November 22, 2014

2013 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve 4x4

Rugged gas-guzzler with fine manners

2013 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve 4x4

The Nissan Armada is one of just a few remaining body-on-frame SUVs, competing with the Toyota Sequoia, Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition in a segment that values ruggedness, towing capability and sheer brawn above all. The Armada isn’t for people who might someday tow a large boat or take on a logging road. It’s for people who regularly demand their vehicles perform such chores.

To be sure, we caught a glimpse of the massive Armada’s appeal while driving through a fierce lightning storm late one afternoon in Western Connecticut. The truck oozed confidence, brushing off the wind, rain and standing water as if they were petty annoyances.

There isn’t much the Armada can’t do. Our truck, a $59,265 Platinum Reserve edition with all-wheel drive, seated eight and showed movies to any and all passengers in the second and third rows. Its interior had elegant flourishes that were in sharp contrast to the truck’s no-nonsense personality. The ride was comfortable and quiet, though the suspension allowed a jarring sensation to break through when crossing  uneven pavement. Like a minivan, it’s roomy and versatile under normal driving conditions, but minivans and even superficially rugged crossover SUVs can’t stand up to the punishment the Armada is designed to handle.

A quick scan of the Armada’s vital statistics tells the tale. Its ground clearance, horsepower, towing capacity, gearing, suspension and fuel capacity give a sense of its capabilities. But for the ordinary suburban driver, the Armada has a few liabilities.

Foremost is its fuel economy. The 317-horsepower V-8 gulps regular unleaded gasoline at a rate of 13 miles per gallon, according to Consumer Reports magazine tests. We did better because we did most of our driving on the highway, but 17 mpg was about the best we could do. The Sequoia and Tahoe are less thirsty, and Tahoe buyers can opt for a hybrid system that adds several mpg.

Unlike most Nissans, the Armada also falls short of its competitors in reliability. Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates both rate the Armada below average.

The Armada comes in just one body style – four-door SUV – and all Armadas are equipped with a 5.6-liter V-8 and 5-speed automatic transmission. Prices range from $36,789 for the Armada SV to $49,450 for the Platinum. The front seat is roomy and adjusts to a wide range of body types; controls are conveniently placed. Legroom and head room are ample in the second bench seat – captain’s chairs are also available – but head room is woefully inadequate in the third seat.

The similar Nissan Titan pickup truck received the top rating of “Good” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

More than capable of a hard day’s work, the Armada is fairly easy to live with under normal driving situations as well. Its poor fuel economy and reputation for spotty reliability are its major drawbacks.

 

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

 

Price: $59,265

Engine: 5.6-liter V-8, 317 horsepower, 385 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 5-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: rear-wheel, all-wheel and 4×4, 2-speed transfer case

Weight: 5,841 lb.

Ground clearance: 10.4 in.

Suspension: Double-wishbone front and rear

Wheels: 20×8-in. alloy

Tires: P275/60R20 all-season

Seating capacity: 8

Luggage capacity: 20 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 97 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 9,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 28 gallons

Fuel economy: 12 mpg city, 18 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded