Rumors of the full-size SUV’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Chevrolet Tahoe still sells in tremendous numbers, bolstered by gas prices that have recently been quite low. Joining the fray is the all-new Nissan Armada, which brings impressive luxury and capability to the segment. Let’s take a look at how these two 3-row SUVs stack up so you can see which might be better for you.
2017 Nissan Armada
The Armada was completely redesigned for 2017, although it’s closely related to the Infiniti QX80 that’s been on sale for a few years. It’s a bit smaller than before, but it’s more comfortable, luxurious and capable. It also has a tidier, more modern look. See all 2017 Nissan Armada models available near you
2017 Chevrolet Tahoe
Changes are light for the Chevy Tahoe, which enters its third year since a complete redesign. Forward low-speed automatic braking is now available, while the LTZ trim has been renamed Premier. See all 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe models available near you
The all-new Nissan Armada is substantially different from the version it replaces. There’s also not really any reliability data available for the mostly similar Infiniti QX80. As for the Chevy Tahoe, there have been numerous customer complaints indicating various electrical and interior accessory issues. Otherwise, like past Tahoes, reliability has been average to above-average.
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates, an all-wheel-drive (AWD) Tahoe returns 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. By contrast, the AWD Armada returns an EPA-estimated 13 mpg city/18 mpg hwy. Opting for rear-wheel drive nets an extra mpg in combined driving for both trucks.
These fuel economy differences are actually even greater than they seem. According to the EPA, an AWD Tahoe will cost an average of $1,800 to fill during the course of a year, while an AWD Armada will cost $2,200. In the realm of yearly fuel economy costs, a $400 difference is a big deal, and that gap will only compound with additional years driven.
Driving the Tahoe can be a bit of a ponderous experience compared to the Armada. The accelerator response is very sluggish (perhaps that explains the better fuel economy), the steering is slow, and you just generally feel like you’re driving a larger, more old-fashioned vehicle than the Armada. That’s not to say that the Nissan is lithe — it’s also cumbersome relative to a big crossover — but it is better to drive than the Chevy. It also has greater ground clearance for off-roading.
Neither the 2017 Armada nor the mechanically related Infiniti QX80 has been crash-tested by a third party. The Tahoe received four out of five stars from the government for overall crash safety, but five stars for frontal and side crash safety. Its lower overall rating is due to a rather low 3-star rollover score.
Both the Tahoe and the Armada are available with accident-avoidance technologies that include a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning. Both can also automatically brake and steer should you not heed its warnings (the Tahoe cannot react to the blind spot monitoring system, though). The Tahoe’s standard OnStar system includes automatic crash notification and an emergency assist button, two features not offered on the Armada.
The 2017 Tahoe and the 2017 Armada both come standard with an 8-inch touchscreen interface that represents the best available. The Nissan’s comes standard with navigation, though, while the Tahoe includes standard Apple CarPlay and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection. Both interfaces are reasonably easy to use, with the Tahoe’s screen being a bit easier to reach, while the Armada’s benefits from redundant physical controls (radio buttons and a control knob) that some drivers may appreciate. Apart from the Tahoe’s rear-seat entertainment system, which includes a Blu-ray player versus the Armada’s old-school DVD player, both offer most of the same tech features.
Comfort and Space
Advantage to the Armada here. The Nissan’s ride is generally more comfortable and isn’t prone to the shimmying and shaking over bumps that define the Tahoe and its old-fashioned live-axle rear suspension. To be fair, this issue does improve somewhat with the Premier trim’s adaptive dampers.
That suspension also limits the Chevy’s third-row and cargo space, as it significantly raises the floor. While the Armada’s third row is a little too low to the ground and less spacious than the one found in the Ford Expedition, the Tahoe’s is almost useless for anyone other than a child. Anyone else will feel like they’re sitting on the floor, with their knees pointing toward their chin or digging into the second row ahead. And while the Armada has only about 1 cubic foot more cargo space than the Tahoe (be it behind the first, second or third rows), the Chevy’s incredibly high load height makes it difficult to hoist things aboard. It’s an inherently compromised design, and it’s the main reason to reconsider the Tahoe in favor of the Armada or another competitor such as the Ford Expedition or the Toyota Sequoia.
A base 2017 Nissan Armada starts at $44,400 with rear-wheel drive, while AWD kicks it up to $47,300. By contrast, the base 2017 Tahoe is $47,215 with rear-wheel drive and $50,215 with AWD. They aren’t quite equipped equally, though, as the Chevy provides standard Apple CarPlay, on-board Wi-Fi, OnStar, tri-zone automatic climate control (versus dual-zone), rear parking sensors and 8-way power seats (versus 6-way). The Armada simply differs with LED headlights, so given the extra features and the Tahoe’s fuel savings, the two are probably about even.
As the price rises, though, the Armada has a considerable value advantage. For instance, a loaded Platinum costs $59,990, whereas a similarly equipped Tahoe Premier hits the register at $70,355. If you’re looking to have a lot of features on your SUV, that price difference easily wipes out the Tahoe’s fuel economy advantage.
Considering that the Tahoe’s clear advantage over the Armada — fuel economy — is effectively mitigated by its higher price, it’s harder to make a case for the big Chevrolet. The Nissan Armada just doesn’t have as many negatives associated with it and also has a lovely interior that differs little from its fancy Infiniti sibling. However, neither of these big SUVs is perfect, and we would highly recommend checking out the Ford Expedition, which is another solid option in this strong segment.