By on August 31, 2018

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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71 Comments on “2018 Nissan Armada Rental Review – You Really Don’t Need One, But Maybe You’ll Want One...”

  • avatar

    $52K seems like a bargain for an SUV of this caliber

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, or get one used with single digit miles for just over 40.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, that’s the thing. The Tahoe is a vastly nicer vehicle, but it’s also more expensive when similarly optioned. This is a Tahoe-Premier-level interior for a base Tahoe price.

      My team rented one of these things to drive from Jersey to Boston in a driving rainstorm. It performed just fine. 5’10” me fit just fine in the third-row seat. I can’t imagine a life in which a Honda Pilot or a GMC Yukon wouldn’t be my preferred answer to this question, but OK.

  • avatar

    the worst thing about Nissan’s infotainment systems (and the thing which I personally have heard the most complaints about) is that everyone expects the big knob below the screen to be the volume. so when you try to turn the sound up or down, it starts flipping through menus instead.

    • 0 avatar

      The Infotainment in the new Armada is absolutely pathetic. The screen is ridiculously small and the controls were stolen from the Infiniti line – and they were already 10 years dated. In fact, that whole stack is a mess from top to bottom. Yes the truck is a relative bargain but Infotainment is one area that was clearly cut to make the price point. Heck even the instrument cluster is highly dated and uses that mono-pixel information screen. Blech!

    • 0 avatar

      Naw, that’s not the issue. I did find myself changing the driver’s side temperature instead of the volume in my G37.

  • avatar

    I actually like it stylistically but always found the name “Armada” hilarious.

    I can’t hear it without thinking of the Spanish ship of the line.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Ironically, one of my friends from college who lives in Miami bought a 1st gen QX56 as a reward, ended up hating driving it there. He and his wife argued who could take the Odyssey. Now he dailys on an Accord.
    BTW, does this 5.6 mandate 91 octane, or only “recommended”?
    My g37s pulled timing ridiculously without 91 octane.Only tried it once before I went back to 91.

  • avatar

    The Armada gets really appealing at the base trim level. The cloth seats are probably the highest-quality fibers available on a North American market vehicle in 2018, it out tows the Durango, and the *standard* 390hp V8 easily outmuscles GM’s 5.3L while holding its own against the Expedition.

    Plus it cost a few thousand less than the competition.

    • 0 avatar

      This. I rented this very vehicle a month ago.

      (See mini-review below.)

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you ajla. The best flavor of Armada is a lightly used SV 4wd rolling on 18 inch alloys with meaty tires and that fantastically-1980s-Japan grey velour with orange piping, all for about $32k. Undercuts a used Tahoe with truly horrid cloth by $5k+ and has a stronger motor. These things are hilarious overkill for most people, but damn they are nice trucks. My biggest complaint is that the folded third row does not lay flat, which seems like a silly engineering oversight.

      • 0 avatar

        My biggest qualm on the Armada is that its butt seems to sag a lot in pictures and videos where it’s hooked up to a trailer (although it has a high capacity rating and I don’t have any personal experience towing with it).

        I still think GM has best *platform* for a towing SUV, but that 5.3L/6A combo is noticeably weaker than the competition and you have to spend ALL THE MONEY to get an SUV with the 6.2L.

        • 0 avatar

          Nothing a pair of airbags in the coil springs couldn’t fix I suppose. I use Monroe air adjustable shocks on my old 4Runner to level loads. Requires manually pumping up but a cheap and effective solution. I agree I’d rather the Armada was a solid rear axle truck, but I suppose you’d lose that third row comfort.

    • 0 avatar

      The 5.3l is there so you have to option up if you want the top dog. No more options for the Nissan/QX80.

      They both look like Staypuff marshmallow men!

  • avatar

    My brother had an early build 04 Titan. The truck was trash, lots of early problems typical of first year, first off the line (tried to tell him but…) and abysmal Nissan quality of the time. But the 5.6 “Endurance” V8 was fantastic.

  • avatar

    Great value as a used car. Every one of these Armadas I see for sale are ex-rentals. It makes me think it is a rental queen. Very good prices used. Much better than a Chevy.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I like it, and the QX-80. It reminds me of my former Scion xB1, times 3.

  • avatar

    Since it’s so large it had to be named after the Spanish maritime military fleet, the Armada is at its best when painted Navy Blue.

