2018 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve Road Test Review
January 12 2018, Trevor Hofmann
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.
Premium Luxury and Performance for Mainstream Value
If you're in need of something larger than average to pull the camping trailer or boat this summer, or simply want an incredibly sturdy, safe and well made SUV for hauling up to eight along with loads of gear to school, work and activities during the week and then up the ski hill on weekends, yet appreciate the quality and reliability offered by a Japanese brand, let me recommend the Nissan Armada.
If it looks familiar, that's because it shares much of its sheet metal, undercarriage, powertrain, and interior with the Infiniti QX80, both of which owe their lineage to the legendary Nissan Patrol that's been circumnavigating the globe since 1951.
The 2018 Armada starts at just $64,998 compared to $75,650 for the 2018 QX80, and while there's plenty to justify the $10k and change requested for the premium-branded utility, the Armada is nothing to scoff at. This is especially true with my top-line $74,998 Platinum Reserve tester that comes pretty close to matching lower-end QX80s as well as other premium SUVs.
New Premium Reserve Trim UPS the Armada's Luxury Ante
Platinum Reserve trim is new for 2018, last year's highest echelon of Nissan SUV goodness being the Platinum that I also reviewed here. This "Reserve" badged Armada differentiates itself by adding a stealthier dark chrome to the grille, side mirror caps, door handles, and wheels for a richer look overall, while the interior gains attractive two-tone leather upholstery featuring unique square-quilted perforated inserts and orange contrast stitching on the bolsters, headrests, armrests and most everywhere else leather is applied, plus piano black lacquered surfacing down the centre stack and front console as well as authentic looking and feeling matte open-pore woodgrain in key areas around the cabin, not to mention second-row captain's chairs surrounding a padded centre console trimmed in the same realistic faux wood, black lacquer and leather. It's certainly a premium experience, and more so than the majority of its competitors.
It's all very well put together, with the switchgear's composite materials especially dense and solid feeling, the damping near perfect, with no sloppy wiggle at all for any of the buttons or knobs. Speaking of those rotating controllers, they're all beautifully finished in metal, some even knurled around their edges for an elegant look and easy grip.
My tester was finished in a beautiful Hermosa Blue metallic contrasted by a lovely Black/Brown cabin motif, while Superb Black and Pearl White are also available overtop the same charcoal and chocolate interior theme.
Mid-Range and Even Base Armada Trims Are Well Equipped Too
I'm going to guess the majority buying into this class go full load, or at the very least buck up for $71,498 Platinum trim with respect to the Armada. Most everything that comes standard with the Platinum gets raised up to Platinum Reserve trim as well, which means it gets beautiful double-stitched leather door trim, climate controlled (heated and ventilated) front seats, Nissan's new Intelligent Rear View Mirror (more on that in a moment), lane departure warning with mitigating assist, blindspot intervention, a rear entertainment system with dual 8.0-inch monitors, a DVD player, remote, two wireless headphones, and audio/video input jacks, plus more.
This all comes on top of an SUV that could easily pass as a premium model thanks to standard features like 20-inch alloys, signature-enhanced LED headlamps, fog lights, power-folding, auto-dimming, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals and puddle lights, remote start, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, a power-adjustable steering column, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, dual-zone auto climate control, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with a 360-degree surround parking monitor featuring Moving Object Detection (and even a front camera that provides multiple viewpoints), navigation with detailed mapping (that was perfectly accurate each time I used it), SiriusXM NavTraffic and NavWeather, 13-speaker Bose audio, a powered glass moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, 10-way powered driver's and 8-way powered front passenger's seats with lumbar support, memory for the driver's seat, steering wheel and side mirrors, leather upholstery, heated front and second-row outboard seats, a powered liftgate, a powered 60/40-split third row, and much more.
Some standard features not yet mentioned that are new for 2018 include a totally revised infotainment interface design that's more graphically appealing, plus it now includes NissanConnect services, enhanced voice recognition, hands-free text messaging, and there's now a total of four USB ports throughout the cabin. Additionally, the Intelligent Rear View Mirror I mentioned earlier can either be used as a regular mirror or a rear-facing camera capable of providing obstruction-free visibility out the back. This is a first in an SUV from a non-luxury brand, and it works extremely well.
Whether Towing or Just Going the Armada Provides Strong Performance
Towing is the Armada's forte, so therefore the big SUV comes standard with a tow hitch receiver as well as a seven-pin wiring harness plus trailer brake pre-wiring, allowing up to 3,855 kilos of towing capacity thanks to its substantive girth and the beefy 5.6-litre V8 under hood, which makes a sizeable 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque.
It launches quickly off the line due in part to low initial gearing of its seven-speed automatic, while shift lever-actuated manual mode provides sporty feel. Still, fun as it is to stomp on when taking off and immediately reactive when all four wheels bite into tarmac, gravel, dirt, sand, or just about any other type of ground surface, the Armada is more about comfort than all out performance.
It truly has a nice ride, which isn't uncommon amongst premium truck-based SUVs due to their long suspension travel and deep tire sidewalls. The Armada is designed to be comfortable when rock crawling after all, so it's hardly upset by minor pavement irregularities. In fact, you can drive it fast without worrying too much about its tall, obviously high centre of gravity, as it tracks amazingly well around fast-paced curves.
Despite its strong performance the Armada's five-cycle Transport Canada rating is quite good, at least when compared to similarly powered competitors, its fuel economy estimated at 17.5 L/100km in the city, 12.8 on the highway and 15.4 combined.
Thoroughly Comfortable and Wonderfully Accommodating
I'm going to guess that comfort is even more important to Armada buyers, and to that end its front seats are wonderfully accommodating and thoroughly supportive while I had no trouble adjusting them, along with the powered steering column, for an ideal driving position. Part of the Armada's advantage is a near unparalleled view over surrounding traffic. Visibility is great for rear passengers too, while the second-row captain's chairs provide comfort that neared those up front, plus more room in every direction than I needed to measure. Likewise the third row is accommodating, providing ample legroom, headroom and width, which means the Armada can carry seven as configured or eight in lesser trims.
Likewise you can load it up with most of life's gear thanks to 470 litres of cargo capacity behind the third row, 1,494 litres behind the second row and 2,692 litres when both rear rows are laid flat, plus additional storage can be found under the load floor. The Armada might be the ultimate camping companion, not to mention the perfect choice for hitting the hardware store after dropping the kids off at school.
Size and versatility are certainly key strengths that any Armada owner will appreciate, but don't forget that it's also one of the most luxurious full-size SUVs from a mainstream volume brand and one of the best performers, while this year's enhanced infotainment system and other updates bring it up to date with the expectations of an ever more digitized world. The Armada is also one of the best values when comparing full-size SUVs feature for feature, which, along with Nissan's diehard reputation for reliability, is just one more reason you should seriously consider it.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.