The Nissan Armada is a full-size, eight-seat, rear-wheel-drive SUV with a big powerful V-8 engine and options that can push it into the territory of the grandest Cadillac and Mercedes SUVs, for less money. In its more pedestrian trim, the SV model, competitors are more like the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition.
The Armada was last redesigned in 2017. For 2019, standard equipment includes a full suite of active safety features, led by automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
The Armada SUV is a truck, not a crossover, with its body separate from the frame and attached to it. This makes the SUV more rigid and rugged, and usually makes the ride stiffer, but the Armada manages the ride well. It’s the handling that feels more cumbersome. But its acceleration is almost astounding, able to blast from 0 to 60 mph in seven seconds, and it’s a joy to feel that smooth burst, even if it means a trip to the gas station, and soon.
The engine is a 5.6-liter V-8 making 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is available, although you won’t want to take the wide Armada on any narrow trails. Being a big truck, it can tow up to 8,500 pounds.
It’s no surprise that the fuel mileage is low, EPA-rated at 14 mpg City, 19 mpg Highway, and 16 mpg Combined, with rear-wheel drive; subtract 1 mpg for four-wheel drive. The good news is, it takes regular fuel. To get an engine rated 390 horsepower on 87-octane gas is great. It might not make that full 390 hp on 87, but you won’t miss the loss of power unless you’re a leadfoot.
The Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition get better mileage than that, 19 mpg with rear-wheel drive. And if you step down to a minivan to move your people, you could get 22 mpg.
It is a surprise that the Armada doesn’t ace the crash tests. The NHTSA only gives it four stars overall, with a low three stars for both frontal crash protection and rollover prevention. The IIHS hasn’t tested it.
Even the base Armada SV is well equipped, as it should be with a starting price of more than $48,000. It starts with cloth seating, and gets 18-inch wheels, three-row seating, 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bose sound system, front/rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, and more.
For about $56,000, the SL adds leather upholstery, fog lights, a surround-view camera system, power liftgate, power-folding third-row seats, driver-seat memory, 20-inch wheels, and a power-adjustable steering column.
The Platinum adds luxury and safety features starting for about $64,000, including rear-seat entertainment, blind-spot monitors and active lane control.
The fully loaded Platinum Reserve is about $70,000 and offers 20-inch wheels, two-tone leather upholstery with wood trim, heated steering wheel, a power liftgate, second-row captain’s chairs, and dark chrome exterior trim.
The Armada is big and bulbous, curvy but not sleek. It looks somewhat like its family relative the Infiniti QX80, but the Armada has less chrome, its fender flares are not the same color as the sheetmetal, its taillights are clear, and the rear bumper sticks out more.
The Armada strikes a near-luxury pose inside. Even in the base SV with cloth upholstery, the cabin is attractive and feels upscale. Wood trim is simulated, but convincing, complementing soft-touch surfaces. The two-tone leather upholstery in the Platinum Reserve is less convincing, but the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good.
Nissan’s infotainment system isn’t as user-friendly as others on the market, and in the Armada, it lacks Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. For a new car with a lackluster user interface, we wish Nissan would hand the keys over to one of those popular smartphone systems.
Although the curved dashboard seems to sweep into knee space, there’s plenty of room to stretch in not only the front but second rows. The front seats are abundantly padded and multi-adjustable, while the second row is three-person bench.
The third row isn’t quite so roomy, at least not for adults, and reaching it is a bit challenging. The Platinum model offers available captain’s chairs, which reduce the seating to seven but get rid of the second-row bench.
Cargo space is excellent, with 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row. Folding that row expands volume close to 50 cubic feet. With two rows folded, an Armada can hold 95.4 cubic feet of luggage and cargo.
Nissan’s big V-8 delivers impressive acceleration and confident towing capability. Considering the SUV’s weight of nearly 6,000 pounds, acceleration to 60 mph in less than seven seconds is impressive. The engine is quiet and smooth at low rpm, and emits a hungry growl as the hammer goes down.
Handling-wise, the Armada doesn’t offer much feel for the road. For a big SUV it copes well enough with curves, but compared to a crossover, the cornering is less nimble, more trucky, with plenty of lean in quick corners.
But the ride is very smooth, better than might be expected for a three-ton truck. That’s apparently due to the Armada’s four-wheel independent coil-spring suspension. The SV base model with 18-inch tires delivers most satisfying luxury-level ride. Models with the 20-inch tires are somewhat firmer, but still comfortable.
Technically the 2019 Nissan Armada isn’t a luxury SUV, but you’d never know that, after you get past the base cloth seats. It’s got truckish handling, poor gas mileage, and awkward infotainmentâ€”but those are offset by a strong engine, a comfortable ride, and lots of luxury touches.