  • avatar

    To me this seems like a silly/non-serious review. This is a purpose designed vehicle for use in rural areas of “developing” countries and remote areas of developed countries. And here it is being reviewed as a form of basic transportation in urban/suburban Miami*. It’s like reviewing a convertible Mustang rented in Denver after taking it on a ski trip to Vail…
    I’ll ask the reviewer: How’s it compare to it’s intended competition: the Toyota Land Cruiser?

    *Punchline comparing Miami to a third world country goes here.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised there’s as much hate for the looks as the author claimed. I think it’s one of the better looking full-size SUVs.

    • 0 avatar

      by my eye, the issue with the styling is that the top and bottom halves don’t seem to go together. The bottom half is somewhat flowing and rounded (esp. in the wheelhouse bulges,) yet atop that they perched an upright, blocky greenhouse.

    • 0 avatar

      The Infiniti had that big whale-face for many years that was pretty bad, this isn’t

  • avatar

    I’m no truck expert, but haven’t I seen that this car is actually really good in offroad use? Based on some beastly offroad Nissan we can’t buy in the usa?

    As a road vehicle I’d agree the GM or Ford or probably even the ancient Sequoia would be better choices.

    But could you make an argument if you like blastjng thru the forest that this could be a better choice than those?

    Or can a Tahoe or Expedition do just as well?

    I know driving conditions, drivers, and all that jazz, but 14mpg seems absurdly bad. I’ve had a few Tahoe/Burban rentals that have showed a bit over 24mpg on long interstate cruises. Hard to believe a competitor would be so much worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Jerome our Armada is the same truck sold overseas as the Patrol, but is missing a few key features (in interests of cost savings and intended use cases) compared to the much more offroad-capable “global” patrol. Ours doesn’t have the adjustable stiffness swaybars so the Armada has much worse articulation from its independent suspension. We’re missing the locking rear differential and I believe some of th functionality of the brake- based traction control system. Finally, our 5mp bumpers give our Armada worse approach/departure angles.

  • avatar

    Not offering CarPlay or Android Auto in 2018 is ridiculous, particularly at this price point. Cars now require a reverse camera that come with a lovely display screen; automakers need to sit down with their engineers for a week and figure it out. Kia retroactively made a free upgrade available for my 2015 Optima turbo and it will be required equipment for future daily drivers.

    And I agree on the price, that works out to $67K CDN. There’s no brand cachet with a Nissan badge so the market is literally wide open for cross shopping.

  • avatar

    The slight styling differences make it more attractive than the Patrol we get down under.

  • avatar

    As the neighborhood mechanic, I worked on one of these (I think it was a 2014) for several years. The owners loved driving it, but hated owning it, because it spent as much time in my garage as theirs with 70k+ miles on it. Fixed numerous leaking fluids (engine gaskets, power steering lines, water pump, etc.), replaced both catalytic converters at my wholesale cost of $1,600, power steering rack, both front springs cracked, rear hatch hinge broke, numerous electrical issues, ate brakes and tires every year, and more I’ve probably forgot. Truly terrible vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      The 2014 was the old Titan-based machine, and yes it was a POS for many, at least based on my sample size of 1 – my former BIL had a 2011 that he got rid of by 60k miles because of the constant transmission and electrical problems.

      In late 2016 Nissan switched over to the new world platform that has served the Infinity since 2011. A completely different beast; wholly more capable IMO, especially reliability.

      I really like these – except for the face; the overall shape and function are perfect, as is the seating position. But 14 mpg and 2005-era infotainment is not attractive at all.

      That said, you can get the SV (lower) model for $35k in these parts – that’s a lot of solid, reliable vehicle for the money.

  • avatar

    Darn you, Bark – I rented one of these last month for a family vacation and hadn’t gotten around to writing it up yet. Took silly pics and everything. Geez.

    Anyway, this review is spot on, but I’ll add a few things.

    The Armada I rented was for a family vacation from Denver to the Durango / Four Corners area, so we did a ton of highway driving in it. And it was magnificent at high-altitude driving – so magnificent, in fact, that I actually got a speeding ticket at the top of a 11,000-foot mountain pass. With five adults and a ton of luggage aboard. If you’ve ever gone up a Colorado mountain pass in a small car, consider that for a moment.

    (And, no, the cop didn’t take “gee, Officer, my Jetta is usually out of gas at the top of a pass like this, so I guess I didn’t realize how fast I was going” as an excuse. Word to the wise: the state of Colorado considers the summit of Wolf Creek Pass as a cash register. Consider yourself warned.)

