by Adam Lynton
Sharing a large amount of mechanical blood with the Infiniti QX80, the Nissan Armada borders very close to being a full-size luxury SUV, with a supremely comfortable interior comprising high-quality materials and an abundance of features. Unfortunately, this close resemblance to a decade-old car means that the Armada can feel older than it is, with dated infotainment and fussy controls. But even this can't detract from the sheer comfort this virtual lounge on wheels offers. The potent V8 engine delivers 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, or all four wheels if you opt for that drivetrain. This power is regulated by a refined seven-speed automatic gearbox. While not as accomplished an all-round SUV as some rivals like the Ford Expedition, the Armada still has a lot going for it, and it comes in at a slightly lower price, starting at $47,100, giving you near-premium feel for budget price.
Initially introduced as a 2018 model, the Armada has not had much time to change. In its 2019 iteration, the SUV adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, and rear door alert as standard features. Mechanically and aesthetically, it remains unchanged.
While still a large and bulky vehicle, the Nissan Armada offers a sense of style that is rare for the segment. This upscale aesthetic belies its relatively affordable price tag. The large grille on the front fascia features the trademark Nissan metal V-frame, with understated LED headlights wrapping around the corners of the hood. Fog lights sit below in the sturdy bumper on upper trims. Large 18-inch alloys rest within high wheel arches, with 20-inch alloys available on non-base models.
As a full-size SUV, the Armada boasts enormous dimensions, measuring in at 208.9 inches long, 79.9 inches wide, and 75.8 inches high. Although large, the Nissan is no larger than its competitors. The wheelbase is equally average at 121.1 inches. Curb weight is where the Armada differentiates from rivals, with a weight range of 5,576 - 5,716 lbs across the rear-wheel-drive setups. Four-wheel-drive adds around 200 lbs, making the max weight 5,963 on the Platinum trim. Most Armada models are lighter than the Toyota Sequoia or Infiniti QX80. Accorded with some modicum of off-road ability, the Armada boasts 9.1 inches of ground clearance, while approach and departure angles are claimed at 20.8 and 22.1 degrees respectively.
Seven paint options are available to buyers of the Nissan Armada. The SV trim comes in Brilliant Silver Metallic, Gun Metallic, Hermosa Blue Pearl, and Super Black as standard colors. Pearl White TriCoat is available for an additional $395 as a premium paint option. Forged Copper Metallic and Mocha Almond Pearl are added to the standard palette from the SL trim upwards.
Despite its size, the large SUV presents drivers with an impressive amount of power at their fingertips. The 390 hp V8 engine hurtles this mammoth vehicle to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds, faster than most SUV rivals and even some powerful front-wheel-drive luxury sedans. This power is just as evident when passing on the highway, allowing for surprisingly quick high-speed maneuvers. With the impressive output of the V8, the Armada is able to tow up to 8,500 lbs when properly equipped. This is between 500 lbs and 800 lbs less than the Ford Expedition, but up to an impressive 1,000 lbs more than the Toyota Sequoia.
Equipped with both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive, and a dual-range transfer case for the seven-speed automatic transmission, the Armada is less about on-road speed and more about the ability to be comfortable on-road and go anywhere off it. Rivals like the Toyota Land Cruiser offer similar capabilities.
The Nissan Armada comes with a single engine option, a powerful direct-injection V8 engine that displaces an impressive 5.6-liters to deliver 390 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels in its base guise. Four-wheel drive is also available, but standard on any configuration is the seven-speed automatic transmission. The lack of options is a bit of a drawback versus more customizable competitors, but the Armada doesn't want for power. Throttle responses are quick, allowing you to zip between intersections with little effort, and gracefully slide past slower vehicles on the highway. The transmission is equally responsive, executing smooth shifts, although it can be reluctant to downshift due to the system's desire to achieve better fuel economy. Nevertheless, throttle responses are immediate, and the abundance of torque is a boon on off-road excursions with low-range engaged.
