By on January 18, 2019

The Buy/Drive/Burn series tackled big SUVs in the past, but those were of a distinctly luxurious flavor, costing over $85,000. Today we take a look at three other SUVs, but this time they’re closer to the $50,000 price point. All are from standard, non-luxury brands, have V8 engines, and boast body-on-frame construction. Let’s sort them out.

Nissan Armada

2018 Nissan Armada - Image: NissanNew to North America for the 2017 model year, Nissan’s Armada is the most youthful design here. The current Armada is a light reworking of the rough and ready Patrol model Nissan distributes globally. It should be noted that though it’s new to customers here, people around the globe have been buying the current Patrol since 2010. Assembled in Japan, North American Armadas receive a single engine: an Endurance V8 engine from the Titan that’s assembled in Tennessee. It’s a 5.6-liter mill, producing 390 horsepower. Power shifts through a seven-speed automatic, which can handle 8,500 pounds of tow weight. Today’s budget nets us a mid-level SL AWD trim, well-equipped for $53,750.

Chevrolet Tahoe

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe LS - Image: ChevroletThe current fourth-generation Tahoe has been on sale since the 2015 model year, when the K2XX platform took over from the GMT900. Improvements over the outgoing model include better fuel economy, selected panels made from aluminum to reduce weight, and better control of noise inside the cabin. Second- and third-row seats also fold flat, making trips from the hardware store easier. The majority of Tahoes are powered by the familiar 5.3-liter Vortec V8, which now has an EcoTec moniker attached to it. A total of 355 horsepower travels to the drive wheels via a six-speed automatic. Towing capacity measures a worst-in-trio 6,600 pounds in our mid-trim LT 4WD, which asks $55,600.

Toyota Sequoia

Rounding out our trio is Toyota’s middle-market full-sizer, the Sequoia. It’s the oldest vehicle here, remaining nearly unchanged since the debut of its second generation for model year 2008. Toyota did update Sequoia for 2018 (slightly), adding LED headlamps and unique grille designs for each trim. Sequoia utilizes the 5.7-liter V8 from the Tundra pickup truck with which it shares a platform. 381 horsepower travel through the six-speed automatic, allowing customers to tow 7,400 pounds. Trim selection today is the blacked-out TRD Sport 4WD, which costs $54,420.

Three truck-based SUVs with room for the whole family. Which is worth a Buy?

[Images: Nissan, Toyota, GM]

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65 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Three-row, V8 Family SUVs for 2019...”

  • avatar

    Buy the Toyota: Likely won’t have any trouble selling it and the back window actually rolls down.

    Drive the Armada: Based on a vehicle we’re not allowed to have.

    Burn the Tahoe: GM just keeps cheapening and cheapening its cash cows.

  • avatar

    Burn them all.

    Wait that will ire the Commandant.

    Buy Toyota
    Drive Nissan I guess
    Burn GM

  • avatar

    I’ll buy the only one I can vouch for here: the Armada, which I rented this summer for a family vacation. It did a great job hauling five adults up over half the mountain passes in southern Colorado and returned about 19 mpg, which surprised the heck out of me. Terrific motor. Ancient nav system. Tacky quilted mouse fur on seats.

    Drive: Chevy, because I have a half an hour to kill, and a Chevy salesman won’t look at me like I’m Liberace for wanting to test drive something other than a truck.

    Burn: the ancient Toyota.

    (In truth, I wouldn’t even consider ANY of these, or any vehicle like it, but we know how Corey gets about the rules.)

    • 0 avatar

      Is it just me or is this THE UGLIEST generation of Sequoia? I’d love a 1st gen brand new with the 5.7 V8 from the current one.

      (I realize there’s only be 2 generations but dang they beat it with the ugly stick.)

      • 0 avatar

        The first generation is much better looking.

        There was a commenter on here a long time ago that claimed he knew Toyota made the 2nd gen look like a bloated pig because they resented having to serve this segment, but that was likely just internet BS.

