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2018 Nissan Armada Review

2018 Nissan Armada Review
The 2018 Nissan Armada pairs good towing performance with a roomy, comfortable interior worthy of a luxury label.

The 2018 Nissan Armada is a full-size, three-row SUV that offers enough room inside for an entire army of rugrats.

The Armada is a kissing-cousin to the Infiniti QX80, so it feels something like a watered-down luxury SUV.  That’s all right with us, especially since this SUV is a fairly good value for a family hauler that can tow your camper or boat. It’s a guzzler and not exactly brilliant to drive, which is why it’s a so-so 6.2 out of 10 on our scale. 

Available in SV, SL, Platinum and new, range-topping Platinum Reserve trim levels, the Armada mostly stands pat for 2018. The Platinum Reserve comes dangerously close to QX80 pricing, although it’s far more of a luxury SUV than its Nissan badge suggests.

The Armada is offered with rear- or four-wheel drive. All variants share the same 5.6-liter V-8 rated at 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. Separate body-on-frame construction means that the Armada is rated to tow up to 8,500 pounds when properly equipped with an optional towing package.

At nearly 6,000 pounds, the Armada is a bulky SUV. It hides its weight reasonably well on a curvy road, although its handling is ponderous compared to lighter car-like crossover rivals including Nissan’s own Pathfinder. However, the big V-8 provides the Armada with solid acceleration—at the expense of fuel economy, of course.

Inside, the Armada is as curvy as it is outside. Overstuffed seats deliver a throne-like experience for the front and second rows, although the third row is best for children. The second row comes standard as a three-seat bench, but the Armada Platinum trim level can be dressed up with individual bucket seats and a full center console. Every version of the Armada is well-equipped and SVs stand out as high-value propositions thousands less than rivals such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition.

The Armada hasn’t been crash-tested, but it offers high-tech safety features like automatic emergency braking on all but the SV trim level.

The bulbous 2018 Nissan Armada is not a pretty vehicle, although its interior is attractive enough.

On some cars, voluptuous is a compliment. Not here.

We’ve dialed back a point for the 2018 Armada’s awkward exterior shape, but we’ve tossed another one back for its luxo-grade interior. Sure, the wood trim’s not real in there, but everything else speaks to traditional luxury.

The Armada looks like the Infiniti QX80, except with a little less chrome and contrasting fender flares. The traditional SUV two-box shape is present, but Nissan has tried to make things more interesting with lots of curves. Perhaps too many.

It’s at the rear where the Armada looks the least like the QX80. Clear taillights and a jutting rear bumper differentiate it, but arguing about the better booty is like fighting over who makes the best shredded wheat cereal, Post or Kellogg’s. Just don’t.

We like things inside more, even on the SV with its standard cloth upholstery. The curvy dashboard appears to rob the interior of space, but there’s still plenty of stretch-out room. The Armada’s myriad controls may take some time to sort through, but they’re easy enough to see.

This year’s Platinum Reserve trim level throws in two-tone leather that’s just the wrong side of tacky, although it does tone down the exterior chrome with a darker but still shiny finish. Its name may sound like fine Kentucky bourbon, but there’s nothing particularly sauve about this gaudy trim package.

A good ride quality and ample towing ability help mask the 2018 Nissan Armada’s inherently iffy handling.

We’ve added points for the confident towing ability made possible by the 2018 Nissan Armada’s strong V-8 and for its luxury-level ride quality, but we’ve dialed back one for ponderous handling and another for sluggish handling.

All Armadas share the same 5.6-liter V-8 that makes 390-horsepower, 394 pound-feet of torque. Power is shuttled either to the rear wheels or, optionally, all four via a 7-speed automatic transmission. Underneath, the Armada has a fully independent suspension that helps give it a better ride than its body-on-frame configuration might suggest. Unlike the QX80, the Armada’s suspension consists of coil springs rather than an available air spring setup, but the difference in ride quality isn’t all that noticeable.

Armada S trims ride best with their 18-inch wheels and ample sidewalls. The 20s standard across the rest of the lineup are a bit firmer, but not unduly so. Kudos to Nissan for not following some rivals with even larger wheels and tires that may look good but ride stiffly and are pricey to replace.

Nissan doesn’t quote a 0-60 time for the Armada, but we’ve pegged this big SUV at under seven seconds. That’s ferociously fast for an SUV that tops 6,000 pounds with passengers and fuel aboard. The V-8 is smooth at idle and emits a subdued growl underway, giving this SUV a more premium feel than its Nissan badge might indicate.

The Armada’s leather-wrapped, four-spoke steering wheel feels good in your hands, but there’s little road feel. The Armada porpoises around curves and leans hard into corners, although it never feels unsafe.