You might expect the hefty SUV to handle like a rhinoceros on rollerskates thanks to its powerful engine and graceless dimensions, but it is remarkably composed, as much as any large SUV can hope to be. The steering might not communicate as well as we might like, but it gets the job done with little fuss. It also handles quite well, gripping the road during turns with little to no body roll, but don't expect the same handling as smaller, nimbler vehicles. Equally impressive for a vehicle of this size, the brakes are among the best in the segment, stopping the juggernaut from 60 mph in under 120 feet.
Working in concert with these adequate handling characteristics, the Armada's suspension absorbs even large road imperfections, like potholes without dislodging passengers. The supremely comfortable seats complement this inherent ride comfort and make even long rides feel pleasurable. All this comfort combines with a well-insulated cabin to create an almost silent ride, meaning passengers could easily take a nap in the backseats. The powerful V8 won't break through unless you force it to by punching it, but even then it offers an enjoyable soundtrack for high-speed cruising.
Off-road, the Armada really comes into its own. With more than nine inches of ground clearance and ample approach, departure, and breakover angles, it's one of the most refined and luxurious ways to conquer almost any terrain.
Fuel economy on the Armada is one of the worst in the segment, achieving EPA estimates of 14/19/16 mpg city/highway/combined in its rear-wheel-drive guise, while the all-wheel drive variant gets only 13/18/15 mpg. This is significantly lower than competitors like the Ford Expedition and Chevy Tahoe but matches the similarly off-road-minded Toyota Land Cruiser. The Nissan has an impressive 26-gallon fuel tank, but it can only go 416 miles before needing a feeding, which is up to 60 miles less than rivals. At least it uses cheaper regular gasoline, but so do most SUVs, so this doesn't help it compete.
The Armada boasts quite an upscale and well-appointed interior for a Nissan. The large SUV holds its own against competitors and even tries to challenge a few higher-tier luxury SUVs. With good build-quality and comfortable seating, the Armada promises an excellent riding experience. The infotainment is functional, but it is quite dated despite the Armada's relative youth since the vehicle is based far too closely on the 2011 Infiniti QX80. The lack of proper smartphone integration hurts the otherwise luxury feel of the SUV, and the questionable ergonomics of the controls only make this worse.
The spacious interior of the SUV is capable of seating eight. Getting in and out is a little tricky thanks to the vehicle's height, but the number of handholds helps. The doors open wide and access to the third row is assisted by the tumbler mechanism. Once seated, you will find the interior is more than generous when it comes to space, with 40.9 inches of headroom up front (39.8 inches with the available moonroof), 40 inches in the middle, and 36.4 inches in the rear. The low height of the roof over the third row of seats may seem problematic, but the 28.4 inches of legroom means you won't want anyone bigger than a small adult or child seated there anyway. The legroom is a bit more generous in front. The first row gets 41.9 inches, while the second row gets 41 inches. Visibility is sufficient and the highly adjustable seats make finding the perfect driving position a simple task.
The Armada's interior sports a build-quality and style that matches its exterior. The vast space is appointed with upscale materials, with the SV providing charcoal cloth upholstery while the SL and Platinum trims are upholstered in charcoal or almond leather. The Reserve Package for the Platinum upgrades this to premium brown or black leather. The lack of excessive hard plastics is a welcome reprieve from Nissan's usual design choices, with the doors receiving upholstery that matches the seats. This gives the Nissan Armada's interior a near-luxury level of appeal.
Despite its spacious interior, the Armada is lacking in cargo space. With the rearmost seats up, only 16.5 cubic feet is available – enough for a full day's worth of shopping. By comparison, the Toyota Sequoia provides 18.9 cubic feet and the Ford Expedition, 19.3 cubic feet. A maximum capacity of 95.4 cubic feet is made available in the Nissan by folding down the rear seats.
Small-item storage is as adequate as trunk storage. With a spacious center console, glove box, and door pockets, you won't want for space to store your essentials. Even the rear seats have access to their own center console, as well as door pockets and seatback pockets.