        • 0 avatar

          First gen Sequoia hits a real sweet spot for me: massive interior room that is packaged smartly, solid rear axle, inoffensively handsome styling, enough motor that still gets palatable MPG, and generally speaking rock solid mechanicals (just check the lower balljoints and throw some Fluid Film on the frame). 2nd gen has absolutely zero appeal: bloated looking inside and out,. 3UR Motor is excellent and everything borrowed off that generation Tundra is overbuilt as hell, but just not a vehicle I particularly care for.

          Armada, now that is a high-value truck. I’m going to test drive minivans this weekend (Audi is sold), but one of the dealerships has a used 2017 Armada SV for $25k, man that is tempting.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Yes. The first-generation looked handsome, was more upscale than domestic competitors, and hit a sweet spot in terms of size. But then Toyota lost the plot with the unsightly 2007 redesign, and–worse–haven’t bothered to give the car a full redesign in the intervening years.

        Fifty points from Gryffindor.

    • 0 avatar

      I see ya been payin attention.

    • 0 avatar

      “Tacky quilted mouse fur on seats.”

      That’s a funny way to describe some of the highest quality seat cloth we’ve seen on a mainstream car in about 20 years!

      • 0 avatar

        I call ’em like I see ’em, gtem. The fabric looked like that fake alcantra suede that you find on cheap couches, complete with an odd khaki-colored contrast piping. Seating was fairly comfy, though.

        Another note: Back when I was tipping in at over 320, those extra-wide seats would have been insanely nice. Now that I’m 195, I felt a little kid sitting in Dad’s recliner. I think they were going for a “throne” effect. Fairly comfy, though. And unloaded, that thing flew, as long as you didn’t mind burning a crapload of gas.

        I was actually writing a rental review for this, but Bark beat me to it.

        • 0 avatar

          Name another car with softer/plusher feeling cloth upholstery though. Subaru’s is decent, but most everything else is some awful combination of scratchy fire retardant-feeling crap and pieces of vinyl, or that canvas potato-sack woven material.

          I WISH more regular cars used that circa late 80s style velour that the Armada has.

    • 0 avatar
      TE Lawrence

      19 mpg? My 2012 Navigator would get 14 with a lot less HP.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I wouldn’t buy any of those dinosaurs, but if I had a gun to my head and had to choose one, it would be the Tahoe.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Buy the Toyota because resale I guess

    Drive the Tahoe, mainly because having lived with the other 2 it is remarkably easy to get them to dip well bellow the teens with respect to MPG and this is one vehicle GM gets right

    Burn the Nissan. I don’t care how good the Patrol is in the third world, This isn’t the third world trimmed version.

    But having said that, as an Ecoboost F150 owner I’m quite comfortable with skipping the v8 so I’d go with the Expedition if offered.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not picking on you. Your post is just a good example of buying the Toyota because of resale value. This assumes, you’re not keeping the vehicle. I thought a key idea behind the “buy” option was to select a vehicle you could live with for a very long time.

  • avatar

    well it seems 2 of them are on the older side and these are of no use to me so with that said here goes

    Buy The Toyota I assume it is well screwed together and will hold the resale the best
    Drive the Nissan why not that is the best I got
    Burn the Tahoe BC I may get into the wrong one in the supermarket parking lot, they are pretty popular here and at least the other 2 are much less popular so I would not have that problem.

  • avatar

    Buy the Nissan. It’s the most powerful and I like the name.

    Drive the Sequoia. Whatever.

    Burn the Tahoe. Not fast enough. Too much air dam. Too much cylinder deactivation.

  • avatar

    I can only personally vouch for the fullsize GM SUVs, because I’ve had several Suburbans and currently a Tahoe Z71. They are fantastic at what they do, and I honestly don’t have a bad thing to say about them. Very capable while being very comfortable. That said, I do like the other two, and would probably consider the Nissan if buying used because I think it would represent a great value. The Toyota I would buy new, because it should retain value the best of any of them. And of course presumably be very reliable.
    I know it’s not listed, but burn the Expedition up through last year’s (seriously outdated) model.

