CARMEL VALLEY, Calif. — There’s an old saying about staying in position and that is just what Nissan is trying to do. Some may think it is less than wise to sink a bunch of product development cash into a new generation full size sport utility vehicle but that is just what Nissan has done in the guise of the 2017 Nissan Armada.
The reasoning is simple and sound. About a quarter of a million full-size sport utilities are sold every year and Nissan wants a piece of that pie. The profit margins on full-size sport utilities are ample, just ask Nissan’s competitors. And that bottom line, more than anything, no doubt was the driving force behind the 2017 Armada.
Even though sales of the Armada were down 27 percent last year, a Nissan executive told us that was because there was no 2016 model. What’s more, the automaker fully expects to recoup the loss and add to it with the new version of their flagship sport utility.
With a big sport utility, it’s what’s under the hood that counts the most, The Armada had a 5.6 liter direct injection V8 that made 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission, the new Armada could tow 8,500 lbs. in both four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive models.
Fuel efficiency was a not strong suit of the Armada; the same is true of any full-size sport utility. The EPA rating is 14 mpg in the city, 19 mpg on the highway and 16 mpg combined for two-wheel drive. For four-wheel drive the figures are: 13 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined. The Armada had a 26 gallon fuel tank and was tuned to run on regular gasoline.
And while we’re at it, full pricing figures had not been released at the time of the test drive either, but that same executive said that the base price of the Armada would be $45,395.
This engine was great. It was responsive, it was quiet, Nissan used acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows, and it lacked the drone of most truck-based powerplants. The Armada was a body on frame sport utility that sat on the platform of the Nissan Patrol, a highly regarded global off road sport utility.
An interesting characteristic of the Armada was that it didn’t drive big. It felt like a small crossover vehicle. The roads were literally filled with fire trucks combating the Soberanes Creek wildfire in Monterey County that had destroyed homes, caused evacuations, closed roads and was nowhere near being contained. The point is that the Armada was highly maneuverable. It looked pretty good too.
It all started with the V-motion grille and standard low-beam LED headlights. The high beams were halogen. There were also LED daytime running lights. LEDs were used for the taillights too
The front fenders had air intake vents. The chrome plated sideview mirrors were automatic dimming, they had puddle lights and they were heated. A power liftgate was an option. The Armada had body colored front and rear bumpers and a black grille with chrome trim. The side window moldings also had chrome trim. There were dark roof rails and front and rear parking sensors and rain sensing windshield wipers. The front wipers could also be equipped with a de-icer.
Inside, the Armada could carry either seven or eight passengers depending on whether the second row had captain’s chairs or a bench seat. Either or, the second row folded into a flat cargo floor as did the 60-40 split third row. A nice feature we’ve not seen before was the double hinged center console lid. In other words, the storage compartment could be opened from the front or from the second row seat.
The Armada had a full-box all steel frame. Stiffness was increased by 20 percent over the old model. We went on a short but intense off road test that was laid out in the infield of the Laguna Seca Raceway where at least one of the Armanda’s wheels and sometimes two came off the ground. Articulation was good and there was no body twisting. The 2017 Armada was a solidly built sport utility. The double wishbone coil over springs suspension provided a smooth ride when we were on the pavement.
Nissan makes one of the best centerstacks in the business. It was tall without being intrusive and it looked like a piece of furniture. The speedometer and the tachometer were analogue. The premium audio system was speed sensitive, there was Bluetooth, satellite radio and the sport utility had 13 speakers and a subwoofer.
It had a navigation system, a rear seat entertainment system with headrest displays, a smart key, push button start and stop and it could be equipped with full range intelligent cruise control depending on the trim line. There are three: SV, SL and Platinum.
Nissan is leaving nothing to chance. The 2017 Armada is assembled at its Kyushu assembly plant, the company’s best in terms of quality and one of the ten best in the world.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.