2019 Nissan Armada Review

2019 Nissan Armada - Don't overlook Nissan's full-size SUV, it's appealing and refined.


Nissan's Armada was first introduced in 2004 as a full-size SUV based on the body-on-frame Nissan Titan pickup. It was redesigned most recently in 2017, and, for 2019, gains standard forward-collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and Nissan's new Rear Door Alert -- which reminds drivers when rear-seat passengers remain in the vehicle after it has been turned off. Competitors include the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon and Toyota Sequoia. It is mechanically similar to the Infiniti QX80.

Armada is offered with rear- or full-time four-wheel drive. It comes standard with 8-passenger seating but is also offered with a second-row captain's chair setup that decreases capacity to 7 passengers.  Model lineup consists of SV, SL, Platinum and Platinum Reserve. Prices start at $47,100 on the SV and climb to $66,330 on the Platinum Reserve.

Mechanically, the Armada is powered by a 5.6-liter V8 engine that makes 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque. It mates to a 7-speed automatic transmission. The available full-time four-wheel-drive system features Auto/4H/4LO modes and an electronically controlled part-time transfer case with 2.70:1 low ratio. When properly equipped, towing capacity is 8,500 pounds.

Armada SV comes standard with cloth seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated front seats, Bose audio system, NissanConnect infotainment system, keyless ignition with push-button starting and rear-view monitor. SL adds 20-inch wheels, fog lights, power liftgate, leather appointments, power tilt-telescope steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and power-folding third-row seats.

The Platinum adds power moonroof, heated second-row seats, family entertainment system with dual 7-inch screens and wireless headphones and blind-spot warning. Platinum Reserve adds second-row captain's chairs, two-tone leather appointments and unique wheels, interior and exterior trim.

Nissan's lusty V8 is a great engine, perhaps the best in the class in terms of overall performance and smoothness. Despite the Armada's near 6,000-pound curb weight, acceleration is robust. Foot-to-the-floor, the Armada will accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in about 6.5 seconds -- that's better than some sports coupes. In addition, the engine is smooth and refined in all situations and mates well to the slick-shifting automatic transmission.

Unfortunately, this performance comes at a cost. Even in 2WD trim, the Armada is EPA rated at 14 MPG city and 19 MPG highway. Things get worse on the 4WD model where the EPA city estimate drops to 13 MPG. For comparison, the new Ford Expedition is rated at 17 MPG city and 24 MPG highway. Thankfully, Armada's engine runs fine on regular-grade gasoline. In routine suburban commuting expect to average about 15 MPG, perhaps 17 MPG if you throw in some gentle highway cruising.

Armada's low-range-equipped 4WD system and body-on-frame construction would lead you to believe that it is capable off road. That's mostly the case. Though ground clearance isn't the greatest and the comfort-minded all-season tires aren't meant for rock crawling. Still, it's defiantly more accomplished than just about any of the front-drive-based large crossovers and the 8,500-pound towing capacity, though down slightly to Ford and Chevy, is impressive.

Though a large vehicle, Armada isn't quite as big as a Suburban or Expedition MAX. It's more Tahoe or standard Expedition size. Indeed, when behind the wheel, it feels even more compact. The Armada's general demeanor is composed and reassuring. The tires offer plenty of grip, and body lean is well-regulated. Overall, Armada drives more smoothly than you'd expect of something that weighs nearly 3 tons. The only deficit is an extremely large turning radius. Stepping up in trim brings larger wheels that have a bit more road feel than some might like, so be sure to test drive the exact model you intend to purchase.

Dynamically, Armada tracks straight and true on the highway, but the steering has an overarching numb feel that can distract and forces some minor corrections in gentle curves. Conversely, it is hard to find fault in the powerful and nicely balanced brakes. Interior noise levels are impressively low with little wind and tire noise -- even at extra-legal speeds.

Armada's interior boasts an upscale and rich feel that seems a cut above its domestic rivals. Materials and assembly quality are top notch and there's a hint of luxury in the way most switchgear looks and operates. Drivers face a traditional twin-dial setup with white-on-black graphics and a center information screen separating the two. The center stack is awash in traditional buttons and knobs, which can be somewhat off putting. Window, lock and mirror controls are thoughtfully placed and easy to operate day or night.

The infotainment screen is a bit small when compared to fresher competitors but at least it offers touch-screen operation. The system itself is a bit dated and slow to respond. Conversely, it's a bit less complicated and easy to comprehend. Sadly, there's no support for Android Auto or Apple Car Play.

Both the front- and middle-row seats are nicely appointed and provide generous padding. Head and leg room are great as well. The fronts offer heating and cooling while the second-row seats are just heated. The third-row seat is somewhat compromised and probably best suited to smaller adults or children. In addition, getting into the third-row seat is a bit of a trick when compared to the easy tip-and-slide second-row seats offered in competitors.

The doors open wide and grab handles abound, however there's no getting past the sheer height of this body-on-frame SUV, which off putting. Large windows and a low beltline give great sightlines forward and to the sides. But thick rear pillars obstruct the view to the rear. Armada is a perfect candidate for Nissan's new magic rear-view mirror, which is offered as an option. Sadly, it's not offered. The available 360-degree camera system makes easy work of parking and backing up.

At a maximum capacity of 85 cubic feet, Armada offers more cargo room than large crossovers, but not as much as the Expedition or Tahoe. The load floor is flat, but high and the protruding rear bumper makes it a chore to load and unload. Interior storage is great with lots of open and covered bins throughout.

Bottom Line -- Often overlooked by shoppers in market for a full-size SUV, the Nissan Armada gets a number of key enhancements for 2019 that make it more competitive and appealing. Strong points include an extremely refined and comfortable ride, strong engine and nicely appointed cabin. Pricing is attractive if you are willing to stick to the SV or SL, which might be the best overall pick.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.