Words and Photos by: Mike Ginsca
Big V8 powered SUVs were all the rage back in the late 90’s and early 00’s when fuel prices were low. These days big V8 powered SUVs like this Nissan Armada are few and far apart. They still have their place in the market but the slice of pie is getting smaller.
The Armada uses the same 5.6L V8 engine that’s found in the Titan pickup truck. It produces 390hp and 394 lb-ft of torque and has a max tow rating of 8,500 lbs. The big plus with an engine like this is, is the effortless power when accelerating. Whether setting off from a stop light or overtaking another car on a highway, just gently prod the throttle and it moves the nearly 3 ton body. It also makes a pretty good noise. But there’s a very heavy price to pay for all that power. During my week of driving the Armada, I struggled to get better than 18.0L/100km fuel economy on a mostly city drive cycle. It’s rated for 17.5L/100km in a city and 12.8L/100km on a highway.
A 7-speed automatic transmission is the only transmission that comes equipped with the V8 engine. There’s nothing fancy about it but it does it’s job well. It’s smooth on upshifts and downshifts and relatively quick to respond to sudden full throttle applications when downshifting.
Big 13.8” rotors on the front wheels provide good stopping power and bring the 2,700+kg Armada to a controlled stop in emergency situations. The pedal feel is firm and can easily modulated to provide enough stopping force in normal situations without making passengers spill their drinks.
Handling is an area where the Nissan Armada surprises because by looking at it, you’d think that it would go around corners as gracefully as an elephant. But no, the Armada can actually take a corner with dignity… and speed. Yes there is some body roll, Nissan can’t defy the laws of physics, but the body remains composed and you don’t get the feeling of tipping over the faster you go. The steering however is lacking feel and feedback especially when just driving in a straight line on a highway.
Overall comfort is the main reason why you should consider the Nissan Armada on your list of large SUVs. The seats and the suspension work well together to give occupants one of the best rides of any full-size SUV. It doesn’t quite feel like a boat with “floaty” suspension but it’s not jarring either. It’s a happy medium. The seats have a lot of padding and are contoured nicely for front and second row occupants. The third row seats are a bit flat and space for adults in the third row is a bit tight.
With a starting price of just under $65,000 for the SL trim ($75,000 for this Platinum Reserve), you’d expect the Armada to be quiet and well built. Well it is. At highway speeds there is little wind and tire noise intrusion into the cabin and when driving over potholes, there are no squeaks or rattles.
The Nissan Armada’s interior styling looks and feels dated. The screen is small and the central knob doesn’t feel that intuitive to use as today’s modern touchscreens. The rest of the buttons are the same ones that were used on models dating back a decade ago. In feels like the interior of the Nissan Armada is a time capsule. But one plus of the interior are the soft touch materials used on the door panels, center console, and dashboard.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Armada’s infotainment system is mainly controlled through the center scroll and push knob. It works but a larger touchscreen would have worked better. But the biggest issue with the technology in this SUV is the preventative collision systems. Lane departure are blind spot monitor work relatively well and while there are a few instances of false warnings, those are few and far between. The biggest issue is with the adaptive cruise control and emergency automated braking. When going around a moderate corner with a vehicle in front of the Armada, the SUV somehow loses sight of the vehicle in front and starts to accelerate up to the set cruise control speed if it’s currently below it. Also when the automated emergency braking system is activated, it will always apply the brakes even when there is a fairly lengthy gap between the SUV and the vehicle ahead. It is a system that will keep you safe but it is also very irritating because there is no way of changing the sensitivity of it. So I just ended up turning it off and leaving it off as I imagine others will do too.
The Nissan Armada is massive. It’s really massive both in terms of its physical size but also how it looks. The big rear bumper and the raised hood line give it the illusion of being massive and having a big road presence. But its size and high driving position does give the driver a good view over other small cars and some small crossover SUVs.
If paying $100 every week gets your blood boiling then the Nissan Armada is not the right SUV for you. For the same price as this Platinum Reserve trim you can get the Volvo XC90 T8 Hybrid with the same horsepower figure but much better fuel economy. However if you can manage to pay the hefty fuel bills and do require a 7 or 8 passenger SUV with cargo space to spare, then the 2018 Nissan Armada is definitely an SUV worth considering.
Thank you to Nissan Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Nissan.ca