Nissan Armada just right for old-school SUV fans

Cut from a familiar cloth

I drive a lot of vehicles. And many aren’t that memorable. But believe it or not, there are a few vehicles I’ve never driven. This week I was able to shorten that list with my tester, the 2018 Nissan Armada. It’s an SUV from when SUVs were big. There’s nothing crossover about this Armada, and I like that, although Nissan’s Murano and Rogue are extremely good. In fact, I’ve driven those two crossovers numerous times, so it was nice to slip behind the wheel of the Armada to see how it compares.

Frankly, it’s a totally different beast that is incomparable to its smaller siblings. The Armada more compares with its luxurious cousin, the Infiniti QX80. The Armada is very similar to it; they do share a platform, after all.

Even the looks of the Armada are similar to the QX80, including the pseudo-vent that is over the front wheel well near the A-pillar. This gives the Armada an elegant appearance.

The front end has chrome highlights on the grille, albeit the front end still seems somewhat dated and long in the tooth, when compared to other big SUVs that have been recently redesigned.

The Armada did receive a redesign in 2017, but hopefully it goes even further in the next model year. The chrome theme continues with trimmed-out window frames and on the back side. Hooray for consistency in styling!

The Armada is big – 5,900 pounds big and 208.9 inches long. A steady-performing 5.6-liter V8 is required to move all that metal. The 390 horsepower seems a little low, but on the road, and off the line, the powerplant is up to the task of moving this full-size SUV smoothly.

The 7-speed automatic transmission is OK, although there some shifts that seemed a little out sync and performed like a continuously variable transmission (and that’s not a good thing).

Off the line it and getting up to highway speed, it was flawless. I was, in fact, surprised at how smooth the Armada was. It didn’t drive quite as big as some of its rivals (like a Suburban). The steering was responsive, and the braking was firm but not grabby.

All this capability adds up to a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds which is at the top of this segment.

Do splurge a little, and lose a little fuel economy, and add four-wheel drive.

Inside, I was surprised at how similar the Armada was to the luxurious QX80. I was amazed at how high end the Armada felt, but that goes with the full-size segment where high-end trims rule the roost.

Leather seats are comfortable, and there’s even a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob. While second-row seating is ample in regard to shoulder and leg room, the third row is a little cramped, but again, that’s pretty standard for the segment.

Behind the third row, the cargo room was shockingly small. A week’s worth of groceries fit, but I’ve seen more room in the trunks of midsize sedans.

The Armada has only 16.5 cubic feet of cargo room with all seats upright. Fold the third row down and it expands to 49.5 cubic feet. With all seats folded, the interior cargo room is 95.4 cubic feet, which is quite ample.

The other disappointing aspect of the Armada was the infotainment system. For a vehicle that was redesigned in 2017, it sure feels dated still. There’s not even Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capability, and the overall system just doesn’t have the modern vibe of other vehicles. There was a rear entertainment system to keep the family amused on long road trips.

My tester was the top-of-the-line Platinum trim which has a starting price of $61,590. The Platinum trim has heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, the aforementioned rear-seat entertainment system, and optional second-row captain’s chairs. My tester had these captain-style seats, making the Armada a six-passenger vehicle. The shoulder and leg room in this option is well worth the additional $450. My tester had a final MSRP of $63,545.

The Armada is a gas guzzler with a rating of 13 mpg/city and 18 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged only 15 mpg. This is all pretty standard for this segment.

Adding the Armada to the list of vehicles I’ve driven is nice. Will it remain memorable or forgotten? Well, I’m getting pretty old here, so don’t count on my memory too much, but I certainly was impressed with this big SUV’s overall appeal, despite some of its quirks.


  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $61,590/$63,545
  • Mileage…………………………………… 13 mpg/city; 18 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 5.6-liter V8
  • Horsepower…………………………… 390 hp/394 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… 7-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels……………. 4-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. Los Angeles, California

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