New 2017 Nissan Armada with 65 Years of Heritage: First Drive Review On and Off Road

Armada 17 off road
2017 Nissan Armada: off-road.

Nissan invited TFLtruck out to Northern California to drive the 2017 Nissan Armada. During the press event, fires raged 20 miles away in Big Sur, CA and we witnessed a multitude of trucks and helicopters flying into the fray. Their brave, selfless actions made me feel selfish and spoiled as I drove an extremely comfortable, modern SUV around Carmel By the Sea and Monterey.

Click (here) for more information about the 2017 Nissan Armada.

Heck, strip out the luxurious interior that (basically) came out of an Infiniti QX80 and the fancy doodads, you would have a Nissan Patrol, a vehicle that is used by emergency/government agencies around the world. The Nissan Patrol has a reputation for ruggedness, capability and reliability for 65 years.

“The Nissan Patrol nameplate goes back to 1951 and its reputation as a global workhorse is unparalleled – whether as a frequent support vehicle to the United Nations’ peace keeping efforts or as a three-time class winner of the Paris-Dakar Rally,” said Michael Bunce, vice president, Product Planning, Nissan North America, Inc. “While the new Armada is intended primarily for family adventures here in North America, Armada owners will benefit from its underpinnings as a strong, durable and authentic full-size SUV with ruggedness to spare.”

Yes, it shares a lot with the Nissan Patrol, but the 2017 Nissan Armada is more of a luxury vehicle than a rough-riding truck. Cruising down the highway, it doesn’t feel like a “truck,” it’s almost crossover-like until you take it off-road. The fully-boxed frame and beefier suspension make a big difference.

Armada 17 front
It may be the same displacement, but the rest of the Tennessee-built V8 is new. It’s a 5.6-liter Endurance® V8 which makes 390 Horsepower @ 5,800 RPM and 394 lb-ft pf torque @ 4,000 RPM. This new 5.6-liter V8 features new components along with direct injection, and it’s built to run on regular gasoline. The V8 is paired with a new 7-speed automatic transmission.

The engine/transmission combo is the most noteworthy update in my book. Nissan’s Titan XD, Titan 1/2 ton, Nissan Patrol and the Infiniti QX80 have this same engine and transmission combination. It is, for lack of a better description, excellent. Power delivery is immediate and easy to modulate. Let your right foot have some fun and the beefy power pushes you back in your seat. Gear changes are smooth and down-shifting is logical, there is no hunting or jerking you around. The sound at higher RPM is muscular, yet, at low revs and highway cruising, it’s barely noticeable.

Fuel tank capacity for the 2017 Nissan Armada is 26 gallons. EPA Estimated Fuel Economy for the 2017 Nissan Armada 4×2 is 14 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined. The 4×4 gets an estimated 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. While those numbers are mediocre, the maximum tow rating of 8,500 lbs is one of best in class. That number is for 4X2 and 4X4 variants.

On road, the 2017 Nissan Armada feels almost like a crossover (that’s a good thing) as the bulk is not a factor for acceleration or breaking. It rides solid, almost as cushy as its cousin, the Infiniti QX80. The interior is very quiet, thanks (in part) to the double laminated side glass and extra sound deadening material. Cornering is less mushy over the old Armada and, while it leans a bit, hard cornering doesn’t upset the overall handling. If you charge into a corner, the rear-end lift is not as extreme as the old Armada. Overall, it’s an easy truck to drive and one that has decent handling characteristics.

For a (very) big vehicle, parking is pretty easy. It’s not that easy to see over the hood, but the Around View® Monitor, which gives you a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings, makes most parking and slow maneuvers a snap. This system, originally developed by Nissan, is (rightfully) copied by many automakers.

Off-road, the 2017 Nissan Armada is a mixed bag. It will easily handle off-camber hills, deep ruts while driving over soft sand and fairly steep hills. With 9.1-inches of ground clearance, the 2017 Nissan Armada has an ideal ride height compromise for on and off-road performance. In most off-road conditions, it works like a 4X4 should; however, there are a couple of issues. There is no way (no button, no switch) to lock the rear axle and there is no hill-descent control either. Still, the overall performance off-road is better than many competitors.

While the power-train and performance are the best qualities of the 2017 Nissan Armada, there are some interior issues. Don’t get me wrong, Nissan did a great job sourcing the Infiniti QX80 for luxurious interior components, the ingress and egress for anyone over six-feet tall can be an issue. Just like the Infiniti QX80, the distance from the driver’s seat and roof-line is very tight. It makes it necessary for tall people to duck their head as they enter and exit. It’s kind of odd for such a big machine and the driver’s seating position set on its lowest ride-height still perches the (tall) driver too high.

Despite the low roof up front, the second row passengers get excellent space with lots of headroom. Third row space is tolerable for average-size adults and children. Cargo space is good with 16.5 cubic feet of space behind the third row. Folding the third row gives you 49.9 cu-ft and you get an impressive 95.4 cu-ft of cargo space with both rows folded.

Some of the noteworthy available safety, technology and comfort:

  • Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW),
  • Blind Spot Intervention (BSI),
  • Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) and
  • Around View® Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD).
  • Nissan Navigation with NavTraffic and NavWeather information
  • 8.0-inch color display
  • Heated and cooled front seats
  • 13-speaker Bose® audio system.

Although my time behind the wheel was brief, I came away with the feeling that I had been coddled in a very powerful and capable truck. Once we get one in Colorado, we’ll put its ride, towing and overall capability to the test. I can’t wait.

Armada 17 rearThe 2017 Nissan Armada is available in SV, SL and Platinum trim levels. All these trims are offered with 4X2 and 4X4 drive-trains. The new Nissan Armada goes on sale this August with a base price of $44,400 plus $995 shipping and handling.

Speaking of the Nissan Armada…

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.