2017 Nissan Armada First Drive Review - First American Patrol

Seth Parks
by Seth Parks
2017 nissan armada first drive review first american patrol

Wherever roads fade to tracks, bridges give way to fords, and addresses become coordinates, an intense internecine war is under way. Since the Land Cruiser and Patrol were born in 1951, Nissan and Toyota have battled over which automaker produces the best large, go-anywhere, do-anything SUV. It’s a competition that has spawned battle wagons of ever increasing size, off-road capability, passenger comfort, and refinement.

Unfortunately, American consumers have been sidelined.

Sure, Toyota will sell you a Land Cruiser, but the average Toyota store sells fewer than three Land Cruisers a year. It’s the Tundra-derived Sequoia that leads Toyota’s full-size SUV campaign in North America. Likewise, Nissan began offering the Titan-based Armada in 2004. Although the Nissan has consistently outsold its Indiana-built rival, it has long been a battle for third and fourth place.

Nissan is now taking aim at loftier objectives.

Disclosure: Nissan flew me from San Diego to Carmel and put me up in a gorgeous hotel to drive the Armada, Titan, and Pathfinder. The automaker plied us with first rate food and beverage, an embarrassment of consumption to be sure. And an additional thank you to the 5,000 plus firefighters battling the 40,000 acre Soberanes Fire, burning between Big Sur and Carmel. May your work end soon.

The new Armada and new Titan share an updated 5.6-liter Endurance V8 in front of a new seven-speed automatic transmission. The Armada’s engine and transmission, including its forward ratios, are shared with the global Patrol. In both the Titan and Armada, the 5.6 liter offers significantly elevated output, moving from 315 horsepower to 390. Torque now peaks at 394 lbs-ft at 4,000 rpm. The new running gear delivers power effectively with flattened horsepower and torque curves that can be felt across the tachometer sweep. Full throttle is not required to motivate the 5,963 pound Platinum Reserve 4×4 up a steep freeway onramp without hesitation. We did, however, experience some ratio hunting in low speed, low throttle situations. Baked together with a fully boxed frame, both 2WD and 4WD Armadas are rated to tow a competitive 8,500 pounds from a standard Class IV hitch.

The all new Titan, which we found to be a competent truck, would have made a capable Armada platform, but their divorce is final. Interestingly, the decision to split the products across two platforms was not product driven. According to Nissan, it was foremost a production-oriented move: Nissan believes it lacks sufficient production capacity to meet anticipated demand for the all new Titan, Titan XD, and Armada if they continue to be manufactured together in Mississippi.

Nissan found a solution in the Infiniti QX80. The range-topping Infiniti was redesigned for 2010 and production moved to Yukuhashi, Japan, where the full-size luxury SUV now shares a production line with the global Patrol. Nissan knew it could adapt the already-homologated Infiniti to deliver an Armada with the on-road refinement American consumers seek at a competitive price, all while alleviating anticipated production constraints. This strategy bucks the platform sharing trend. Usually automakers move mainstream platforms up-market. Nissan has thrown this into reverse with the QX80 and Armada.

Thank the platform change for the Armada’s 100 to 300 pound weight gain. Nonetheless, it manages a 1 mile per gallon improvement in city driving over the outgoing model. Highway fuel economy remains the same at 19 mpg for the 2WD and 18 mpg for the 4WD.

The moment one enters the new Armada, its Infiniti DNA is evident. The interior skews luxury with an up-market contemporary design, exemplary fit and finish, and quality materials. The Armada features a decidedly non truck-like interior, which should play well to a buying public Nissan projects will demand more than 60 percent of Armadas in high-spec Platinum trim. The new Armada’s interior is somewhat smaller than the outgoing model. However, with both the second and third rows folded down, the loss totals just 1.7 cubic feet, or less than two-percent. The decrease in interior volume is difficult to discern and, when juxtaposed against its dramatic overall improvement, all but inconsequential. But, as always, if you need a full-size SUV with lebensraum, shop the Suburban and Expedition EL.

