New & Used Nissan Armada: In Depth
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The Nissan Armada is the Japanese automaker's biggest SUV offering. Based on the first-generation full-size Titan pickup, the three-row Armada can seat up to eight and tow as much as 9,100 pounds. The Armada has seen very few updates since its introduction for the 2004 model year, but with a new Titan around the corner there is at last some hope.
Returning for the 2015 model year with only minor changes, the Armada is a rival for the Chevy Tahoe/Suburban, GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, Ford Expedition, and Toyota Sequoia. Now over a decade old, the Armada is the oldest vehicle in that group—by a long shot in most cases.
MORE: Read our 2015 Nissan Armada review
With an especially tall, imposing stance and rugged, macho styling cues—including a huge grille, showy wheels, and a very distinct roofline and rear roof pillar arrangement—the Armada never fails to stand out with respect to design. The model hasn't changed much inside or out since its original introduction for 2004, but it still manages to turn heads—to positive or negative effect, depending on the place and time. When it first hit the market, this ute was called the Pathfinder Armada, referencing Nissan's mid-size SUV. In years since, it has become known simply as Armada, while the smaller Pathfinder has moved to a car-based platform.
Since launch, all Armadas have been powered by a 5.6-liter V-8 engine making 317 horsepower. It is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission and a choice of either rear- or four-wheel drive. This big rig's fuel-economy ratings have never been terribly competitive, only looking worse as time has gone by and competitors have improved; the EPA rates the least-efficient setup at 12 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway, while we've seen lower in our own testing.
The Armada offers seating for up to eight, with plenty of space for adults to sprawl in the first and second rows. The third row is abbreviated, and even teenagers will find themselves in a scrunched position. While the Armada's interior design is quite attractive and different than those of other trucks, its cabin materials have never been that impressive. The plastics used in the instrument panel, doors, and console, in particular, feel a step behind what's found in rival models. Refinement has never been at the forefront either, with a bit more road and wind noise and a gruff, ever-present character to the engine. However, just as in Nissan's other trucks there are more than enough storage spaces and cubbies throughout.
In addition to being big, the Armada aims to be muscular. The V-8 doesn't make it a straight-line rocket but instead goes for care-free hauling and is rated to tow a load of up to 9,100 pounds. Handling isn't a strong point of this bug dude, and it tends to wander in highway cruising, but it is at least easy to park thanks to a quick steering ratio. The ground clearance isn't just for show, as the truck-based ute can handle some light off-roading, although the made-for-it Off-Road model is no longer available.
Few changes have come the Armada's way over the years. The most noticeable was perhaps the shortening of its name a year after introduction, from Pathfinder Armada to just plain Armada. In 2008, the big ute underwent a mild aesthetic refresh, adding some shiny trim outside, some wood inside, and reconfiguring the third-row seats; the large Nissan also got more standard equipment, with the addition of newer navigation and infotainment systems and a heated steering wheel. Other than that, though, things have been pretty steady as Nissan has worked on the new-for-2016 Titan pickup, which should eventually bring a revision to this model.
Until the 2011 model year the Armada was closely related to the more luxurious Infiniti QX56, though that SUV is now built on a different platform and has also been renamed QX80. For 2015, the Armada gets restyled door panels, new 20-inch wheels, and some new paint colors.
The current Armada can be equipped with a moonroof; a rear entertainment system; and a recently upgraded navigation system that includes XM NavTraffic real-time data. A USB port and Bluetooth are now standard on all trim levels.
A new version of the Titan pickup was shown recently, sporting an optional 5.5-liter Cummins diesel engine. Nissan hasn't said anything about when or even if the Armada will be switched over to the new Titan underpinnings. If that does happen, Nissan could produce the ultimate truck-based towing SUV with that diesel fitted up front, but any update to the aging Armada would be welcome.