Nissan has rolled out the second generation of its Armada full-size sport utility vehicle for 2017, making it bigger, pricier and much better than before.
Armada continues to be offered in the same three trim levels as last year's models: SV, SL and Platinum, and all three versions are offered with rear- or four-wheel drive.
Prices for the all-new Armada begin at $44,900 (plus $995 freight) for the base SV two-wheel-drive model and range as high as $60,490 for the top-of-the-line Platinum all-wheel-drive version, the automaker announced.
In between are the SV four-wheel drive ($47,800); SL two-wheel drive ($49,650); SL four-wheel drive ($52,550); and Platinum two-wheel drive ($57,590).
Now on sale at Nissan dealerships nationwide, the 2017 Armada was introduced at the Chicago auto show in February. It's based on the architecture of the Infiniti QX80 (formerly QX56), which itself comes from the Nissan Patrol, a vehicle that is popular in much of the rest of the world, but has never been sold in the United States.
Until now, the Armada - which was introduced in 2004 as the Pathfinder Armada - had been on the same chassis as the Nissan Titan pickup, and both have been assembled at the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss.
But with the 2017 restyling, the Armada moves to the QX80 platform, and production has been shifted to the same plant in Kyushu, Japan, that has been making the QX80 since its redesign for model year 2011.
With the shift of the Pathfinder to a car-based crossover format three years ago, the Armada was the only three-row, truck-based SUV left in the Nissan lineup, and with this update, it remains a conventional SUV rather than becoming a crossover.
The new model is 1.2 inches longer overall, but has a 2.1-inch shorter wheelbase. It's also 0.6-inch wider and 2.2-inches lower than the model it replaced.
Depending on the interior configuration, the Armada seats seven or eight, with eight being the standard capacity. That includes a standard second-row bench seat that holds three people; for $450 extra, that seat can be replaced by two captain's chairs. That lowers the capacity to seven, with two in front, two in the middle and three in the rearmost seat.
Our test vehicle, the Armada Platinum four-wheel drive, had the bench seat in the middle. During parts of our trip, we had passengers in the middle row, but did not use the third-row seat. It's roomy enough for big kids and even average-size adults, though, as the interior of this vehicle is cavernous.
But climbing up into the cabin from outside can be a chore for those not in the best physical shape, though. But at least there are steel side step rails with rubber pads on each side to help in the stepping up into the Armada.
This remake ensures that Nissan will have a competitive vehicle in the full-size SUV class, which is dominated by the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and its siblings, the GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, and on the import side, the Toyota Sequoia. Also in the mix are the Ford Expedition and its Lincoln counterpart, the Navigator.
The 2017 Armada is powered by a 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 engine nearly identical to the one in the QX80. In the Armada, it's rated at 390 horsepower and 394 foot-pounds of torque. It's also connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission like that in the Infiniti.
This is a beast of an engine that moves the heavy vehicle along quite easily, and offers plenty of quick passing power with a firm push on the accelerator. We had no trouble climbing some fairly steep mountain grades through the Smokies on the North Carolina-Tennessee border in our Armada Platinum, during a long Thanksgiving road trip.
EPA ratings are 14 city/19 highway/16 combined for rear-drive models, and 13/18/15 for four-wheel-drives. During our test week, with mostly high-speed interstate highway driving, we averaged nearly 17 mpg. Range on a tank of fuel was showing to be over 400 miles, but the fuel gauge on our tester indicated very low - nearly empty - when we still had eight gallons of gasoline in the tank and more than 120 miles to empty showing on the driver information center in the middle of the instrument panel. That had us mistrusting the miles-to-empty reading.
The Adaptive Cruise Control included as standard equipment on our Platinum model was very precise, holding the vehicle to the preset speed with little or no drift either going uphill or down. Unlike some high-end vehicles, particularly European models, the Armada's cruise control can be adjusted up or down in 1 mph increments, and you can see the set speed on a digital readout in the center of the dash.
The Armada got a completely new exterior, and a side-by-side comparison with the QX80 shows just how similar they are. The corners and edges are more rounded than those of the previous Armada, and as we drove our test vehicle through traffic on our trip, we marveled at how it towered over most of the other vehicles.
