2017 Nissan Armada Platinum First Test Review

by Heather Platt | Posted on Saturday, October 8th, 2016

It might be hard to imagine now, in a day and age where there’s such a thing as an electric sport-utility vehicle, but big V-8-powered body-on-frame SUVs like the Nissan Armada used to be among the most popular vehicles on the road. A product of the early 2000s when Americans were literally buying Hummer H2s and Ford Excursions en masse, Nissan built the original Armada and its Infiniti twin, the QX56, on the bones of its full-size Titan pickup truck.

2017 Nissan Armada Platinum

A lot has changed since then. Hummer is gone, and so are huge gas guzzlers like the Excursion. But other things have stayed the same, chiefly the strong demand from large families and fleets for big, tough SUVs with plenty of power and capability to haul the family, tow a boat, and put up with rural two-track roads. There’s still money to be made here, but Nissan had to be smart about it. Given the dominance of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban in the space, it didn’t make sense to develop another SUV on the new Titan’s platform. Instead, when building the 2017 Nissan Armada, the automaker looked overseas at the other body-on-frame brute in its portfolio: the Patrol.

Never sold in America before the launch of the second-gen Infiniti QX56 (now QX80) in 2011, the Nissan Patrol has long been a favorite of militaries and non-governmental organizations alike. The original Patrol went into production back in the ’50s as a cheap, rugged off-road vehicle. Like the rival Toyota Land Cruiser, it’s grown bigger, more luxurious, and more technologically advanced over the years. The current-generation Nissan Patrol even sports locking differentials and a hydraulic body control system that’s capable of essentially disconnecting the rig’s anti-roll bars for better off-road articulation like the Lexus LX 570.

The Nissan Armada has none of that stuff.

If you’ll allow me to editorialize for a moment, I think that’s rather disappointing. Despite the fact that the Patrol has never before been sold in the States, Nissan is still pretty well known here for its off-road heritage. It even offers off-road-ready Pro-4X packages on vehicles such as the Titan and Frontier pickups. Not to do so on the Armada seems like a huge missed opportunity.

On the other hand, it makes all the sense in the world. Taken on its own and compared directly to a vehicle such as the Chevy Tahoe (which long ago gave up any pretense of real off-road ability), the new Armada is quite competitive. Its Tennessee-built “Endurance” 5.6-liter V-8 is a stout one. Making 390 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque and mated to a seven-speed automatic and a four-wheel-drive system in our loaded Armada Platinum tester, the V-8 is brutish in the best-possible way. Under-stressed and over-powered, the engine sounds excellent when you get deep into the throttle, the (almost) three-ton Nissan’s rear end squatting down as it launches forward.

The Armada’s powertrain may be a strong selling point to those who might’ve only been considering Chevys or Fords, there’s an additional buyer who may also want to take a gander over to their local Nissan dealership: Infiniti QX80 customers. As far as we can tell, the interior on our loaded $61,435 Armada Platinum was virtually identical to that of a loaded $89,845 Infiniti QX80. The Armada’s interior features rich, high-quality leather, fancy wood trim, and ritzy white-contrast stitching throughout the cabin. The front two rows of seats are comfortable and spacious, and second row passengers get their own entertainment screens and a non-removable center console via an optional $450 package that’s best skipped.

Although car enthusiasts may lament the missed opportunity the 2017 Nissan Armada represents, ultimately the vehicle Nissan brought to market makes all the sense in the world. With gas cheap for now and sales of SUVs booming, there are bound to be shoppers looking for a big, capable family-hauler that’s different than what everyone else in the neighborhood seems to have. For those buyers, the new Armada is a credible alternative in a sea of Tahoes and Suburbans.

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