By Derek Price
According to the sale numbers, people who shop for full-size SUVs most often end up with Fords and Chevrolets.
Nissan’s Armada makes a strong case, though, for people who need the capability and sheer size of a traditional SUV but want a more refined cabin and silky ride than the American brands currently offer.
The Armada delivers the smoothness and head-turning style of a luxury vehicle, despite coming from a mainstream brand. It’s one of the most sumptuous-riding full-size SUVs for sale today, with a beautifully designed, leather-covered, amenity-filled cabin to match.
There’s one glaring exception, though: you can’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in it because the Armada’s dated infotainment system doesn’t support them.
Aside from that, the Armada gets the basic SUV formula very right.
It offers plenty of power from a huge V8 under the hood. The 5.6-liter Endurance powerplant makes 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque, enough to tow up to 8,500 pounds with the right equipment.
As expected in a powerful, heavy, body-on-frame SUV, the Armada’s gas mileage isn’t impressive. My four-wheel-drive tester was rated at 13 mpg in city driving and 18 on the highway, numbers I found accurate — if not optimistic — in my lead-footed week behind the wheel.
The rear-wheel-drive version improves both those numbers by a slim margin: just 1 mpg.
What you experience from it, though, is equal parts comfortable and capable.
The Armada has a sophisticated four-wheel-drive system with an electronic transfer case. Decent ground clearance and a smart traction control system make it a legitimate off-road machine.
Most of the time, the four-wheel-drive Armada sends all its power to the rear wheels to help with fuel economy. When it needs extra traction, though, it can route half its torque to the front wheels to help in challenging conditions.
Its real strong point, though, is the cabin.
Not only does it look and feel expensive, but it’s supremely quiet at highway speeds. It’s remarkably close to the otherworldly silence and smoothness you get in more expensive SUVs such as the Land Rover Range Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser.
In the first and second rows, the seats are fantastically roomy, even for big adults. The third-row seats, as are typical in this class, feel a bit more cramped but will work for adults in a pinch.
The cabin is easily configurable, especially in higher trims with the power-folding back seats. At the press of a button, the back seats fold completely flat with the loading floor to create a massive space for bulky cargo, a feature that’s standard on the SL, Platinum and Platinum Reserve grades You can press the button again to watch them motor back up into place.
The loading height seems fairly tall, though. Getting cargo up into may take some heavy lifting.
One thoughtful feature I love on new Nissans is the Rear Door Alert, which comes standard on every Armada. It can honk and flash lights to remind the driver if they may have accidentally left a child, pet or something valuable in the back seat.
Pricing starts at $47,500 for the base SV trim and ranges up to $63,930 for the 4×4 Platinum.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2020 Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD Auto ($63,530). Options: Platinum Reserve package ($2,250), carpeted floor mats ($320), illuminated kick plates ($390), carpeted cargo mat ($355), welcome lighting ($395), 22-inch wheel package ($2,250), captain’s chair package ($450). Price as tested (including $1,395 destination charge): $71,335
Wheelbase: 121.1 in.
Length: 208.9 in.
Width: 79.9 in.
Height: 75.8 in.
Engine: 5.6-liter Endurance V8 (390 hp, 394 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 13 city, 18 highway
Why buy it?
It’s a silkier, smoother-riding twist on the classic SUV formula. Its V8 power and four-wheel-drive system make it highly capable at towing and off-roading.