

Packing the roomiest second row seating in this class — with either bucket seats or the 40/20/40 bench — the Armada is enjoying a successful selling boon as buyers gravitate to the plethora of standard gear in the base Armada S ($48,990).

Features like a 13-speaker Bose audio system with SiriusXM, CDs and Bluetooth, intelligent rear-view mirror that becomes a camera, and a forward collision system that detects potential issues two vehicles ahead help the Nissan make an impact. Sales more than doubled last year — the only full-size SUV to show any sales gains.

Moving up through SL ($50,850) to Platinum ($59,190) and to Platinum Reserve ($62,190) will find you choosing features such as the crafty 360-degree bird’s-eye view camera system, or the intelligent blind-spot intervention system that will automatically brake the truck if an object is in your path, or power folding third-row seats, or the swanky quilted and two-tone leather seating of Platinum Reserve trim with dual-panel rear TV screens. Other hardware includes TRI-Zone climate controls and triple-zone entertainment controls.

Common to Nissans, the interior instrument panel is flush with congruent buttons and knobs, very good, as well as an 8-inch touchscreen for redundant operations. Bad is the bank of low controls left of the steering wheel along with the tiny array of buttons inhabiting the steering wheel that need more tactile feel or differentiation. The Armada recognizes your arrival with outside lamps shining, convenient, yet it won’t unlock your doors when you park until you shut the engine off — inconvenient. Other gripes include a brake pedal too small for proper left-foot braking and oversize headrests and roof pillars that can block your vision.

General Motors dominates the full-size SUV class with Tahoes, Yukons, Escalades and Suburbans. For Nissan to realize such a huge sales gain in one year — outselling its Infiniti sibling and the Toyota Sequoia, combined — signals that the brand is serious about earning a share of this lucrative pie. Titan pickup sales have finally accelerated (not up to the 2004 debut year level yet), however Nissan dealers have to feel good about how the brand is positioned going forward as the American marketplace continues to idolize all things truck-ish. The Armada’s premium-feeling cabin, spacious accommodations and stout power delivery will continue to earn buyer interest.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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