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2018 Nissan Armada: A comfortable, attractive alternative to the minivan

2018 Nissan Armada (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

I know I’m petite. But I rarely feel small.

Unless I’m driving the 2018 Nissan Armada. Then I feel Lillipution.

The aptly named Armada makes a driver feel like she could conquer the world after the Zombie Apocalypse with the ability to drive through – or over – any situation.

What I really appreciate about the Armada, however, is that the unassuming façade encases a luxurious and comfortable interior with a plethora of available amenities.

If you’re going to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, you may as well do it with panache.

Design

In an era of swoopy and aerodynamic SUV designs, I find the Armada’s upright structure a refreshing change from the norm. It looks handsome and rugged. And with the capacity to seat eight comfortably, it provides a nice alternative to the minivan as a family hauler.


The test vehicle was the top-tier Platinum model with the “Reserve” package, so the interior and exterior added a lot of extra accouterments that fed into the overall up-level look and feel of the vehicle.

I particularly appreciated the two-tone leather seats, but the dark chrome exterior accents included with the package were sophisticated without being blingy.

While I appreciate the level of comfort offered by the Armada, my one design complaint would be the explosion of buttons and dials on the center stack. At first glance it’s a bit overwhelming, and I’m not convinced the redundant audio presets are necessary. Frankly, other than the volume and tuning dials, I think the rest of the audio controls could be integrated into the infotainment screen.

Ride & Handling

Like a bull in a China shop, the Armada is both large and lumbering in tight spaces, which makes it somewhat impractical as an urban vehicle. When equipped with the available around-view monitor, it’s doable, but not ideal.

Where the Armada shines, however, is on the highway or wide suburban streets. It is comfortable, smooth and surprisingly fast.

With a drive height that is level with a bus, you’re not going to feel a huge connection with the road in the Armada. But you’re also not going to feel any potholes, bumps or grooves either.


Equipped with a 5.6-liter V-8 engine, the Armada delivers a 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is the right amount of power for such a large vehicle, and fast-paced highway merges are easily accomplished.

Fuel economy

The trade off to smooth and fast acceleration is going to be fuel economy. EPA estimates that you should get 13 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. I averaged 13.1 mpg in combined driving.

Tech & gadgets

Nissan always does a great job of making luxury-level tech available in its vehicles – even though it’s not a luxury automaker.

Some of the available convenience features you ought to look forward to in the Armada include an 8-inch color touch screen display, 5 USB ports, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear outboard seats, push-button start, passive entry and rear-seat entertainment.

Plus, in addition to the cool – and necessary – around view monitor, the Armada has an extensive list of safety features that includes some intervention technology such as blind-spot intervention and automatic emergency braking.


Trims

Armada has three trims, all offered with the same engine and the option of front- or four-wheel drive.

SV ($47,485): This trim will come standard with features such as 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED headlights, NissanConnect with navigation services and a Bose audio system.

SL ($52,245): This trim adds 20-inch machine-finished aluminum-alloy wheels, power liftgate, around-view monitor, remote start and leather seats.

Platinum ($60,585): This trim adds an intelligent rearview mirror, adaptive cruise control, a tri-zone entertainment system and heated-and-cooled front seats.

Platinum Reserve ($63,585): This top-tier trim adds dark chrome exterior accents, premium two-tone leather seats, open-pore wood-tone interior trim and Platinum Reserve badging.

The test vehicle was a Platinum 4WD model and added the carpeted floor mats as well as the Platinum Reserve package for an as-tested price of $66,695.


Safety

As referenced above, the Armada has an impressive array of available safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure mitigation, blind spot monitoring, blind spot intervention, automatic emergency braking and back-up intervention.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had not rated the Armada at the time of this review, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it an overall 4-Star safety rating, with rollover and frontal crash testing being the weak spots.

Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here.

New for 2018

The Armada was all-new for 2017, so the list of changes for the 2018 is relatively small:

  • NissanConnect Services are now standard.
  • The Intelligent Rear View Mirror is new for Armada specifically and Nissan generally.
  • Platinum Reserve is a new trim.


A few of my favorite things

I loved the high level of comfort that the Armada offers. The seats were cushy, and even though this is a large vehicle, I didn’t find them too big for my small frame. They seemed to fit both me and my husband equally well.

Because of the high step-in height, the running boards are a must. Thankfully they’re standard starting at the base SV trim – I would not buy this vehicle without them.

What I can leave

The bulky A-Pillars combined with the overlarge side mirrors create a huge blind spot when you’re driving through a parking lot or stopped at a crosswalk. Unless the person was tall or I did a little jump in my seat, it was hard to clear that blind spot.

In a world where pedestrians have their faces stuck in their phones, this is a potential disaster waiting to happen.

The other thing I found slightly annoying about the Armada is that when you come to a stop but the vehicle is not in park, you must physically unlock the doors with the button or latch to exit the vehicle.


Several automakers employ the “double tap” idea where if you try the door handle once, it’s locked, but if you try it twice, it’ll unlock and open. This is a little thing, but makes a huge difference in the enjoyment of the vehicle.

The bottom line

Among a competitive set of the Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, Armada is the most modern – and most attractive – of the bunch.

If you are looking for a large lux-level SUV that seats eight, you couldn’t do much better than the Nissan Armada. It’s packed with technology and creature comforts that you’d find in much higher-priced vehicles, namely its Infiniti sibling the QX80, which will cost about $20K more.

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