Challenging higher-priced luxury vehicles, the Nissan Armada comes standard with a number of features. These include dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, three 12-volt power outlets, and eight cargo tie-down hooks. Safety features comprise automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, a rearview camera, and front and rear parking sensors. Moving up the trims, additional features include a power liftgate, driver's seat memory, heated front seats, remote engine start, a 120-volt power outlet, rain-sense wipers, and a surround-view camera on the SL. The last few features are added as standard to the Platinum and comprise climate-controlled front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, a following distance monitor, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, blind-spot warning, rear automatic braking, and intelligent blind-spot and lane intervention. A glass moonroof is also installed on the top-tier trim.
The Nissan Armada offers a fair number of infotainment features, but they are not as up-to-date as we might like, and the absence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is quite disappointing. Standard features for the SV comprise an eight-inch NissanConnect touchscreen display, navigation, SiriusXM traffic, a 13-speaker Bose premium audio system with MP3/CD playback, SiriusXM, HD Radio, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, and four USB ports. This offering is only upgraded on the Platinum model, where a tri-zone entertainment system with dual eight-inch monitors and DVD playback, and an extra USB port are added.
J.D. Power scores the Armada at 80 out of 100 for dependability. While only released in 2017, the latest generation Nissan Armada has not been subject to any recalls. The SUV comes standard with a 36,000-mile/36-month limited warranty and roadside assist, and a 60,000-mile/60-month powertrain warranty.
The NHTSA has rated the Armada at four stars out of five in both its guises, while the IIHS has not yet assessed the SUV.
The suite of safety features on the Armada is quite extensive, but there is still room for improvement. Standard features comprise automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, vehicle dynamic control and traction control, active brake limited slip, front and rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera. Available on the upper trims is blind-spot warning, intelligent lane and blind-spot intervention, automatic rear braking, a surround-view camera, intelligent distance control, and rain-sense wipers. LATCH anchors are present on the rear seats. Six airbags are installed as standard – dual front, front side, and side curtain.
The Nissan Armada has a lot going right for it. It has a punchy engine that supplies power on demand, giving the large SUV impressive acceleration numbers and more than enough power to maneuver on the highway. This is paired with town handling that is only slightly clumsy. The steering can be uncommunicative, but the available driver-assist features help to keep you informed of what is going on around you.
The interior is the Armada's strongest selling point, offering accommodation that even some luxury SUVs struggle to best. The seats are spacious and comfortable, and the vehicle's suspension smooths out bumps exceptionally well. With available seat heating and cooling, as well as ample climate control and air conditioning, users will always be comfortable. The biggest failing inside the cabin is the outdated and clunky infotainment system. If you can get past this, then the Nissan Armada is certainly worth considering.
With a relatively low starting price for the segment, the Armada has a lot of appeal, but if you're willing to spend $47,100 for the base model, opting to shell out a few thousand more for a rival like the Ford Expedition might be the better choice, because as good as the Armada is, these rivals still beat it in most areas. The overall cost of ownership will also end up being less as the Nissan has terrible fuel economy compared to top competitors. It's only true saving grace is exceptional off-road ability.
While offering near-luxury levels of comfort and a plethora of features, the Nissan Armada is still priced as an affordable large SUV. The SV starts at $47,100, while the mid-tier SL has a $51,900 price tag. For just under $10k more, you can pick up the Platinum model. These prices are for rear-wheel drivetrain models; all-wheel-drive will add $3,000 to the overall cost. To get behind the wheel of a fully-loaded rear-wheel-drive Armada Platinum, you will need to invest $63,330. These prices are exclusive of tax, registration, licensing, and Nissan's $1,395 destination fee.
The Nissan Armada range comprises three trim levels: SV, SL, and Platinum. All three models share the same 5.6-liter direct-injection V8 engine which produces 390 hp and 394 lb-ft. A seven-speed automatic gearbox regulates this power and directs it to the rear wheels. Four-wheel-drive is available, along with a two-speed transfer case.
