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An imposing stance and rugged, macho styling cues separate the 2011 Nissan Armada from the rest of the full-size SUV crowd, but the Armada fails to stand out for interior space, comfort, or practicality.
The 5.6-liter V-8 engine in the Armada makes 317 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque, and it starts with the rumble of a muscle car. Its torque-monster character works well with the five-speed automatic transmission, allowing smooth, quick takeoffs, even with a full load, as well as impressive passing ability (thanks to quick, responsive downshifting), while it can tow up to 9,100 pounds. The Armada, by some gauges, can get to 60 mph in less than seven seconds—good for such a large vehicle. But while brakes are good, steering, handling, and maneuverability are sore spots for this mammoth truck; try to make any quick change in direction, and you're woefully aware of this vehicle's tremendous heft.
What you see from the outside is essentially what you get inside the 2011 Nissan Armada. This big ute has seats that are a little hard to get up into, but once you're there, if it's in the first two rows, it's comfortable. And if you're wondering how there's a third row with space for cargo, it comes down to either passengers or cargo back there, really, and the load floor is awkwardly high.
The seating position of the Armada is pleasant and upright in the first and second rows, with the front seats especially quite comfortable and supportive—and it's easy to find a good position with the available adjustable pedals. Second-row captain's chairs are also very comfortable but reduce capacity from eight to seven, replacing the bench seat. In back, the third-row bench is just passable for smaller adults, but it leaves almost no cargo space and headroom is tighter back there.
Refinement isn't so top-notch, and its an area where the Armada is showing its age. Nissan has moved to dress up the Armada's interior in recent years, but overall, there are too many dull plastics in this interior, and trims still look on the cheap side. Ride quality in the Armada is firm but smooth, soaking up most major bumps, but it isn't the most refined experience. In multiple test vehicles over the years our editors have noted a fair amount of wind noise, and engine noise in these vehicles is cranked up to an almost ever-present level. While the V-8 sounds good, it can get wear on you on long mountain passes, or when towing.
Nomenclature changes just a bit for 2011. Just as Nissan has done this year with most of its lineup, it's added a new mid-level SV model to replace the previous SE trim, and a new Armada SL replaces the Titanium level—leaving three trims, SV, SL, and Platinum, each offered with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
Unlike the full-size SUVs from GM and Ford, the Armada has a pretty simple lineup and a limited list of options. At the top of the line, the Platinum gets heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a moonroos, power rear liftgate, DVD entertainment, and a nav system with real-time traffic capability and hard-drive space for music storage.