8.19.2011

2011 Nissan Armada Review

Front 3/4 view of gray 2011 Nissan Armada in front of bare trees
The 2011 Nissan Armada.  A huge SUV in a changing automotive world.


It's always good to remember when reading (or writing) an auto review that of all the resources manufacturers have at their disposal, a crystal ball is not one of them. Work begins on the next generation of vehicles sometimes before the first hits the showroom floor, and designs and dimensions get locked in early. When the game changes, often the player has to remain the same.

That's pretty much the story of the Nissan Armada. It was designed when full-size SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe, Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia and GMC Yukon could do no wrong in the marketplace.

And then everything changed.

As a result, the Nissan Armada feels a bit like a time machine, something of a different age (though its competitors listed above are in exactly the same boat).

Side view of gray 2011 Nissan Armada in rural setting
The 2011 Nissan Armada. Room for 8 people and 28 gallons of gas.


Speaking of boats, my dad would have called something this big a "boat". But Nissan named this the Armada, which means "whole fleet of boats". It's really not significantly larger than any full-size SUV we've reviewed, but the packaging makes it feel like it is. It's long, wide and tall, seats 8, weighs 5,346 pounds (without the 8 people) and has a 317-horsepower 5.6 liter V8 to move all that.

All things considered, the engine does a good job moving the weight at a reasonable pace and the handling isn't bad, either. Not sporting, but not bad. That's most likely thanks to rack and pinion steering, 4-wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are an important part of the package...helping stop the kind of momentum that an Armada at speed has.

With a 5-speed automatic transmission and 634 pounds shy of three tons to move, however, gas mileage is not part of the good news. The EPA says 12 city/18 highway, and what we saw in our week at the wheel tells us that's probably about right. You'll get decent range out of a tank because it's a big tank...28 gallons. But at $3.50 a gallon, re-filling an empty tank will set you back $98.

Interior shot of 2011 Nissan Armada
2011 Nissan Armada: The view from the deck.
The Nissan Armada we drove was the SL 4X4, middle of the three trim levels (SV, SL and Platinum). At $2,450 above the SV 4X4's MSRP of $44,090, it adds some fairly serious towing capability (9,000 pounds), leather-appointed seats, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels replace the SV's 18-inchers, plus fog lamps, heated front seats, a chrome grille, roof rack, power liftgate, side molding inserts and exhaust finisher, a rear-view camera, an upgrade to a Bose audio system with SiriusXM Satellite Radio, keyless entry, Bluetooth, a four-way power front passenger seat and a power flat-folding third row seat.

That strikes us as a fair deal. And if you want to go full-boat (sorry), the Platinum 4X4 will take $7,250 more of your money than the SL and add navigation, DVD, sonar, a moonroof and a bunch more goodies. But that's $53,790.

The Nissan Armada SL we had strikes me as the best choice at an MSRP of $45,640 and an as-tested sticker of $46,810 ($950 delivery charges and only one option...floor and cargo mats for $220).

But should you choose the Armada? Well, if you need a full-size four-wheel-drive SUV (and many folks truly do), yes. The fact is that the entire segment is made up of fully mature vehicles, closing in on either a major re-freshening, re-design or re-think. At this stage, the Nissan Armada isn't really any less advanced than the others. Choosing between them is really a matter of personal taste.

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