  • avatar

    Buy the Sequoia – It’s one of very few new vehicles that isn’t being built to satisfy people who don’t want you to own vehicles.

    Drive the Nissan – It’s one of the few Nissan products that can trace its roots to before Nissans had anything in common with Renaults.

    Burn the Tahoe – I remember when the first Tahoes of this generation arrived. Some of them did remarkable impressions of Ford Escape Ecoboosts without any help.

    • 0 avatar

      “when the first Tahoes of this generation arrived. Some of them did remarkable impressions of Ford Escape Ecoboosts without any help”

      Huh? More info needed–

      • 0 avatar

        It seems GM has done a good job of scrubbing the various So Cal stories of late 2015 about this phenomenon, but they couldn’t take down a firefighter site.

        • 0 avatar

          I had not heard about it, and of all the vehicles I’ve seen ablaze, which is a few since I do a lot of driving around a major city, zero have been newer Tahoes. FWIW.

          Also I would have full coverage on it since I’d have a loan on it, so there’s that slight solace.

          • 0 avatar

            I wouldn’t worry about it. There were a few televised incidents in southern California when the SUVs first started reaching customers. It would seem that whatever was wrong was identified and addressed almost immediately. I’m just disgusted that the news stories have been scrubbed. Pretty Orwellian.

    • 0 avatar

      “It’s one of very few new vehicles that isn’t being built to satisfy people who don’t want you to own vehicles.” Huh?

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Test drive Tahoe, Yukon, Suburban & Expedition
    Buy Tahoe, Yukon, Suburban or Expedition.

    Sequoia, Armada let them remain glued to dealership floor.

  • avatar

    OK…with a gun to my head and an unlimited gas budget:

    Buy: Tahoe. Big trucks and Corvettes is all GM seems to be doing right these days and it doesn’t have the ancient interior of the Nissan or old-everything of the Toyota.

    Drive: Sequoia. Still should be good for one off-road adventure with everyone.

    Burn: Armada. I can’t get over the dated interior, the cheap-looking fender vents, and the general feeling that they just phoned this one in.

    And when gas prices hit $4/gal again, I think it will be burn all three!

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    Wouldn’t buy any of these, but I’ll still play along.

    Buy: Toyota: Bigger than a tank and twice as ugly, but Toyota reliability and resale value..

    Drive: Chevy. I do like the looks, and Tahoes have been staples for decades.

    Burn. Nissan. Just, dear God no.

  • avatar

    Buy the Toyota for the aforementioned resale.

    Burn all Nissans . The TV ads make make me want to barf.

    Drive the Tahoe ..Because I’m 65 years old, and the Tahoe will out last me.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t say as I’ve seen any Nissan commercials recently enough to understand why they’re cringeworthy, but the “Real People” ads are still making me desirous of a sharpened spoon with which to gouge out my eyes. The newest one I’ve seen is the Toyota/Honda owners ad with the dumb tarps.

      Buy: Tahoe, it’ll blend in and I liked my 98 Blazer, my only point of reference for Chevy trucks (the constant bearing replacement in only 20k notwithstanding as it was already well used at 217k when I bought it).

      Drive: Sequoia. It’s uglier than sin, but I can give it back.

      Burn: Armada. It was the last man standing. I really have no opinion other than that Nissan as a company is utterly forgettable anymore. I remember being younger and liking some of the things on offer (same with Mitsubishi-even if I wasn’t entirely in the know about relative reliability).

      • 0 avatar

        For what it’s worth, the current Armada is (IMO) one of Nissan’s genuinely interesting and well done products, it’s an Americanized global market Patrol. We unfortunately lose some of the key offroad gear that makes it a credible Land Cruiser competitor overseas (adjustable sway bars and locking rear diff, approach/departure angles). But for how affordable they made them, it’s an incredible platform for the money IMO, awesome motor.

