- Accelerates strongly
- Big towing capacity
- Seating position is upright, high
- Handling can feel clumsy
- High step-in
- Interior materials are coarse
It's lacking in some features and its interior is a bit cheap, but the 2012 Nissan Armada has rugged good looks and a beefy V-8 powertrain.
The 2012 Nissan Armada easily fits into the full-size SUV class. It's unmistakable, thanks to macho, rugged styling and its imposing stance, both of which give it more visual grab than some domestic utes. However, the Armada hasn't changed much over the years, and its interior space, comfort, and practicality lag some of the newer, better big SUVs we've driven.
Nothing about the Armada is subtle, particularly in its styling. It's a flared, exaggerated piece of design, even in a class alongside some Dodges and Toyotas. The roofline curves up in a jaunty--or disjointed--way, and the rear door latches at a higher point than usual, giving the Armada some truly distinct lines. It also gives it more than a little kinship with the smaller Pathfinder, long a strong seller in the Nissan lineup. The cabin isn't as attention-grabbing, and the Armada actually has one of the more softly contoured dashes of all the big SUVs. The dated design is laid out well, and feels familiar at first glance, but it does have some smaller controls and delicate buttons, and, worst of all, some textures and plastics that just seem out of place in such a big, expensive vehicle.
With 317 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque, the 5.6-liter V-8 engine in the Armada has a visceral rumble, a growl you'd normally associate with a muscle car. It's a torque monster, and it teams up well with a five-speed automatic for smooth, quick takeoffs, even when fully laden. It's no longer the most powerful vehicle of its kind, and other SUVs have upped the ante to six-speed automatics, but the Armada's still impressive in acceleration, in its impressive passing ability (thanks to quick, responsive downshifting), and in its towing capacity of 9,100 pounds. It's capable, Nissan says, of a 0-60 mph run of about seven seconds. It has strong brakes, but the Armada's handling and its in-town maneuverability are not its strong points. Quick changes in direction will make you well aware of its mammoth size and heft. Ride quality in the Armada is firm but smooth, soaking up most major bumps, but it isn't the most refined experience.
The Armada's imposing size translates into lots of interior room, but it's a big climb into the big ute's seats. The first two rows are quite comfortable, with lots of headroom resulting from the bowed roofline. Ordering second-row captain's chairs cuts down the overall seating capacity by one, from eight to seven. The third-row seat doesn't have quite enough room for adults, and the tall floor makes it a scramble, getting in and out. It also makes loading cargo into the rear more difficult than it could be. There's not much cargo space behind the third-row seat, either, so you'll be leaving it folded down if you use the Armada regularly for family errands.
The Armada shows its age with interior materials. Nissan has dressed up the interior a bit better in recent years, but there are still too many dull plastic trim pieces inside. 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.
Three different Armada trim levels are offered: SV, SL, and Platinum. Each can be had with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The Armada has a limited list of options, compared to the Tahoe and Expedition. At the top of the line, the Platinum gets heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a moonroof, power rear liftgate, DVD entertainment, and a nav system with real-time traffic capability and hard-drive space for music storage.