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New Car Review

2013 Nissan Armada: New Car Review

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author photo by Nick Palermo December 2012

Pros: Capable off-road; strong engines; high tow limit; comfortable interior; good visibility

Cons: Rough, truck-like ride; relatively limited cargo space; low fuel economy

What's New: Platinum Reserve package with dark chrome accents and 20-inch wheels; standard Bluetooth and USB input; standard power passenger seat; available rear entertainment with dual 7-in screens

The 2013 Nissan Armada is as traditional as an SUV gets. Its heavy-duty, body-on-frame utility is intended for hauling, towing and treading off-road. This means you can expect truck-like ride quality and subpar fuel economy, two attributes that are not very popular among family buyers. That said, the Armada offers a comfortable, attractive and spacious cabin that's both inviting and nicely equipped. From the inside, it looks like an ideal space in which to take a long road trip. But once you start driving, the roughness of the ride may be cause for complaint from passengers.

For those who need a serious workhorse first and a family vehicle second, the Armada is a good fit. After all, how many vehicles let you trailer up to 9,100 pound and also cart around eight people?

For 2013, Nissan continues to offer the Armada in three trim levels: SV, SL and Platinum. Each is available with a choice of 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive. A new Platinum Reserve Package adds dark chrome exterior details, 20-in dark chrome wheels and the premium 2-tone leather interior for $2,090. Other changes for 2013 are minor yet meaningful. They include standard Bluetooth and USB input, a standard power-adjustable passenger seat and an optional rear entertainment system, that now uses a pair of 7-in screens instead of a single display.

Yes, the Armada is better suited for hard labor than trips with the family. But for those who prefer a little edge and muscle--even when they're treating their vehicle as family transportation--the Armada gets the job done.

Comfort & Utility

The Armada's cabin is surprisingly refined, with an impressive level of style, mid- to high-grade materials and noticeably high overall craftsmanship. Also a plus, this big SUV offers plenty of forward visibility and lots of handy storage compartments throughout.

The front seats are supportive and almost furniture-like, and are more than adequate for long-distance highway cruising. Riders in the front seat will not only enjoy plenty of headroom and legroom, but they'll also find ride fatigue to be minimal. The second row is also spacious, with plenty of room for heads, hips, shoulders and legs. On the Platinum version, the middle-row bench can be swapped for a pair of captain's chairs. The third-row seat is pretty tight, making it more appropriate for children than adults.

For cargo, the Armada offers versatility in both passenger and cargo configurations. This is thanks to the middle row's 40/20/40 split-folding feature, as well as the third-row seat's 60/40 break. Maximum storage capacity is 97 cu ft, which is more than enough for hauling a large load, but less than others in the full-size SUV class.

Standard convenience features for the base SV include an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals and an 8-speaker sound system. The mid-level SL adds leather, heated driver and passenger seats, 11-speaker Bose audio and a power-folding third row. The range-topping Platinum adds a sunroof, heated second row seats, a heated steering wheel and memory functions for the driver's seat.

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The Armada doesn't go heavy on advanced electronics, but it offers the bread-and-butter gadgets. Bluetooth is now standard on all models, along with XM satellite radio and a USB input. Other tech features include an optional navigation system with real-time traffic, a rearview camera that's standard on all but the 2-wheel drive Armada SV, and an optional rear seat entertainment system that now uses dual 7-in displays.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2013 Nissan Armada is powered by a 5.6-liter V8 that makes 317 horsepower and a stout 385 lb-ft of torque. Energy is channeled via a 5-speed automatic transmission to either the rear wheels or to a dual-range 4-wheel-drive system. Maximum towing capacity is 9,100 pounds when the Armada is equipped properly.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the fuel economy for the V8-powered Armada is a gas-guzzling 13 mpg city/19 mpg hwy in rear-wheel-drive versions, and an even thirstier 12/18 mpg with 4-wheel drive.


Standard safety features for the Armada include ABS, stability control, traction control, six airbags and active front head restraints.

Driving Impressions

The Nissan Armada is powerful, but it's also big and heavy. That means it feels lethargic sometimes, especially when weighed down by a full load of passengers and cargo. It also seems to labor under hard, off-the-line acceleration. But once this big SUV gets its momentum going, it moves along swiftly, particularly at highway speeds.

Off-road, the Armada is very confident. It can climb and crawl over most terrain, in large part because of its very competent all-mode 4-wheel-drive system. This system also helps make the Armada more sure-footed when towing a heavy load such as a boat, a U-Haul trailer or a flatbed.

On normal roads, the Armada feels harsh and truck-like, with considerable body roll in corners. The vehicle's high center of gravity will encourage drivers to reduce their speed dramatically on curves. For these reasons, the Armada is not an ideal people mover. But for those who are used to the ride and feel of a big pickup, the Armada will suit them just fine.

Other Cars to Consider

Chevrolet Tahoe - The Tahoe has better ride comfort, more features and greater cargo capacity. When it comes to carrying people, the Tahoe's third row seat is also more spacious and usable than the Armada's.

Ford Expedition - The Expedition offers more in the way of interior refinement, creature comforts and technology. It also has an adult-size, third-row seat. The Armada falls short in all of these areas.

Toyota Sequoia - The Sequoia beats the Armada in fuel economy, refinement, interior space and ride comfort. The Armada leans much further in the direction of heavy-duty utility.

AutoTrader Recommends

We suggest the midrange Armada SL, which starts at $46,000 plus destination for the 4x2, and $48,900 for the 4x4. This model includes 20-in wheels, a self-leveling rear suspension, roof rack, leather seats with front seat heat, push-button start and power-folding rear seat. In other words, it has all the premium convenience features one would want on a large SUV. Upgrading to the Platinum adds a significant premium to the price for a handful of what, in our opinion, are unnecessary features, such as a heated steering wheel, chrome wheels and a memory driver's seat. We do recommend 4-wheel drive for all-terrain or all-weather driving. That feature really suits the purpose of a vehicle as capable and rugged as the Armada.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2013 Nissan Armada: New Car Review - Autotrader