  • avatar

    Buy the Sequoia – resale value

    Drive the Tahoe – GMT platform vehicles are a joy to drive

    Burn the Armada – kill it – kill it with fire – kill it – kill it and kill it some more

  • avatar

    BUY the Toyota, even given its age. Iv’e driven a at the time new 2010 as well as a 2018.

    DRIVE the Nissan, I had the pleasure to sit and admire one during this past Novembers International Auto Show.

    BURN the Chevrolet, god awful “leather seats” at this price point. I remember commenting on the interior panel gaps too. To be fair, I didn’t drive the Tahoe. It too was on display at the most recent Auto Show that we attended.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’m no great fan of the Canyonero sized SUV’s, the largest I personally like is that Durango but if I needed one:

    Buy: Tahoe-GM trucks have a good reputation particularly the current GMT platform. The interiors are better than the previous generation.

    Drive: Sequoia-Good reliable Toyota with some off road cred. A larger 4 runner.

    Burn: Armada-If we only got the previous versions of the Patrol here in the states. It’s better than the previous version but not as good as the others.

    Honorable mention: Ford Expedition XLT with the 5.4 modular.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    As much as I don’t like the Armada, and most Nissan products, I *really* don’t like the Sequoia. So:

    Buy – Tahoe
    Drive – Armada
    Burn – Sequoia


  • avatar

    Buy: Toyota. LED headlamps, roll down back window, likely the most reliable although it’s ugly. I’d rather have a 4Runner.

    Drive: Nissan. The 5.6 isn’t too bad of a motor, SL trim gets you a power lift gate, 360 degree camera, all the safety tech, that trick camera rear view mirror that GM uses and leather seats.

    Burn: Tahoe. Interior is garbage bin GM, the headlights are a joke (and no foglamps at this price point?), and fit and finish may be fine for some, but not for me. Basic safety tech.

  • avatar

    Tough question for me. I like the segment in general. There’s no clear standout.

    Buy the Toyota. Honest and cheerful right out of 12 years ago. Good for the next 200,000 miles, and 12,000 gallons. Massive space inside. Drives numb and heavy right out of 12 years ago too. Interior didn’t impress even then.

    Drive the Nissan. Easy. The most guts under the hood. Nicest cabin too. Hideous looking. And it’s a Nissan. That’s not as bad as a Hyundai. But it’s not good. The K-Mart Land Cruiser.

    Burn the Chevy. All of the good here, and there’s a lot – classy looks, solid axle, column shifter, you can even (I think) still have a bench seat on the lower trims – isn’t enough to make up for how dead the 5300 feels.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Keep my GMT-900 2007 ‘Hoe because it still looks and drives like a new truck and is flat out heads and tails better looking than any of these 3 and as nice or nicer to sit it.

    Take a match to the Nissan for it’s hideous looks. Remember the line from “Christine”, you can’t polish a turd.

    Buy the dated looking Toy for nothing other than it’s resale value, although they don’t give away used GM FS SUV’s away either.

    Drive the Chevy as it has the best motor/trans set-up, a solid rear axle for proper towing(why else would you buy on of these things?)and rides, handles, drives better than the other two.

  • avatar

    I personal like the Toyota Sequoia! I is big, rides nice and is very reliable!

  • avatar

    Again I’m a GM guy, but WTH are they still putting the 6-spd in a 55,000 dollar truck when they have a stack of 10-speeds right there on the shelf?

    • 0 avatar

      Shhhhhhhhhhh…. the 10 speed is only for special people, who pay through the nose.

      Our new “TriPower” 2.7 ltr 4 cyl turbo $hit the bed during the EPA test but we’re still not giving you 10 speeds with it and it was supposed to be the fuel economy special.

  • avatar

    Buy the Ford Expedition Max because keeping it out of the party is unfair and insensitive!

    Plus, TORQUE for towing.

    Burn the witches.

  • avatar

    Lot of Sir Francis Drake wannabees here.

