By on December 8, 2020

Japan’s most downtrodden legacy automaker that isn’t Mitsubishi appears ready to take the fight to its global rivals, at least as far as the full-sized sport-utility segment is concerned. Nissan has refreshed its colossus from tip to tail for the 2021 model year, resulting in an SUV that’s decidedly more modern (and hopefully competitive) than most people probably thought possible.

Nissan’s Armada is an interesting car often that’s difficult to recommend. While truly massive and incredibly comfortable, it’s hard to suggest over any of its full-size opponents — most of which are substantially more compliant at cruising speeds. The Armada may have the best-in-class standard towing and horsepower, thanks largely to its obligatory 5.6-liter V8, but the overall experience is a mixed bag. Fortunately, Nissan is issuing updates specifically designed to smooth its rough edges for 2021.

The SUV excels at leisurely trips around town, especially if the village is due some roadway maintenance. However, that advantage vanishes from behind the wheel once motorists are forced to interface with the previous Armada’s ancient multimedia system or notice that it has a propensity to wander at expressway speeds. While manageable (especially if you’re as accustomed to piloting oversized and ancient platforms), its slow steering doesn’t inspire much confidence. But there are few mainstream vehicles I would rather see appear as my next Uber, since the passenger experience is rather good.

The 2021 model year sees revamped styling vaguely reminiscent of the previous-generation Ford Expedition with just enough modernity to keep it from looking terribly dated. It’s a basic and inoffensive design incorporating an updated V-motion grille, new headlamps with modern running lights, and some wheels. Taillights have also been modernized to complement the Armada’s redesigned rear bumper and the company’s revamped logo design. It’s an inarguable step in the correct direction, even if it’s slightly derivative of the segment as a whole.

But it was the interior that has served as the vehicle’s greatest source of strength and weakness, forcing Nissan to make some changes. Gone is the button-heavy center stack frequently surrounded by faux wood trim. Armada now utilizes a floating 12.3-inch touchscreen with psychical HVAC controls. While we’d have liked to see more buttons retained, it’s a relatively clean and contemporary look allowing Nissan to implement the kind of features today’s customers would expect. Multimedia now includes the company’s proprietary (and likely unnecessary) connected-car services, a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless Apple CarPlay (AndroidAuto has to be plugged in), and a quartet of USB ports for front and rear passengers.

You do lose the CD player, however.

Optional upgrades include Nissan’s surround-view camera system, multiple rear-seat entertainment options, wireless phone charging, and more. Trims remain largely the same, with Platinum now offering high-quality quilted leather for a bit extra and a new S model slotting in as the base. There’s also a Midnight Edition package on the SL trim which offers a blacked-out color scheme.

Regardless of all other decisions, the Armada’s 5.6-liter V8 is obligatory. But Nissan said it’s now capable of 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is available with but rear-drive remains standard and both configurations use the same seven-speed automatic.

As much as we hate on advanced driving aids, some have their use and the industry can’t help but pour them on. In the case of the 2021 Nissan Armada, customers can now expect to see forward-collision warnings, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot intervention, and driver-attention alerts added on as standard equipment. This is presumably in addition to the blind-spot detection, high-beam helper, automated emergency braking, and rearward automated braking that came on the previous model year.

The 2021 Nissan Armada is slated to reach dealers by late January, according to the manufacturer. Pricing and fuel economy are currently TBD and likely to be announced closer to launch.

[Images: Nissan]

 

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