The entry-level SV is equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, cloth seats, a ten-way power driver's seat and eight-way power passenger's seat, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, front and rear sonar, an eight-inch NissanConnect touchscreen display, a 13-speaker Bose audio system, HD Radio and SiriusXM, navigation, and Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming.
Upgrading to the SL will see the wheels replaced with 20-inch alloys, and the interior upholstered in leather. Fog lights are added, along with a surround-view camera, rain-sensing wipers, remote engine start, a power liftgate, and driver's seat memory functions.
The top-of-the-range Platinum adds a power-sliding glass moonroof, heated rear seats and steering wheel, climate-controlled front seats, an intelligent following distance system, blind-spot monitoring, rear automatic braking, intelligent blind-spot and lane intervention, and a tri-zone entertainment system with dual eight-inch monitors and accessories.
The SV trim offers the Driver Package ($600), which adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal transceiver, fog lights, a power liftgate, trailer brake pre-wiring, and power fold-down third-row seats. The Premium Package ($1,480) for the SL adds blind-spot warning, intelligent distance control, automatic rear braking, and a power-sliding glass moonroof. Available on the Platinum trim, the Reserve Package ($3,000) adds dark chrome-clad 20-inch alloys, dark chrome door handles and grille, a cup holder lid for the second-row center console, two-tone leather-appointed seats, open-pore wood-tone trim, and Platinum Reserve embossed badging. The $450 Captain's Chairs Package adds second-row captain's chairs, reducing seating to seven, and also includes a padded center console with wood-tone trim.
With a $10,000 price hike between the SL and Platinum, and not an excessive number of additional features, we would suggest going for the SL trim. If you're looking at the Armada, you will be expecting a certain level of luxury, so you won't want to pass up on the more comfortable leather seats, or the convenience features like heated mirrors and seats. You do miss out on some driver-assist features like blind-spot warning and automatic rear braking, but these can be added with the Premium Package if you really desire them. For $51,900, you get all the performance the Armada has to offer, and most of its luxury features too. For most daily driving, the rear-wheel drive model should suffice, but if you want added safety or want to go off-road from time to time, you will want to opt for the slightly more expensive four-wheel drivetrain.
The Toyota Sequoia is on par with the Armada on many fronts. They both have equally terrible fuel economy, to start with. In terms of performance, they each deliver almost identical figures, with the Toyota promising a little bit more torque. Despite this, the Nissan is still able to pull significantly more weight than its rival. But if cargo space is more important to you than towing capacity, the Sequoia offers 18.9 cubic feet versus the Armada's 16.5, setting it slightly ahead. Still, the Armada provides more space for passengers, so if that is more important than simple utility, the Nissan once again takes a step forward. In terms of tech, the Sequoia somehow manages to lose to the outdated Armada, with limited features and poorly thought-out feature placement. Seat comfort in the Toyota is decent, but nowhere near the luxury level supplied its Nissan rival. That's two extra points for the Armada. When we tally it all up, the Nissan Armada comes out in the lead here, and it starts at a lower price to boot.
With both SUVs sharing underpinnings, it's not surprising that they are very similar. For a start, they look almost identical from the outside, and inside, it is just a matter of slightly higher quality materials on the true luxury SUV. Despite the Infiniti offering a slightly stronger 400 hp V8 engine, it is just as inefficient as the Armada's, achieving almost identical EPA figures. But since the QX80 uses premium gasoline, it is going to cost you a lot more over its lifespan. This compounds the already higher starting price of $65,500 to make the Infiniti significantly more expensive. The Infiniti also suffers from the same handling shortcomings as the Armada, and it doesn't offer smartphone integration either. Choosing the Infiniti over the Nissan is more a matter of status, with only slightly better performance supplied by the significantly more expensive QX80. You can get the same level of comfort and pleasure for a lot less from the Armada, so long as you don't mind the less prestigious brand name.