It seems like such a long time ago that it was OK to drive big, gas-guzzling SUVs.
But it really wasn't all that long ago. If you rewind the clock to the pre-Cash For Clunker, pre-sometimes three-buck gas days, automakers were still rolling these things out and touting their size, comfort and functionality.
The Nissan Armada, for instance, made its debut relatively recently: the 2004 model year. A lot has happened since then, but Nissan is still putting a few Armadas in showrooms. The 2010 model still offers everything that we used to like about the behemoth vehicles: comfort, roominess and a nice bit of style.
But yes, it also still is quite thirsty, with its 5.6-liter V-8 engine garnering fuel economy numbers of 12 mpg city, 18 highway. Oh boy.
The Armada comes in SE, Titanium and Platinum trim levels and offers standard seating for eight passengers. The SE, the base level model, is very nicely equipped with features such as 18-inch wheels, side-step rails, rear parking assist, dual-zone automatic climate control and rear climate controls.
Our tester, a Titanium, adds leather upholstery, Bluetooth and an 11-speaker Bose audio system. Step up to the Platinum and you're rewarded with front parking sensors and a power rear liftgate, among other pleasantries. So suffice it to say, you can get an Armada exceptionally well loaded up.
The Armada comes with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive, but the only engine is that big V-8 mentioned above, which makes 317 horsepower and 385 pounds-feet of torque. Nissan says it offers a "Flex Fuel" version of this engine in some markets that runs on E85 (remember when some people were excited about that?). The transmission is a five-speed automatic.
Nissan says the Armada can haul up to 9,100 pounds, which is impressive but not surprising, given the strength of the engine. Also, when it comes to safety, the Armada gives you the on-road equivalent of Fort Knox. It comes standard with antilock disc brakes and brake assist, stability control, front seat active head restraints, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
Frontal-impact crash tests done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration resulted in the Armada scoring the maximum five stars for driver protection and four stars for passenger protection. And speaking of passengers, be well assured that they will ride in comfort as well as safety.
The three rows of seats are big in head and leg room, and in the second row in the Platinum model, you can get captain's chairs, if you prefer them over the 40/20/40 bench. The fit and finish of the interior is superb; you really feel like you're riding in luxury in the Armada. And the controls are logically placed and easy to use for the driver.
Families, especially those on long trips, will appreciate the many storage areas. And if you want to go into pickup truck mode and put all the seats down, you'll end up with a cavernous 97 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
As for the driving experience, you won't be surprised at how heavy the Armada drives, because, well, it's a heavy vehicle. But that doesn't mean it's not smooth. Even when you take bumps in the road, this mammoth absorbs them pretty well so that passengers won't feel them.
Steering, as you might also guess, requires a little more effort than what you would need in a Nissan Versa, but it is far from being cumbersome. We didn't get to take the Armada off-road, but would guess that it is at least a serviceable performer there.
Our very well-equipped tester carried an MSRP of $44,940. For folks who still need a vehicle this big and with this much power, the Armada remains a fine choice.