The Car Connection Nissan Armada Overview
The Nissan Armada is truth in advertising. The imposing body-on-frame seats up to eight people and can tow up to 8,500 pounds. Perhaps it doesn't float, but the full-size SUV carries a flotilla of cargo and people. It shares a frame with the Infiniti QX80 SUV.
With the Armada, Nissan competes with Toyota Sequoia, Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon/Yukon XL and the Chevy Tahoe/Suburban.
MORE: Read our 2020 Nissan Armada review
Redesigned for 2017, the Armada rides into 2020 on larger optional 22-inch wheels and with heated outside mirrors as standard equipment.
The new Armada
The Nissan Armada is basically a U.S. version of the global Nissan Patrol SUV with a frame adopted from the Infiniti QX80. It retains its body-on-frame design and its eight-passenger seating, but gets new styling and new engineering, plus additional safety features.
The new Armada rides a wheelbase that is 2.1 inches shorter than the outgoing model, yet it is 1.2 inches longer, 0.6 inch wider, and it sits 2.2 inches lower. Under the hood it features the new 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 making 390 horsepower (up from 385) and 394 pound-feet of torque (from 317). Compared to the outgoing 5.6-liter V-8, this new engine features direct injection and Nissan's Variable Valve Event and Lift, which has variable valve timing and variable valve lift for both the intake and exhaust sides. It is mated to a new 7-speed automatic transmission (instead of a 5-speed) with downshift rev-matching. The engine improvements and extra gears improve fuel economy, but this is still one thirsty SUV.
Rear- and four-wheel drive are offered. The four-wheel-drive system has low-range gearing and can send 50 percent of the torque to the front wheels when it detects slip. Properly outfitted, the Nissan Armada can tow up to 8,500 pounds.
The styling features a bold, chromed version of Nissan's "V Motion" grille. LED headlights and daytime running lights are standard, and fog lights are standard on higher line models. The taillights are also LEDs. Functional air intakes are located in the front fenders, and all four fenders have contrasting paint on the wheel flares. The overall look is macho, though it also adopts some of the soft, organic shapes of the Infiniti QX80.
Nissan moves the interior upmarket with materials that look good and feel substantial, even if the wood trim is really plastic. The acoustic glass windshield and front windows, and additional sound deadening material give the interior what Nissan calls "library levels" of interior noise, making normal conversation easy. Space is excellent in the first two rows, but the third-row seat is quite tight. Cargo space, however, is plentiful.
A stiffer frame gives the new Armada more controlled driving dynamics, but this big beast still leans in turns and suffers from slow steering. The ride is quite smooth, though, and the improved V-8 cuts the 0-to-60-mph time to the mid-6-second range while emitting great sounds.
New safety features include adaptive cruise control, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitors, and active lane control. That's a far cry from the previous generation Armada, which basically only had a rearview camera.
The 2018 Armada gains a new Platinum Reserve trim level and adds a rearview mirror that can also display a live feed from a camera mounted to the rear of the vehicle. In 2019, Nissan added automatic emergency braking as standard. For 2020, a new 22-inch wheel package was offered and heated outside mirrors were made standard.
Nissan Armada History
When it first hit the market in for the 2004 model year, 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. The first generation made 317 horsepower and was paired with a 5-speed automatic and a choice of either rear- or four-wheel drive. The Armada has always aimed to be muscular. The V-8 didn't make it a straight-line rocket but did provide care-free hauling and was rated to tow a load of up to 9,000 pounds.
Fuel economy ratings were never terribly competitive, only looking worse as time passed and competitors improved. At the end of its run, the EPA rated the least-efficient setup at 12 mpg city, 18 highway, while we've seen lower in our own testing.
The Armada has always offered seating for up to eight, with plenty of space for adults to sprawl in the first and second rows. Nissan also offered more than enough storage spaces and cubbies throughout.
While the Armada's interior design was quite attractive and different than those of other trucks, its cabin materials were never that impressive. The plastics used in the instrument panel, doors, and console, in particular, felt a step behind its rivals. Refinement was lacking, too, with a bit more road and wind noise and a gruff, ever-present character to the engine.
Few changes came the Armada's way over the years. In 2008, the big SUV underwent a mild aesthetic refresh, adding some shiny trim outside, some wood inside, and configuring 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.
Until 2011 the Armada was closely related to the more luxurious Infiniti QX56, though that SUV was built on a different platform and was renamed QX80. For 2015, the Armada received restyled door panels, new 20-inch wheels, and some new paint colors. There was no 2016 model year.