2017 Nissan Armada 4WD Takes on the Family Road Trip [Review]

2017 Nissan Armada 4WD
Rugged platform + burly V8 + luxurious interior + 956 miles = happy family. [photo: TFL]
The all-new 2017 Nissan Armada was introduced last summer. TFLtruck and car reviewed it at the press launch in California, here in Colorado on our famous Gold Mine Hill off-road challenge, and even at our high altitude 0-60 mph test facility. But this is the first time we gave it a real-world test, taking it on a 956-mile road trip between Denver and Buffalo, Wyoming and back, hauling a family of four and a week’s worth of stuff.

What’s New

Nissan scrapped the old Armada based on the last-gen Titan pickup and made the new Armada out of its legendary Nissan Patrol SUV, which has given Toyota’s Land Cruiser a run for its money for years. If the body looks familiar, it is. Infiniti, Nissan luxury division, started selling the QX80 version more than four years ago.

The Nissan Armada Platinum Edition reviewed here came with a sticker price of $60,985.00 (destination charge included). Yes, that is a lot of coin, but it includes a DVD player with two headrest video screens for the second row seats, acres of leather on the trim, dash, and seats, 20-inch wheels, vented seats, heated steering wheel, towing package, heated second row seats, power rear lift gate and power third row seats, 360-degree camera view, and more. Credit to Nissan for not shirking when it comes to value and interior luxury. Many of my family were flabbergasted that we were in a Nissan, not an Infiniti. And a quick look pricing for a comparably equipped Infiniti turned up a MSRP that was, gulp, $20,000 more than the Nissan.

When driving in Wyoming there will be mud. [photo: TFL]


Nissan’s new 5.6-liter V8 powers the Armada, pumping out a meaty 390-hp and 394 lb-ft. of torque that flows through a 7-speed automatic transmission to the 4WD system. Towing capacity is rated at 8,500 pounds. At sea level, Nissan claims a 0-60 mph time of under 7 seconds, which is fast considering how big and heavy this SUV is (curb weight, 5,800 lbs.). Andre from TFLtruck clocked a 7.5-second 0-60 mph time in the Armada here at 5,280-feet elevation.

All that power was welcome out in the empty West where Utah and Wyoming have stretches of interstate with 80 mph speed limits that translate into people ripping along at 85. At those speeds the Armada hummed along easily at around 2,000 RPM and did it despite hauling around 700 pounds of passengers and luggage and the weight of 26 gallons of unleaded gas that is was slowly using up. Really, the only evidence of stress came with the Armada’s fuel economy. Over hundreds of miles at 75 to 80-plus miles an hour, the V8 averaged 16.4 mpg. By comparison its EPA numbers are 13 mpg city/18 mpg hwy/15 mpg combined. Not great, but not unexpected.

When I got off the empty interstate and into stop-and-go city traffic the sheer size of the 8-passenger SUV with its truck-like frame, height, and weight came to the fore. Sudden swerves induced body roll and hard braking forced the nose to dive. I’m stating the obvious here, but this SUV isn’t made for aggressive driving on city streets. Yet time and time again, I found myself lulled into thinking it was by how smoothly it rode and how easily it handled interstate cruising.

I did venture onto several miles of gravel roads outside the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, but nothing that warranted locking the truck into 4WD or getting full use out of the vehicle’s 9.2-inches of ground clearance. As I said at the onset, the Armada is based on the Patrol, an overland vehicle of choice for many around the globe. So the option to lock the vehicle in 4WD Hi, 4WD Low wasn’t a surprise, but the lack of a locking diff. was. I’ve never gotten a straight answer as to why this is the case, but I’m going to assume that the available 4WD Low gears are to facilitate towing (which I did not test), not serious off-roading. Adding to this theory are the rear bumper and front fascia. They jut out aft and forward of the vehicle and reduce approach and departure angles to 20.9 degrees for approach and 22.3 degrees for departure. By comparison, the Toyota Land Cruiser’s angles come in at 32 degrees approach/24 degrees departure. I welcome your thoughts on the issue.

[photo: TFL]

Comfort and Convenience

After climbing into the seats — and I do mean climb — of the Nissan Armada we entered a luxurious environment of soft touch leather and quiet. I’m 6’2″ and with the driver’s seat set for me, my adult-sized kids in the 2nd row had more head and leg room than I did. They had so much room that they curled up on the 60/40 split bench seat and fell asleep for long stretches of our drive.

Third-row passengers are not afterthoughts in the Armada. The 2nd row seats fold forward and the ingress opening to the 3rd row easily accommodated even me and fit three adults in relative comfort. I ferried six adult members of my extended family to a remote, riverside BBQ dinner, and the three of them who rode in the 3rd row had nothing but surprised compliments and no complaints. Even with the 3rd row up, there’s still enough room for a golf-bag’s worth of gear or luggage.

The infotainment system with the optional DVD player with seatback video screens and wireless headphones worked like a charm, keeping the kids in the 2nd row occupied for hours at a time. Gratefully, the system allowed my wife and I to listen to sat radio or stream podcasts through its Bluetooth connection to a smartphone. I won’t lie, the infotainment feature was no. 3 on my list of reasons that I wanted to review this vehicle on the trip. The first two were passenger comfort and cargo space. One complaint and one wish: The system isn’t as intuitive as I would’ve liked. We had to break open the owner’s manual to figure out how it worked. And I wish the cabin had more USB ports than the one I found. Yes, it has four DC outlets (two of which we used to charge our smartphones with an adapter) and the Platinum trim has a 120-volt outlet, but still.

This is what a week’s worth of family luggage looks like. Your family’s version may vary. [photo: TFL]


With the 3rd row seats flat, we had enough room to haul a week’s worth of luggage and beer and wine and still see out the rear window. By my family’s standards that meant we could probably fit a month’s worth of gear in the back without having to resort to a rooftop cargo box or trailer. But if I did need to tow a trailer, the Armada could tow 8,500 pounds of RV, boat, quads/bikes or personal belongings.

While driving the Armada around the city, I made good use of the vehicles 360-degree cameras, especially when parking in tight spots. The camera button on the dash allows the driver to toggle between the front-facing camera and the camera on the right front wheel as well as a 360-degree view. I first saw this camera system on the Nissan Titan Pro-4X full-size pickup to help the driver avoid hidden obstacles when rock crawling off-road. I didn’t expect it to be just as useful in strip mall parking lots.


Overall, the Nissan Armada platform offers a solid value for the money. Unlike Toyota, which only sells the fully-loaded Land Cruiser here in the States, the Armada can be had in the base model SV 4WD version for $47,800 MSRP. At that price you lose the DVD player, leather seats and interior, power 3rd row seats and power lift gate, and towing package among other options. A quick search online here in Denver revealed some dealers selling this model for $4,000 off sticker. People, that’s a good deal.

TFLCAR’s TAKE: You may not want to drive through city traffic every day in the 2017 Nissan Armada, but as a cross-country, interstate road trip machine for a family of four-plus, it’s a sweet ride that comes with the bonus feature of 4WD and the ruggedness to feel confident about seeing where those dirt road detours and “shortcuts” can take you.

To see how the Armada handles going off-road, check out TFLcar’s Nathan Adlen as he tackles Gold Mine Hill.