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

Cons: Rough, trucklike ride; relatively limited cargo space; low fuel economy

The Nissan Armada is as traditional as an SUV gets. Its heavy-duty body-on-frame utility is intended for hauling, towing and treading the off-road. Which means you can expect trucklike ride quality and sub-par 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 well contented. 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 pounds and also cart around eight people?

For 2012, the Armada remains mostly unchanged. There are a few meaningful yet minor revisions. Upgrades include a standard rear power liftgate and heated front seats on the SL version. The uplevel Platinum model gets standard heated second-row seats and a padded center armrest that accompanies the optional captain's chairs.

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

Comfort & Utility

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

The front seats are supportive and almost furniture-like, more than adequate for long-distance highway cruising. Front occupants will not only enjoy plenty of head and leg room but will find ride fatigue to be minimal. The second row is also quite spacious, with plenty of head, hip, shoulder and leg room. On the Platinum version, the middle-row bench can be swapped for a pair of captain's chairs. The two-person 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 rear seat's 50/50 break. Maximum storage capacity is 97 cubic feet, more than enough for hauling or carrying a large load but less than others in the full-size SUV class.

The 2012 Nissan Armada is available in three trim levels: SV, SL and Platinum. Standard convenience features for the base SV include an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, power adjustable pedals and an eight-speaker sound system. The mid-level SL adds leather seats, seat heat in the front row and a power folding third row. The range-topping Platinum adds a sunroof, seat heat in the second row, a heated steering wheel and memory functions for the driver's seat.

Technology

The Armada doesn't go heavy on advanced electronics, but it offers the bread-and-butter gadgets. Bluetooth is available on all models, as is an 11-speaker Bose stereo with satellite radio and digital music storage capability. Other tech features include a navigation system with real-time traffic, a rear-view camera and a rear-seat DVD system.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2012 Nissan Armada is powered by a 5.6 -liter V8 that makes 317 horsepower and a stout 385 lb-ft of torque. This is the same engine found in the smaller Pathfinder. Energy is channeled via a five-speed automatic transmission to either the rear wheels or to a dual-range four-wheel-drive system. Maximum towing capacity is 9,100 pounds when the Armada is equipped properly.

EPA-estimated fuel economy for the V8-powered Armada is a gas-guzzling 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway in rear-wheel-drive versions and an even thirstier 12/18 mpg with four-wheel drive.

Safety

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 in a nice, swift manner, 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 four-wheel-drive system. This system also helps make the Armada more sure-footed when towing or trailering a heavy object such as a boat, a U-Haul trailer or a flatbed.

On normal roads, the Armada feels harsh and trucklike, and there is a lot of body roll when taking 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 truck, the Armada will suit them just fine.

Other Cars to Consider

Chevrolet Tahoe - The Tahoe has better ride comfort, more feature content 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 - 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 you get the mid-range Armada SL, which starts at $45,320 plus destination for the 4x2 and $48,220 for the x4. This model includes 20-inch wheels, a self-leveling air suspension, a roof rack, leather seats with front-seat heat, push-button start and a 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 large premium to the price for a handful of what, in our opinion, are unnecessary features, including a heated steering wheel, chrome wheels and a memory driver's seat.

Makes sure you get your Armada with four-wheel drive if you're going to be doing any off-terrain or all-weather driving-which we imagine you are, since that's pretty much the point of having a vehicle this capable and rugged.

author photo

David Boldt began his automotive career in BMW and Saab showrooms in the 1980s, and he moved to automotive journallismin 1993. David has written for a varity of regional and national publications, and prior to joining AutoTrader, he managed media relations for a Japanese OEM.

Related Articles & Car Reviews

Find Cars for sale near you:

Research by Vehicle Type

  • Convertible
  • Coupe
  • Hatchback
  • Hybrid
  • Luxury
  • Sedan
  • SUV
  • Truck
  • Van/Minivan
  • Wagon

For Sale on Autotrader.com

Loading Ajax Content Loading Ajax Content