2004 Nissan Armada Photo
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I wonder why Nissan's marketing boffins restrained themselves from labeling the company's new full-size sport-utility vehicle in this way. Is it just possible that someone has recalled the year 1588 and the miraculous tale of Spanish high-seas hubris smashed against the shoals of plucky little England?

Not that the analogy is out of place. Japan's successful invasion of the North American auto market is all but complete. What "all but" remains is that last bastion of Detroit's Big Three automakers, whose dominance in full-size trucks and SUVs is now under withering attack from Toyota and, now, Nissan. The full-size, eight-passenger Armada sails into view formidably arrayed to put Chevy's Tahoe, Ford's Expedition, Dodge's Durango, and even Toyota's Sequoia under heel.

Not so fast. There is nothing foregone about North America's acceptance of the Armada. Enthusiasts and market-watchers will have to wait a bit longer to discover whether it is an all-conquering new paradigm of Japanese design or just another big, heavy, thirsty American truck.

One inkling of the latter point of view is Armada's home port of Canton, Miss. Supplied by a V-8 engine plant in Decherd, Tenn., Nissan's spanking new Canton facility is the focal point for a full-size pickup and SUV revolution. Nestled deep behind enemy lines, Nissan is producing the full-size Titan pickup and both the Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX56 full-size SUVs. All three are equipped with monster powertrains based upon the 5.6-liter "Endurance" V-8. These are American trucks for American tastes, and it is remarkable how diligently Nissan has plumbed the American psyche for guidance.

Take Armada's twin-cam powertrain, for example: Power is merely bold at 305 hp; but torque is fantastic at 385 pound-feet. These are heavy-haulin' credentials, which the 9100-pound tow rating fully attests. (An optional tow package is required.) A distinctly American touch is the carefully tuned exhaust note that burbles encouragingly within the cabin of the Armada, even as it bla-a-a-ts threateningly at the bystanders it passes on its way.

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