2018 Nissan Armada Rental Review - You Really Don't Need One, But Maybe You'll Want One

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
2018 nissan armada rental review you really don t need one but maybe you ll want

Sometimes one just has to appreciate the complete absurdity of a vehicle. The never-ending available horsepower in the current pony car wars, for example. The over-the-top quilted interior of the limited-run Bentley Continental GT3-R. And then we have the 2018 Nissan Armada, which is completely and totally ridiculous in its own right.

It’s substantially bigger than anybody could ever possibly need it to be. It’s superfluously more expensive than any Nissan has a right to be (come at me, GT-R fanbois). The engine is more forceful than you’ll ever require it to be.

But I kinda like it anyway. At least, I think I do.

I am totally aware that I should not like this behemoth. I should not like it, Sam-I-Am. I mean, come on — look at this infotainment disaster. What the hell are all these buttons for, and who could ever possibly figure out how to use them all? I didn’t even get the additional little wheel in the center of the console in this picture — there are literally more buttons and wheels and widgets than I can even fit in a photo.

[Get new and used Nissan Armada pricing here!]

There are two buttons you won’t find, however, and those would be the buttons for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, because the Armada seems to be more focused on helping you play your CDs from college. I am mildly surprised that there is not an available tape deck.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, and by that I mean that the Armada is bigger than any elephant you’ve ever seen in any room, period. It’s the first car I’ve ever driven that I actually needed the 360-degree camera and various dinging bells and whistles to let me know how close I was to objects in the vicinity. Parking is a damn nightmare, especially in Miami, where retailers seem to think that anything larger than a Nash Metropolitan is not welcome in their parking lots. It’s a genuine struggle to keep the giant Nissan between the lines on the highway — the slightest lapse in attention will be immediately rewarded with a trip to the rumble strips. During my time with the Armada, when potential passengers approached my rental car, more than one of them said, “Whoa.” Others said, “Why the hell do you need such a large vehicle?”

But the most popular reaction of all was, “God, that thing is hideous.” And it is. There is no angle from which the Armada is not offensive. It looks like it was not so much designed as it was congealed. Photographs (which your humble author forgot to take until 10 minutes before he was scheduled to return it to the Emerald Aisle) do not accurately convey the pure repugnance of the Armada. If there was ever a vehicle that should have been called the Monstrosity, this is it. Where the Armada’s luxo brother, the Infiniti QX80, is garish and repulsive, the Nissan iteration is just plain ol’ ugly.

There are more safety features than you can shake a stick at — and since shaking a stick isn’t a particularly safe thing to do, the Armada probably won’t let you do it. Here is a list of all the ways that Nissan attempted to make the cabin of its flagship SUV into a virtual Sanctuary City:

Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Backup Collision Intervention (BCI), Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) and Distance Control Assist (DCA), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI) and Blind Spot Warning (BSW). OMG WTF LOL ROFLCOPTR

The excellent news is that they all work, and they function in tandem to make the Armada a goddamn annoyance to drive. Each system that I turned off only made driving more enjoyable. Intelligent cruise and distance control should be welcome nannies in Miami traffic. They aren’t. The brakes and throttle are applied in near-violent fashion — that is, they are right until they aren’t and you appear to be headed directly into the car in front of you with 6,000 pounds of force. I could never quite figure out how or why the Armada determined when to apply brakes and when not to, but I didn’t trust it.

Fuel economy is an inappropriate term to use when discussing the Armada. Fuel extravagance might be a better term. The Tennessee-built 5.6 liter V8 under the massive hood is a thirsty girl, and she sucked down a gallon of patrol petrol (this is a good pun if you’re a Nissan fan) every 14.1 miles. The engine won’t do much for you in the way of refinement, either. Even a mild pressing of the accelerator causes noises and lurches that would seem more appropriate in a Dodge Challenger than a larger, semi-lux SUV.

Now, despite all of this, I didn’t entirely hate the Armada. I really didn’t. There is a level of luxury inside that one wouldn’t necessarily expect in a Nissan, even one carrying a price tag north of $50,000 ($52,145 for my SL trim model, to be exact). Yes, it’s a bit obscene that top trim levels can exceed $60k, but the Nissan feels every bit of it inside, with soft surfaces and seating that are equivalent to what one would find inside a German competitor.

