Now more than ever, our vehicles have become our sanctuaries. And if you’re like us, you think, why not make my sanctuary a big, luxurious, comfy and powerful one? Allow us to introduce the perfect place to hang out – the 2020 Nissan Armada.
Armada Exterior –Big, Bold, Style
One thing we like about Nissan is that they don’t just do the same vehicle in different sizes. A Rogue is not a small Pathfinder, an Altima is not just a mid-size Maxima. Everything has its own vibe. And that’s especially true with the Armada.
All-new in 2018, the Armada hasn’t changed much, but that’s ok. Where the ’17 was an SUV-bodied Titan pickup, the new gen is based on the Nissan Patrol, which competes around the world with Toyota’s Land Cruiser. The same Toyota that stickered over $89,000 the last time we tested it. Big ticket item, indeed.
Like the Land Cruiser, the Armada is unapologetically big and blocky. Signature cheese-grater grille, jewel-like LED driving lights, the front makes a solid first impression. Our top of the line Platinum Reserve tester stands out even more with dark chrome grille and door handles, dark chrome outside mirrors, and massive 22-inch, 14-spoke forged aluminum alloy wheels. All that dark trim sets off beautifully against the Pearl White Tricoat paint, that looks rich and shimmers in the light.
Armada Interior – Expansive Space, Expensive Grace
That big boxy exterior pays huge dividends inside – there’s massive amounts of interior room. On lesser trims that means 8-passenger capacity – plenty for the big families. Our Platinum Reserve tester gives the 2nd row the 1st class experience with optional captain’s chairs and a spacious center console. They still fold flat, and with power controls for the third row, it’s easy to create an impressive cargo hold for whatever you want to bring along. And if you are planning to use that 3rd row seat, it’s best for kids.
Our favorite seat remains the driver’s perch, where you sit high, and get an excellent view outside of the large windows. The view inside is even better, with tasteful open-pore wood-tone and black quartz trim, and gorgeous two-tone leather-appointed seats with contrasting stitching.
Nissan has really been pushing the tech angle lately, but the Armada shows its age, lacking Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – both of which are the entry-level Versa sedan! Other than that, you do get a wonderful 13-speaker Bose audio System, 5 USB inputs, a nice-sized 8-inch info-tainment display, simple and logical controls, and on our Platinum Reserve model, there’s even a standard DVD Family Entertainment System, including 8-inch dual monitors, and two wireless headphones with virtual surround modes –cinema, music, and game. Definitely will make happy campers on those long drives!
Making for a happy driver is Nissan’s very cool Intelligent Rear View Mirror, that uses a camera on the rear of the vehicle to project a high-res image into the rear view mirror. It also works as a conventional mirror, but when you have a cargo load of gear, or tall kids, a touch of the button gives you a clear view. It also improves visibility in low-light conditions and gives an expanded field of view. Brilliant.
And speaking of view, the Armada’s around view monitor is a huge help, giving you an overhead 360 view, plus front, curbside and rear views, making sure you easily nab a space. Moving object detection is a help when you’re backing out (or pulling forward) in tight parking lots. While plenty of competitors are now offering this technology, Nissan had it first.
Armada Performance – King of the Mountain – and the Mall
Like the Land Cruiser, the Armada is loaded with off-road capability most owners will barely dip into. Under the hood is a powerful 5.6-liter V8 offering best-in-class standard 390 hp and a meaty 394 lb.-ft of torque. Hooked up to an admirably-smooth 7-speed automatic, it seems like the big Nissan doesn’t know (or care) that it is a big, heavy vehicle, it just storms away, 0-60 in around 6.0 seconds flat is fast for something this big.
And it’s also remarkably smooth and refined. It also gives the Armada an excellent makes towing capacity of 8,500 lbs. You might want to get a bigger boat. Or airstream! Considering the big V8 and equally-big overall size, the 18-mpg highway number is not bad at all.
The ride is also impressive, smooth, quiet, very posh. This is a luxury vehicle, no doubt about it. Make that a luxury vehicle with awesome off-road abilities. Down in the center console is the control for the All-Mode 4-wheel drive system, that lets you choose between Auto/4High/4Lo modes and should be able to handle any conditions you’re likely to come upon.
Speaking of handling, the Armada is impressively easy to maneuver around, the steering is solid, the grip feels good, and it imparts lots of confidence behind the wheel. Something this tall doesn’t beg to be thrown around an on-ramp, but you never feel like you have to slow down and make excuses for it either. Add in a super quiet ride, and this is a vehicle made for long road trips!
You also feel confident with the armada (sorry!) of safety equipment on board, including Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention and Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning and Intervention, and the extra goodies like Intelligent Cruise Control, Intelligent Around View Monitor and Intelligent Rear View Mirror. Yes, Nissan seems enamored with the word “intelligent”.
Big Money for a Big Nissan?
Well, actually, no. You can start with the Armada SV, get that wonderful V8, Intelligent Cruise Control, room for eight and loads of comfort for a reasonable $47,100. Add $3,000 for 4WD. Step up to Armada SL and you get the super-useful Around View monitor, Leather seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, power liftgate and more for $51,900. The Platinum takes all that and adds climate controlled seats, tri-zone entertainment system, and the trick Intelligent Rear View Mirror. Yours for $60,530.
Our top of the line Platinum Reserve had all the goodies including 22-inch wheels, two-tone leather seating and unique interior and exterior trim, and started at $68,480 for the 4WD model. The Captain’s Chairs Package comes free. We also had Pearl White Tricoat ($395). Add in destination and we rang the bell at $70,270.
As we noted, the Land Cruiser we recently tested was significantly more, at $89,000. The all-new Suburban wasn’t far off, at $81,200. At the lower end of the Armada spectrum, we’re big fans of the Kia Telluride, which is a bit smaller, features V6 power, but has an awful lot of presence and capability for $46,860.
We think the 2020 Nissan Armada hits the sweet spot in luxury 3-row SUV’s. Capable, affordable and stylish, with a powerful V8, rugged chassis, and loads of tech. It’s your sanctuary on wheels!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.