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2017 Nissan Armada: First Drive Review


If you’re looking for information on a newer Nissan Armada, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Nissan Armada Review

When considering the heft of the 2017 Nissan Armada, remember that Americans love honkin’-big SUVs. In the world of big-brute utility vehicles, size does matter — and the bigger, the better. Having said that, the redesigned Armada, although measurably larger on the outside, is actually a bit smaller inside than the outgoing version. You probably won’t really notice the downsizing until you reach the third-row seat, which isn’t nearly as functional in the new Armada as it was in the previous edition. Cargo space is down some, as well.

The major takeaway is that the reborn Armada, while still uber-accomplished, is refined to the point that it flirts with some big luxury SUVs.

Pedigree

When the first generation debuted in 2004, the Nissan Armada was closely aligned with the Titan full-size pickup truck. With the majority of its underpinnings borrowed from the Titan, it was always more Clydesdale than thoroughbred. Likewise, Infiniti’s big QX56 SUV, although gussied up to reflect its luxury mandate, also traces its DNA back through the Armada to the Titan. All three vehicles were assembled in Mississippi.

When it came time to create the second-generation QX56, which is now the QX80, Nissan decided to divorce it from the Titan, instead basing it on Japan’s rugged and well-regarded Nissan Patrol. Marking the second generation of the Armada, it’s not totally surprising that the 2017 Armada is also based on the Patrol, not the Titan. Moving Armada assembly to Japan, where both these SUVs are now built, was a contributing factor for its 2016 hiatus. See the 2017 Nissan Armada models for sale near you

Roster

Following the family script, Nissan offers the Armada in three grades: SV, SL and Platinum. All three can be fitted with all-wheel drive for a $2,900 premium, and prices are up across all three trim levels. Find a new 2-wheel-drive 2015 Armada SV on a dealer’s lot, and you can buy it for less than $39,000 — you’ll need $44,400 to get into the 2017 version. Topping out the lineup is the Platinum grade at $57,090, with the SL settling into the middle slot at $49,150.

Accommodations

A fine pickup truck, the Titan is still, well, a pickup truck. The first-generation Armada never strayed very far from its Titan roots in either its manners or its passenger experience. This isn’t so with the 2017. Following the upmarket QX80 in adopting the Patrol’s infrastructure, the Armada’s cabin is head and shoulders above the previous version. Let’s call it the “QX80 lite.”

From behind the wheel, we were hard-pressed to tell the difference between the QX80 and the Armada. Only the badging gave it away. And that’s not because the QX80 doesn’t drip with luxury; it’s because the Armada is just that upscale. There’s virtually no plastic — it’s all soft-touch surfaces and quality materials no matter where you feel or look. Even the entry-level SV comes standard with goodies such as a navigation system, an 8-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and a 13-speaker Bose-infused audio system.

On the road, the Armada is remarkably quiet thanks to extra sound-deadening insulation, as well as acoustic glass in the windshield and front side windows.

Taller than its predecessor, the refurbished Armada provides gobs of headroom. In fact, Nissan claims best-in-class second-row headroom and legroom. Front-seat occupants enjoy about as much elbow room in the new SUV as in the last one. In terms of passenger space, however, that’s where the good news hits a wall: Other than headroom that’s increased by about half an inch, the latest Armada’s third row suffers from significantly less legroom, by about 4 inches, and shoulder room is down by roughly 3 inches. Only on a dare would three average-size adults attempt to shoehorn themselves into that stingy space to fulfill the Armada’s 8-passenger promise.

Capability

Although it’s still 5.6 liters in displacement, the 390-horsepower V8 is new to the Armada. That pony count is 73 better than the old V8, giving it the best hp in its class. Peak torque is up marginally to 394 lb-ft — this is plenty of grunt, particularly with the eager 7-speed automatic transmission. Nissan recently provided an opportunity to pilot the Armada on- and off-road near Carmel, California. Acceleration was enthusiastic, and downshifts came quickly when passing slower traffic. Although it’s big, the Armada is a bit more agile than expected.

Capable of pulling 8,500 pounds when properly equipped, the Armada isn’t just a pretty face. Although no longer based on the Titan, its construction is still body on boxed frame. Its new godfather, the Patrol, is revered around the world as a serious off-pavement trekker. Not afraid to get a little mud on its boots, the Armada performs quite impressively in the wild when equipped with all-wheel drive.

Autonomy

Most of today’s buzz in the automotive world revolves around self-driving vehicles and autonomous driver-aid features. The Armada isn’t without its fair share of technology, inspired by the ongoing race to autonomous vehicles.

The Platinum and SL trims come standard with front and rear sonar parking assist and 360-degree around-view cameras.

Although you must opt for the Platinum grade to get all the other driver-aid systems available, a few of them can be added as options to the SL trim. Included in the full suite of advanced features that comes standard on the Platinum are a blind spot monitoring system, blind spot intervention, backup collision intervention, predictive forward-collision warning, forward emergency braking and lane-departure warning with lane-departure prevention.

Optional for SL versions are a blind spot monitoring system, backup collision intervention, predictive forward-collision warning and forward emergency braking.

Finale

Historically, this big SUV hasn’t been a huge seller for Nissan — it certainly hasn’t posed a threat to the domestic big boys. The 2017 Armada, however, is a giant leap forward in refinement, capability and technology. It just may steal some sales from the likes of the Chevrolet Tahoe and the Ford Expedition. Find a Nissan Armada for sale

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

 

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

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