Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: December 2, 2019
No other vehicle makes as big of an entrance, both literally and figuratively, as the Nissan Armada. Due to its sheer size, bulbous overhangs, and 1980s-design language, the Armada is a rolling tank with a huffing and puffing V8 engine, sturdy body-on-frame foundation, eight-passenger capability, and an appealing price tag. What it isn’t, is a modern, feature-rich, or fuel-efficient SUV. Handsome new LED lights give it some youthful garnish but much like other Nissans in the stable, the Armada’s infotainment unit is ten years old and acts like it, the steering wheel is grainy and lacks any leather wrap, and the interior materials aren’t as visually pleasing as its Infiniti QX80 twin brother. The center console design harks back to a time when Walkmans were cool, and the naturally aspirated V8 engine sips fuel like a thirsty flamethrower but delivers only 390 hp and 394 lb-ft through its 7-speed automatic transmission.
One noteworthy item is the relatively low starting price of $65,898, up to $75,898 for the most expensive Platinum Reserve trim. And when you consider the fact than an Infiniti QX80, with better leather, a more premium badge, upgraded interior trim pieces, and subjectively better looks, costs just a few grand more ($78,350 - $96,500), the Armada in all of its tank-like glory just isn’t very appealing. And it’s not that the full-size SUV segment is lacking in competitors either. The Honda Pilot is a handsome example of an athletic chassis matched with an efficient powertrain, the perennial Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon are proven favourites with more power from their V8 engines, and the Dodge Durango turns up the dial with a spacious cabin and 475 horses worth of SRT propulsion. Not to mention, the eight-passenger Ford Expedition has been thoroughly modernized and revamped with better ride qualities than the Nissan, and keen upstarts like the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride are aiming to steal everyone’s high-capacity thunder.
So where does the aging Armada fit in all of this? Therein lies the rub. The Armada has got a proper four-wheel drive system with an electronically controlled two-speed transfer case, and impressive towing capacity which remains at a leading 3,855 kg, or 8,500 lbs. It carries with itself undeniable off-road presence and has an army of cameras to mitigate difficulties in tight spaces. The seats are wide, plush, and comfortable for people of all sizes, the build quality is sturdy with impressive fit and finish, and there isn’t a single panel out of place. The ride is a typical truck-like experience: wallowy and bumpy, yet measured. The Armada does not handle undulations or corners like any of its lighter unibody competitors but it does exude a sense of confidence when going about town. While much thirstier and less fuel efficient - we averaged an appalling 18.4 L/100km on a mix of highway and city driving - the Armada’s massive V8 pays off by delivering a smooth and uninterrupted driving experience, but could use a turbocharger or two for its next-generation model. Acceleration from a halt is painfully slow, lacking that low-end thrust that you will find elsewhere. On a positive note, the velvety 7-speed gearbox shifts anonymously in the background and you will never notice it swapping cogs, further adding to its polished mojo.
The Armada is impressive in its own right with a stout frame and gentle V8 powertrain, but during our seven-day tenure behind the wheel, there wasn’t one time where we thought the Armada did something better than its rivals. The GM brothers have more powerful V8 engines, the Land Rover Discovery takes premium hauling to the next level, and new badges from the Korean duo have us thinking otherwise about a sturdy truck-based SUV. That said, eight-passenger capability, an impressive towing capacity, and a decent starting price can be tough to come by. The Armada, just isn’t it.
Model: 2020 Nissan Armada Platinum
Paint Type: Hermosa Blue
Base Price: $72,398
Price as Tested: $73,198
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,306 / 2,029 / 1,925
Curb weight (kg): 2,705
Engine: 5.6-litre V8
Horsepower: 390 hp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 394 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4WD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 17.7 / 12.9 / 15.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 18.4