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 dont need one but maybe youll want one

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 [s]patrol[/s] 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.

  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.