Our initial driving impressions suggest a luxury-oriented ride to match the more indulgent interior. The steering did feel somewhat over-boosted, but is unlikely to distinguish the Armada among its peers. Even on the Platinum’s sharp 20-inch aluminum-alloy machined wheels, the Armada soaks up bumps with limited float. The increasingly popular acoustic windshield and front-door glass make for a quiet, serene ride contributing to a noise-level once associated only with premium brands. And yet, the off-road course proved that this body-on-frame Armada was created from the Patrol playbook, where uncompromising on-road manners are coupled with legitimate off-highway chops.

The Armada and Patrol each offer independent front and rear double wishbone coil suspensions. The two-speed transfer case features a 2.769 low, which departs slightly from the Patrol’s 2.679 gearing. However, Armada carries a more on-road oriented stance with shallower approach, departure, and breakover angles. Armada also gets less ground clearance (9.1 vs 11.3 inches) and a lower step-in than Patrol. The Armada lacks hill descent control, as well as the Rear Helical Limited Slip Differential (LSD) and electronic rear differential lock that are standard on Patrols sold in most markets. These are compromises to North American tastes and serve to keep vehicle cost in check. They also leave room in Nissan’s product road map to take advantage of the market’s insatiable appetite for trim escalation and special editions.

Armadas are offered in familiar SV, SL, and Platinum trims with two- and four-wheel drive available across the range. The base SV eschews Nissan’s more common S nomenclature as the entry level trim — and is no fleet stripper. It gets heated, power front seats, 13-speaker Bose audio, dual-zone climate control, navigation, and numerous other comfort and convenience features. Tick the right boxes and you can also secure Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Backup Collision Intervention (BCI), Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), Rear and Around View Monitors (AVM), and more. Armada is predictably roomy, absolutely comfortable, and in this reviewer’s opinion, handsome. Pricing remains to be announced, however, we know the two-wheel drive SV will start around $44,400 plus $995 destination.

The new Titan platform would have been more than adequate to host the Armada, but yesterday’s rough and tumble Titan-derived Armada is gone, replaced by a product that delivers the on-road manners American consumers value, along with an extra dose of off-road capability for the few who need it. The new Armada is a powerful shot across Toyota’s bow that should widen Armada’s lead over Sequoia and give it a fighting chance at increasing its share of the full-size SUV segment. Nissan has opened a new front in its battle wagon war with Toyota — and it is not a fair fight.

[Images: © 2016 Seth Parks/The Truth About Cars and Josh Burns/ Off-road.com]

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  • Varezhka Varezhka on Aug 03, 2016

    Seeing the new Patrol make me think that it's unfortunate that Toyota isn't bringing over their less expensive versions of Land Cruiser over here. You can get the 4.6L V8 (1UR-FE) model for approx. 47K USD in the Japanese home market. Not sure why they need a similarly priced and spec'ed Land Cruiser and Lexus LX in the US market instead of differentiating between two brands.

    • Gtem Gtem on Aug 03, 2016

      Agreed. Maybe Toyota thinks they'd be stepping too much on the Prado-based trucks (4Runner and GX460) too much in the US market? $45-$55k is optioned up 4Runner Limited and GX460 turf. And Toyota might be all too happy with the obscene $85k that they get for them these days, perhaps picking up some more sales with less loaded models would cut into the sales of the high-trim variant? The LC200 is wasted potential when they price them that astronomically and make them come with every possible luxury item as standard. I'll gladly take a 200 series with velour seats, 17 inch wheels with beefy rubber, just the basic power accessories, and the 4.6L V8. I'm super jealous of the used Land Cruiser market over in Russia, a decent early-year LC200 (2008ish) can easily be found for about $27k, there's just nowhere as much supply constraint, and the trucks were much more affordable when new to begin with.

  • Rustyra24 Rustyra24 on Aug 04, 2016

    Technically this is the second patrol sold in the USA. They sold 2nd generation patrols at Datsun dealerships. Nissan only sold 2616 Patrols in the USA from 1962 to 1969.

  • MaintenanceCosts This class of car competes hard with Chargers/Challengers and modded diesel pickups for the douchey-driving crown.
  • 28-Cars-Later Corey - I think I am going to issue a fatwa demanding a cool kids car meetup in July somewhere in the Ohio region.
  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.
  • Mike1041 At $300K per copy they may secure as much as 2 or 3 deposits of $1,000
  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!