The room inside (it’s hard to believe that this generation of Armada is actually a bit smaller inside than its predecessor) is downright expansive. Passengers have copious amounts of hip, shoulder, and head room. Even the third row provides enough space for kids to sit for more than a moment at a time. One could take a basketball team on a road trip to a regional AAU tournament and be just fine.

While CarPlay isn’t available, I gotta give respect to the stereo system, which is boomin’. Vulfpeck fans everywhere will be pleased at the amount of available bass volume. When combined with relatively low road noise, the aural environment inside the Nissan is borderline pleasant (until you step on the gas).

But that loud exhaust note isn’t the worst thing in the world, because it is accompanied by commensurate power. Let us not omit the fact that this living-room-on-wheels is freakin’ fast, either. 0-60 times are right around six seconds, and the torque available throughout the powerband means the Armada is equally potent in highway passing situations as it is off the line. An impressive 8,500 lb towing capacity means that you could pull your racecar in an enclosed trailer behind you anywhere you want to go, and you’ll be doing so in rather luxurious fashion.

So it goes without saying that nobody really needs anything this big, powerful, or ugly. Especially not anything this ugly. The Tahoe, for example, does everything the Armada does, and nobody dies when they see it. The ‘Hoe is universally accepted with the soccer/racecar/horse trailer set, too, and is widely regarded as being a tasteful, restrained choice. Personally, I don’t think there’s a scenario in which I’d choose the Armada over the Bowtie’s or Blue Oval’s offerings in this space.

I wouldn’t blame you if you did, though. The Armada is a lot of truck for the money. In fact, the one thing the Nissan does exceptionally well is make its luxobarge colleague, the Infiniti QX80, seem pretty unnecessary. If you don’t wanna go American in this space, save yourself the $20-30k and choose the Armada.

At least people will notice you, amirite?

[Images: Mark “Bark M.” Baruth/TTAC]

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2 of 71 comments
  • Markf Markf on Sep 02, 2018

    I had an 05 (first year I think) as a long term (2 years) rental while living overseas. Nice truck, I could forklift a pallet in the back but it did have a lot of issues, typical for the first year. The most annoying was the AC would stop working when the truck was idled, it would blow but not cold air.

  • Akear Akear on Sep 05, 2018

    I sat in one of these at a car show and like most Japanese vehicles it has superior interior materials. I have yet to see any GM or Ford truck with this kind of interior quality. A month ago I sat in a $40,000 GM truck that had switchgear that should have been in a Mitsubishi mirage. Even the F-150's interior feels cheap in comparison.

  • Kwik_Shift A manual bug eye WRX wagon (2001-03) would interest me more.
  • El scotto Ferrari develops a way to put a virtual car in real time traffic? Will it be multiple virtual players in a possible infinite number of real drivers in real time situations?This will be one of the greatest things ever or a niche video game.
  • El scotto It's said that many military regulations are written in blood. Every ship's wheel or aircraft joystick has a human hand on it at all times when a ship or aircraft are under power. Tanks, APC's and other ground vehicles probably operate under the same rules. Even with those regulations accidents still happen. There is no such thing as an unmanned autopilot, ever. Someone has to be on the stick at all times.I do not think MB understands what a sue-happy nation the USA is. The 1st leased MB in a wreck while this Type 3 "Semi-Autonomous" driving, or whatever it is called, will result in an automatic lawsuit. Expect a class action lawsuit after the 1st personal lawsuit is filed. Yes, new MB owners can afford and ever are lawyers.Mercedes Benz; "The best wrecks or nothing!" Oh and has anyone noticed that Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura, the gray suit with white shirt and striped tie, automobile companies have stayed away from any autonomous driving nonsense?
  • Merc190 Very streamlined but not distinctive enough for a Mercedes. And besides, the streetcar of the early 20th century seems a far more efficient and effective method of people moving in essentially an autonomous manner. A motor car is meant to be driven with proper attention to what's important in every situation. To design it otherwise is idiotic and contradictory.
  • Abqhudson Passenger seating in recent accords has been unacceptable with my 5’2” wife forced to look at the dash while sitting in the hole provided.