  • avatar

    hmm.. easy one…. Burn, burn aaaaand burn…. all of them. yuck.

  • avatar

    Buy the Chevy. It’s still a solid and very nice vehicle. Will last very long.
    Drive the Toyota. It’s too expensive for what you get.
    Burn Nissans. All (most) of them.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    All of these are a little large for anything other than a suburban/rural environment.

    Buy the Toyota because . . . Toyota.

    Drive the Tahoe because, if you ever shopped these used, you’ll find that they don’t depreciate like other domestic brand vehicles. Yeah, the last time I drove it, the 5.3 engine felt weaker than it was because of the throttle pedal calibration. Having owned the ’15 6.2 engine in a pickup (85,000 miles), I have a lot of confidence in the cylinder deactivation system. Based on my experience with the truck, I would expect the Tahoe to get the best real-world fuel economy of the group — perhaps as good as 22 mpg at highway speeds under 70. Toyota and Nissan’s trucks with these engines are real gas-suckers.

    Burn the Armada. First, the ridiculous name. Second, somewhere my memory recalls this thing had dismal reliability.

    Finally, break the rules and get your Tahoe/Denali with the 6.2 engine and have some real fun, without paying a fuel economy penalty “in ordinary use.”

    • 0 avatar

      “Second, somewhere my memory recalls this thing had dismal reliability.”

      I haven’t heard much bad about the J-VIN Patrol based Armada (can look at ’11+ QX56 data to see more), but I’d put it miles ahead of the Chinesium-packed GM.

  • avatar

    Buy: Tahoe, it probably has better resale in my area, everyone wants one of these.

    Drive: Toyota. Sequoias are rare around here and I’d trust it to work over a GM any day.

    Burn: Nissan… for revenge. Never again.

  • avatar

    Buy/drive the Chevy! the hell with the other 2

  • avatar

    Buy the Toy since people still equate Toyota with reliability over the other brands for some reason.

    Drive the Tahoe because they are a decent vehicle.

    Burn the Nissan because I have a Nissan and they make crap.

  • avatar

    I’d rather put fifty grand in some good dividend-bearing stocks than buy an oversized station wagon that depreciates as fast as it burns through a tank of gas. But then I don’t have five kids to cart around. These are handy vehicles for their purpose, but that’s a lot of hard-earned cash for more car than most people will ever need.
    Grumpiness aside, Nissan has cut too many costs under Ghosn. Still, it would be cool to replace the labels with PATROL designators, just to mess with the incognoscenti.
    The Chevy is very common around these parts, but I would feel like I settled for less than just fairly good driving one, and I’d rather not own one – having worked in the auto parts business for a time, I know better.
    That leaves the Toyota, which is likely to be very reliable with good resale value down the line. It gives up nothing in capabilities, and you don’t have to worry about it not getting the job done when you need it.

    How about changing the rules to Buy, Drive and Crush? That way the worst choice gets parted out and recycled, if only in our imaginations.

  • avatar

    I don’t really have a strong opinion on any of these, HOWEVER, I will say I drove a 2017 Infiniti version of the Armada all the way to the end of “Hole In The Rock Rd.” (look it up if you don’t know what/where it is) in about a quarter of the time it should have taken with any lesser vehicle. Having done this solo in the middle of the winter season, there was almost no one else out there, it was an awesome trip made more so by a great vehicle. I have no off-roading background, but man this thing just ate up everything like it wasn’t even trying. The suspension was perfect for the super rutted areas (80% of the drive) where everyone else was going 15-20mph, I blew by at 40+. No creaks, groans, rattles, etc. with 35k on the clock. If I needed something that big, I would seriously consider buying an Armada based on that experience. Oh, and I heartily recommend that drive.

  • avatar

    I guess buy the Toyota, probably because it will hold up the b est long term
    Drive the Tahoe because it will be a comfortable workhorse
    Burn the Armada because you won’t see better than 13 mpg no matter the driving situation in that thirstier than a solider in the desert 5.6.

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