A Missed Opportunity?
By Stephen Elmer Feb 28, 2017, Photos by Chris Blanchette
Engine: 5.6-liter V8
Output: 390 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 13 city, 18 hwy
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100km): 17.5 city, 12.9 hwy
Price (US): Starts at $44,900. As tested $61,585
Price (CAN): Starts at $64,248. As tested $70,000
The new Nissan Armada is a large, unapologetic, body-on-frame SUV that provides seating for up to eight people and a comfortable ride. But let’s take a look at what this SUV isn’t to really see how it has evolved.
For 2017, Nissan has decided to import the Patrol, an SUV that has been on sale in world markets for years, rather than redesign the Armada using the all-new frame from the Titan pickup truck. But we don’t get the same Armada as everyone else, either. In North America, we don’t get the front- and rear-locking differentials, disconnecting sway bar system or hydraulic body mount setup that the Patrol gets in other markets.
It is understandable that Nissan wants to chase the family market, rather than the much more elusive full-size SUV off-roader. This switchover to the watered-down Patrol platform, however, doesn’t exactly deliver for families either, because it cuts rear-seat legroom by nearly four inches compared to the previous Armada model.
So, it’s not the hardcore off-roader it could be (in fact, the new model has a lower approach angle than the previous model, making it less capable off road as well), and it is actually less practical for people hauling. And, unfortunately, the negative effects of this so-called redesign don’t stop there.
The interior of the new Armada looks like it could be from 2010, because it is. That was the same year the Patrol received its last major update and it hasn’t been touched since. So while old doesn’t always mean bad, there are some glaring issues with this approach. First, the grey plastic used on the center console looks tacky and out of place, especially next to the nice wood trim, while the layout is busy and convoluted.
If Nissan had of gone ahead with the Titan-based redesign, the Armada would likely have shared the truck’s new innards, which are leaps and bounds ahead of this interior in terms of modernity and contemporary design. The small info screen between the gauges shows the vehicle’s age with its black and white graphics. And to add insult to injury, Nissan’s infotainment system is itself slightly laggy and confusing, not adding to the appeal of the Armada inside.
SEE MORE: 2017 Nissan Armada First Drive
On the plus side, the leather used in the Platinum trim Armada we tested was sumptuous to the touch and the seats, including the rear bucket seats, were comfortable.
Looking in the back, the standard seating setup consists of two bucket seats up front with two 60/40 split bench seats behind, providing space for eight passengers. A full 41 inches of legroom is available for the second row, which is a ton of space for an adult to be comfortable. Third-row occupants are, again, the ones who lost out, with just 28.4 inches of legroom, falling short of its competition.
So the interior feels old, there is less legroom in the back and the fun equipment that makes the Patrol so popular in world markets is not present. Does this SUV have anything to offer? It certainly does.
It’s in the drive where the Armada manages to offer something that its competition can’t: a totally plush ride. Driving the Armada feels old school: this is a big SUV that floats over the road, leans in the corners and provides some real comfort. Many of today’s full-size SUVs have aspirations of handling, which results in a stiffer ride. The Armada isn’t trying to stick in the corners, but in doing so, it manages to be one of comfiest big SUVs out there.
Power is not lacking from the 5.6-liter V8 that makes 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque, made accessible to your right foot by a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V8 revs smoothly and the seven-speed always has torque on tap, although we did catch it making a few slow downshifts. The downshifts themselves were always smooth, facilitated by the auto rev-matching downshift system at work in the Armada’s seven-speed. It is nearly imperceptible while it is working unless you’re paying attention to it, and that is exactly the point.
SEE MORE: 2016 Infiniti QX80 Review
There is something else old school about the new Armada as well: fuel economy. The ratings are pegged at 13 mpg (17.5 L/100 km) in the city, 18 (12.9 L/100 km) on the highway, combining for 15 mpg (15.4 L/100 km), not exactly great numbers. Keep in mind, the 5,822-pound curb weight of the Armada is not doing it any favors.
Although the Armada has taken a leap back in time with this update, there are a few modern systems, such as the adaptive cruise control, which, like other modern Nissan products, works well. Compared to some other systems on the market, we have found Nissan’s to be slightly smoother than other systems out there. There is also auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist, backup collision intervention, around view monitor cameras and moving object detection.
The loaded up Armada Platinum model that we tested sells for $61,585 in the U.S., certainly a lot of money, but not crazy when you consider that a top-trim Chevy Suburban Premier sells for just over $66,000. At the low end, the basic Armada SV starts at $44,900.
In Canada, the Armada Platinum sells for just over $70,000, while the comparable fully loaded Chevy Suburban costs over $75,000 north of the border.
The Verdict: 2017 Nissan Armada Platinum Review
So, does it really matter that the Armada is now an imported Patrol? Well, in a vacuum, when you don’t consider its predecessor, the 2017 Nissan Armada is not a bad vehicle, offers a strong powertrain, nice first- and second-row accommodations and a comfortable ride. But when you look at it next to its predecessor, and especially next to modern Nissan products like the Titan, you can see how this business decision driven by cost savings is holding Nissan back from being a real player in the full-size SUV space.
While not bad on its own, the 2017 Nissan Armada feels like a missed opportunity.
Lack of third row legroom