DETROIT — There was a time not long ago that it was pretty much even money whether large body-on-frame sport-utilities would last. But a funny thing happened on the way to the graveyard: no one saw the explosion in the popularity of utility vehicles, and no one saw the collapse of gas prices. In these parts, the price of petrol is hovering around two bucks a gallon.
So rather than consign their three-row, body-on-frame sport utilities to the trash heap, manufacturers are restyling them and adding creature comforts to take advantage of the market. That’s what Nissan did to its full-size sport-utility, the Armada.
For 2021, the Armada had a 5.6-liter V8 engine that made 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. What they’ve managed to do is remove the truck DNA. In other words, the Armada was smooth, quiet, didn’t run or sound like a truck and was relatively nimble.
Mileage was never a strong suit for this kind of vehicle and that has not changed with the 2021 Nissan Armada. We had the 4X4 version and it got 13 mpg in the city,18 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined.
They’ve redesigned the grille, hood, front fenders, front, and rear bumpers. They gave it new LED headlights and taillights. And it had the new Nissan badge, as if anybody would notice. Anyway, that is what Nissan designers and engineers have done.
Now this is what all that means. The Armada actually “looks” smaller. It is sort of stylishly raked and stubby in a good way. This is not bad. It seems to us that making a big vehicle look small is not a bad thing.
They managed to make it drive small as well. There were a couple of times that went over swells in the road and those were the only times we felt a sense of the Armada’s size and weight. It really handled like a midsize crossover.
The center stack had been redesigned to the point of it not looking like a stack and more like a horizontal control area. The straight up and down stack was gone. The 12.3-inch touch infotainment screen certainly lent to the horizontal look.
Nissan has always produced better than average interiors. This one had quilted leather; it was quiet, and they took the lumps out of the ride. We had the platinum trim line.
There was a rear step lamp, traffic sign recognition, rear collision intervention, quilted leather, illuminated cupholders, stitching, 22-inch wheels and a 20-inch spare alloy wheel. And the third-row seats were power recline and fold seats.
Luckily, we had no need of experiencing how forward-collision warning worked, and we were grateful for blind spot intervention. We had no need to use the adaptive cruise control.
However, we did use Apple CarPlay. This Armada also had wireless charging and in-vehicle Wi-Fi. It could tow 8,500 lbs. in either two-wheel or four-wheel configuration. And it had a trailer brake controller with tow hitch receiver and trailer sway control.
The 2021 Armada had heated side-view mirrors that folded, and they had puddle lights. Our test vehicle had second-row captain’s chairs that were heated. And those seats had their own center console
It was so early in the process that Nissan had not settled on a price. But we think our test model will be priced at about $60K.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.