    On the highway, the Armada is quiet as a tomb, and the ride is incredibly comfortable.

    My mileage also came out quite a bit better than Bark’s, which could be due to all the highway driving – I ended up with 19 mpg, which is more than respectable for a rig like this.

    I’ll mirror the comments on the infotainment system, which was atrocious, but in Nissan’s favor, I’ll add that the Armada I drove was a ’17, with 42,000 miles on the clock, and it was tight and absolutely rattle free. I’ll also single out the power windows for being almost Rolls-like – incredibly fast and whisper quiet.

    And, yes, when you got everyone out of it, the thing was fast. I clocked it at a touch over six seconds to 60 in Durango, which is at 6500 feet over sea level.

    I’d never buy one of these, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one if this is the kind of car you need.

  • avatar

    I like these alot. One of the Moms in my kids Girl scouts got one recently. She had a first gen Armada then a new Tahoe for a year and half, hated it then the new Armada. I think over the Tahoe you have a pricing advantage and the fact that too tow the same a Tahoe needs max tow option which are hard to find on the ground per the RV forums.
    When these first came out I spoke with a sales manager at a local Nissan dealer (friend of extended family) he said there was alot of interest particularly from people who had been priced out of new large Japanese SUV’s. He said they got alot of 5-7 year old Land Cruisers GX460’s etc on trade for these. Most he said had obviously been bought used at a similar price point.

  • avatar

    I was kind of mean to Bark in a previous article so I’m just balancing out my cosmic karma by saying that I really liked this review. Had me genuinely laughing at “goddamn annoyance to drive” and “nobody dies when the see it.” Thanks and well done!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    This SUV wasn’t really meant for us. The platform was introduced in 2010 elsewhere but didn’t show up on our shores until 2016. I’m guessing it was a very low cost way of offering a Battleship Class SUV to scrounge alongside the Sequoia for low-volume but high-profit sales to the small minority of buyers who rejected a Tahoe or Expedition for whatever reason. It would seem to have some real advantages against the Toyota, interior quality being foremost among them, but I agree with Mark wholly on the exterior styling.

    I kind of like seeing a luxurious, powerful SUV that is obviously not catering to the digital addiction crowd. The base models have the same cushy interior panels and delightfully brash wood, but with velour seats. That’s the combo to have.

  • avatar

    Obligatory: CANYONERO!

    Still quite sad the Patrol didn’t make it over here (except for Infiniti)

    • 0 avatar

      The 2017+ Armadas are Y62 Patrol but with Armada badges*. The infotainment system is so circa 2010 because that’s when the Y62 Patrol was introduced and Nissan hasn’t updated it since.

      *Albeit with a tweaked front bumper treatment and some de-contenting (like the 2 speed transfer case and the HBMC (which is available on the Infinity)

  • avatar

    I don’t know about the quality on these things, I know it’s a Datsun so it’s probably bad, but these are obscenely overpowered, really nice inside, and an absolute bargain by 2018 standards. Brand new SVs are listing for 40 flat. Yeah car dealers are the scum of the earth so that’s probably 43 if not 44 in the real world, but so are the disposable unibodies.

    400 horsepower luxury truck on 33s or a Traverse shouldn’t be a hard decision.

    • 0 avatar

      See above. For what it’s worth, I rented one of these from Enterprise a few weeks ago. It was a ’17 with over 40,000 miles on it, and it felt brand new.

    • 0 avatar

      Around the world, these are used in tough places and painted white. On par with the basic model Land Cruiser and the Montero.

      I have a feeling this won’t last too much longer as an American offering, and in basic version this is the SUV thing people *say* they want.

  • avatar

    I had to look up the song displayed prominently on the radio screen. It’s fairly obnoxious; inside joke perhaps?

    Not the vehicle type I want, but I’m not paying for it so have at it hoss.

  • avatar

    Yup, seems like a swing and a miss.

    Here’s a question for you, Mark: What’s the most fun I can have driving AND pull my wife’s small (but still 5,000 pounds loaded) horse trailer with relative ease?

    Currently waiting with some optimism for the new Explorer ST.

    Maybe even a future article for you?

    If so, 10% off the top would be adequate.

  • avatar

    Wow, had no idea these were made in Japan.Learn something every day even at my age..Good review, btw.

    “because the Armada seems to be more focused on helping you play your CDs from college.”

    When I was in College, we had 8 tracks…….

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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