Other high-end features on our vehicle included Nissan Navigation with NavTraffic and NavWeather and an eight-inch color display; heated and cooled front seats; and a 13-speaker Bose audio system. We also had a rear entertainment system that included nine-inch monitors in the backs of the two front seats, along with wireless headphones and remote control.
The Armada's truck-style frame has enough strength to tow trailers weighing up to 8,500 pounds, a welcome feature to most Texas buyers. Nissan says there was an increase of 20 percent in body stiffness, helping enhance handling and ride comfort.
Outside, the new Armada features a V-motion grille and standard LED low-beam headlights with halogen high beams and LED Daytime Running Lights. Headlights are automatic on/off, and there are also fog lights included on the SL and Platinum models (optional on SV). At the rear, there are LED taillights.
As with the QX80, there are functional air intake vents on the front fenders. The outside mirrors have puddle lights that turn on when the doors are unlocked. Chrome-plated electro-chromatic mirrors with memory, heat and puddle lamps are standard on SL and Platinum models.
There is 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the third-row seat in place, and 49.9 cubic feet with the third-row seatbacks folded down (they are split 60-40, with power-folding). We hauled some Black Friday purchases in the rear with the third row folded, and had lots of room for everything we bought.
At the rear, a power tailgate with an auto-closure feature is standard on SL and Platinum models, and optional on the SV. There are also body-color front and rear bumpers, a black grille with chrome trim, chrome on the side window moldings and door handles, privacy glass, dark-painted over-fenders and side step rails, dark-painted roof rails, and front and rear parking sensors.
Standard on Platinum and available on other models are rain-sensing front wipers and front wiper de-icers. Among standard interior features is a heated steering wheel.
The SV has premium cloth seats, while leather is standard on SL and Platinum grades. Three interior colors are offered - Charcoal and Almond (cloth and leather) and Tan (leather only). Our tester came in the Forged Copper exterior color, with the Almond leather interior.
Because this is a real off-road-capable SUV, the optional all-mode four-wheel drive features low-range gearing with a two-speed transfer case for serious trail driving. We didn't have the opportunity to take our tester off-road, however.
Standard are four-wheel antilock disc brakes, which include Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist.
Three wheel and tire combinations are offered, depending on model, either 18 or 20 inches. Our Platinum model came with the special 20-inch Premium Machine Finished Alloy Wheels in silver and black, which gave the vehicle a bit of a menacing look - great for driving in heavy traffic.
There were no extras on our Armada Platinum four-wheel drive; the only available factory options are the middle-row captain's chairs and special Pearl White exterior paint ($395). There are some port-installed accessories available, however, including roof rail cross bars ($375), carpeted floor mats ($300), illuminated kick plates ($365), an interior lighting package ($330), and USB charging ports ($120). (There is a USB port up front that connects to the audio system, included in the base price.)
There was no 2016 model of the Armada - it skipped a year as the redesign was under way.
2017 Nissan Armada
- The package: Full-size, seven- or eight-passenger, five-door, rear- or four-wheel-drive, V-8 powered, body-on-frame sport utility vehicle.
- Highlights: The Armada has been completely redesigned for 2017 to mirror the premium Infiniti QX80 model on which it is based. This is a big, premium family hauler with lots of power, a smooth ride, and a long list of available comfort, convenience and safety features.
- Negatives: Can get pricey with all the extras.
- Engine: 5.6-liter V-8.
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
- Power/torque: 390 HP./394 foot-pounds.
- Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
- Length: 208.9 inches.
- Curb weight range: 5,576-5,963.
- Cargo capacity: 16.5 cubic feet (behind third row); 49.9 (third row folded).
- Electronic stability control: Standard.
- Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, three-row side curtain.
- Towing capacity: 8,500 pounds.
- EPA fuel economy: 14 mpg city/19 highway/16 combined (2WD); 13/18/15 (4WD).
- Fuel capacity/type: 26 gallons/premium recommended, but not required.
- Base price range: $44,900-$60,490, plus $995 freight.
- Price as tested: $61,735, including freight and options (Platinum 4WD model with middle-row captain's chairs).
- Major competitors: Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban/GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, Audi Q7, Toyota Sequoia.
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