The biggest advantage to this SUV’s antiquated body-on-frame design most buyers are likely to experience is its towing ability: 8,500 pounds with the right trailer-tugging options selected. A trailer-towing harness is optional on the Armada S and standard elsewhere.

Four-wheel drive is optional on all versions of the Armada, but this big SUV’s dimensions make it best suited to very wide trails—or maybe dune-bashing in the Middle East. After all, the Armada is sold globally as the Nissan Patrol and it’s especially popular in places like Dubai and Qatar. Painted white, of course.

Comfort & Quality
Given its size, the 2018 Nissan Armada’s utility is no surprise. But it luxury feel impresses.

The 2018 Nissan Armada is a plush hauler with plenty of room for passengers and an upscale feel.

We’ve scored it at 8 out of 10 points here, reflecting its good room in its front and second rows, good cargo space, and its Infiniti-lite finish as assets but recognizing that its third row is best for children.

This year’s Armada S comes standard with cloth upholstery, but otherwise they’re basically proper luxury SUVs inside with good soft-touch materials and convincing fake wood trim scattered about. Up front, the seats offer a wide range of adjustment and are amply padded for long distances. Row two is much the same, especially with the optional captain’s chairs on Platinum trims that replace a three-position bench. The Armada’s third row is fairly roomy, but somewhat challenging to access.
Cargo space is, predictably, an Armada asset. Behind the third row, there’s 16.5 cubic feet of space. With the third row folded, that balloons to nearly 50 cubes. Fold both the second and third rows and the Armada can swallow up to 95.4 cubic feet of whatever you want to throw at it.

A new rearview camera is a nice upgrade to the 2018 Nissan Armada, but this big SUV has not yet been crash-tested.

The 2018 Nissan Armada is well-equipped with safety features and offers even more as optional equipment, but it has not yet been crash-tested by independent or federal agencies.

As a result, we cannot assign it a score here.

All 2018 Armadas come with six airbags including curtain airbags that extend all the way to the third row. Anti-lock brakes and a rearview camera are also standard line-wide.

Platinum trims come standard with blind-spot monitors, automatic emergency braking, and active lane control. That tech is optional on Armada SLs and but not available on Armada SVs.

New this year for Platinums is a rearview camera that, at the flip of a switch, displays a live feed from the rear of the vehicle. It’s basically a real-time rearview mirror that eliminates visual obstruction caused by the rearmost roof pillars, head rests, and even passengers’ heads.

The 2018 Nissan Armada has good standard and optional equipment, but there’s not much that stands out here.

The 2018 Nissan Armada lineup grows upward this year with the addition of a new Platinum Reserve trim level. It’s still cheaper than the Infiniti QX80, but not by much.

Overall, we give the Armada lineup a 7 out of 10 for its features. The base configuration is a good value and has a suitably upmarket feel, while higher-spec trims add considerable equipment. On the other hand, the infotainment system has a large screen, but an outdated design.

The Armada S anchors the lineup and includes features like a rearview camera, power front seats wrapped in cloth, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, automatic climate control, keyless ignition, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with navigation, and Bose speakers.

A single option package is available: the Driver Package that includes fog lights, an interior auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trailer towing harness with pre-wiring for a brake controller, a power-folding third row, and a power liftgate.

Armada SLs add fog lights, automatic-dimming exterior mirrors, power liftgate, power-folding third row of seats, leather upholstery, memory for the driver’s seat, remote start, and a power-adjustable steering column.

Optional on the SL is the Premium Package with a power moonroof, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors.

The Armada Platinum adds the Premium Package’s equipment plus active lane control, a rearview mirror that displays live video footage of what’s behind the vehicle, cooled front seats, and more leather trim inside. Second row captain’s chairs are optional on Platinums.

Finally, this year’s new Platinum Reserve has its own upholstery and special exterior trim that dials back the chrome a hair.

Fuel Economy
Around 6,000 pounds is a lot to lug around, so it’s no surprise that the 2018 Nissan Armada is among the thirstiest vehicles on the market today.

Not many SUVs are as thirsty as the 2018 Nissan Armada.

This big bruiser’s only real asset here is that Nissan says it’s formulated to run on regular fuel. 

Rear-wheel drive Armadas weigh the least, but their 14 mpg city, 19 highway, 16 combined is not great. Opt for four-wheel drive and those numbers slide to just 13/18/15 mpg.

By comparison, the similarly powerful Chevrolet Tahoe manages 18 to 19 mpg combined. That’s a hefty improvement that you’ll notice at every gas station visit. 

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