Seems like every manufacturer has their “Luxury Flagship SUV” these days, and Nissan is no exception.
While most of these are more luxo-barge than flagship, there are a few that remain true to the real SUV credo of ruggedness, capability and anywhere anytime composure. We’d include the Range Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser in this select group.
And now we’d also add the new Nissan Armada.
It’s a whole ‘nother kind of Armada.
One look and you know this is different. Where the old model was an SUV version of the previous-gen Titan, Nissan does us a solid and gives us a new vehicle based on the Nissan Patrol. For those of you luxury types, a similar vehicle is also offered as the Infiniti QX80. Haven’t heard of the Patrol? In other parts of the world, the Patrol is the status SUV for Nissan, and it has a long heritage and is held in the same high esteem as the Toyota Land Cruiser. That’s pretty impressive.
And it shares the Land Cruiser’s blocky, take-no-prisoners squared off lines. Want respect on the road? When cars saw our giant Nissan badge roll up behind them, they scattered like fish in front of a shark – it’s good to be king.
That said, it is in fact smaller than the previous model - not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to parking, and moving through traffic. More on that in a bit.
The move over to the Patrol (and Infiniti) side of things yields a much more luxurious experience. Sure, there are some Nissan cues, but this baby feels Range Rover posh, too.
The driving position is excellent, you sit up high, with excellent visibility. The leather is exceptionally nice. The gauges are large and easy to read. An 8-inch color touchscreen serves up all your infotainment needs – though for shorter drivers it may be a bit of a reach. Nissan also offers a nice variety of switchgear below if you prefer, and keeps them logically grouped so you find everything quickly and easily. The standard, 13-speaker Bose Premium Audio system had no problem filling the cabin with excellent sound.
We spent a little “quality time” with the displays on the screen, and were astounded by the amount and variation of information you can call up these days. You’ll never get bored waiting in the car again! And if you’re not alone the Platinum’s standard DVD family entertainment system with giant dual 8-inch headrest monitors, wireless headphones with three virtual surround modes, and a huge panoramic moonroof should keep everyone happy.
One of the coolest – and handiest – features on the Armada is the new Intelligent Rear View Mirror which uses a high-res camera mounted on the rear of the vehicle to project a clear image on the rear-view mirror. A switch at the bottom of the mirror lets you flip between the digital and traditional mirror.
It’s especially great at nighttime – giving a “night-vision” readout that’s much clearer, as well as displaying a wider field to see what’s around you. Also, with the large number of headrests, heads, or even say, balloons you might be carrying, the obstruction of your view is a thing of the past.
And the best fun is sweeping your hand in front of the mirror in digital mode, and seeing nothing. “Look I’m a vampire!”
Along with big tech, there’s little stuff you appreciate, like a massive center console that can be opened from the front or 2nd row seats. The back of that center console also serves up a 2nd row climate control, with heated rear seats and headphone plug-in and volume controls for rear passengers.
Speaking of seats, our tester had the bench 2nd row, which is extremely comfortable with stretch out legroom and a tall, airy green house. We’ve also sampled the available 2nd row captain’s chairs, but felt that they really didn’t offer that much more comfort – especially with the bench seat’s fold-down center armrest.
While the Armada technically is an 8-passenger vehicle, the 3rd row is notably smaller than the previous Armada, and it’s best for kids. The 2nd row does make it easy for them to get in though.
Cargo space is slightly smaller than the previous model – which was like an aircraft carrier inside – so it’s still huge. We found the combination of 3rd row down gave loads of space with room for 5 up front – probably how a vehicle like this will be used most of the time.
Big Power, Big Numbers, Big Fun.
The drive is one of the greatest improvements. This makes sense – the Patrol was developed into a luxury SUV, where the previous Armada/Titan was more rugged full-size truck.
Under the hood is Nissan’s familiar 5.6-liter, Endurance V8, which got a host of improvements recently, bumping power all the way up to 390 hp (was 317) and 394 lb.-ft. of torque (was 385) hooked up to a 7-speed automatic. (was 5)
Despite the fact that the new model is a couple hundred pounds heavier, the big beast hauls. Acceleration is astonishing for something so big, and yeah, at stoplights we embarrassed more than a few sport sedans with fancy European names. Great fun. We did only manage around 14 mpg doing so, but we think it would be competitive with the others in its class – these are big heavy vehicles, with large, powerful engines. They drink.
While we didn’t go off-road, we would expect that the fun would continue off-road, with over 9 inches of ground clearance, a handy 2-speed transfer case control, plus snow and tow mode, and front and rear skid plates.
The Patrol’s off-road abilities are legendary around the globe, and only the lack of front and rear locking differentials (available on the Patrol elsewhere but not here on the Armada) might give a Land Cruiser or Range Rover an edge in terrifying terrain.
Another surprise was ride and handling. The truckish, and somewhat imprecise feel of the older model – it felt like work keeping it centered in a lane –is replaced with a luxurious, posh ride, and steering that feels precise, well-weighted, and makes it easy to drive around town, or on the freeway.
This is impressive, partly because you’re still riding on a body-on-frame construction. But that construction pays huge dividends when towing, with Armada claiming a best-in-class 8,500 lb. max rating. Bring yer boat!
Another piece of tech that makes getting around easy is Armada’s Around View Monitor. The virtual 360-degree view makes it super easy to place in any parking spot, or even hook up a trailer. Other manufacturers have joined the bandwagon, but Nissan was the first. Props.
And since these are family haulers, Nissan makes sure you’re loaded with safety gear, including on our Platinum tester, Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking, (it can actually look two vehicles ahead – cool) Back-up Intervention, Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning and Intervention, and Lane Departure Warning and Intervention. You feel well-looked after.
And the price is massive too?
The Armada SV starts at $46,090. ($48,990 for All Wheel Drive).
The Leather-lined SL All Wheel Drive, which includes 20-inch alloys, power liftgate, Around View Monitor and more starts at $53,750. Our loaded -to-the-gills Platinum starts at $62,090 with All Wheel Drive. The lone option – carpeted cargo and floor mats ($310). Add in $1,295 for destination, and our tester rang the bell at $63,695.
There’s even a level above – Platinum Reserve ($65,090) which gets some dark trim, and an especially luxe-looking two-tone leather interior and open-pore wood interior trim. The Infiniti vibe without the Infiniti price.
Competitors? Well the Land Cruiser starts at $84,315. (Gulp) The Armada’s sibling, the Infiniti QX80 starts at $64,750, but we easily loaded it up over $80,000. (Big Gulp) And the Range Rover starts at $87,350. (Super Big Gulp).
So, in the rarified air it lives in, it’s a bit of a bargain. We loved our Armada, it’s big, beautiful, powerful, superbly crafted, and an excellent drive.
It’s not just a great luxury SUV, it’s the best vehicle Nissan currently makes.