With Armada, Nissan's thinking big Nissan didn't roll out any euphemisms such as naming a giant Tiny when it "up-sized." It aptly named its full-size pickup truck the Titan and gave its now one-year-old "Big Boy SUV" -- built on the Titan platform -- an equally imposing name: the Armada. These two are the giants of the company's line, and they complete Nissan's recent five-year plan to revamp its lineup and offer a full range of vehicles in North America. The Armada sits proudly atop Nissan's easy-to-comprehend SUV lineup, one that steps up incrementally from the economical Xterra to the midsize Pathfinder, to the funky street-cruising Murano, to our full-size test car. Given the armada of SUVs on our roads, Nissan's four-vehicle lineup ps the genre. When it comes to the Armada, however, just think big. Nissan did, and it's a theme that carries throughout the vehicle. The bumpers and body panels are big. So is the engine, a 5.6-liter, 305 horsepower V8. Same for the interior, especially the driver's area. If you're a big person, you'll enjoy the elbow room, the hip room, and the headroom. There's no cockpit-style driving compartment. There's ample cargo area behind the third row of seats, but fold the second- and third-row seats (both fold flat), and there's a big, covered cargo area. "It allows -- and inspires -- larger-than-life moments," said Mark McNabb, vice president and general manager of Nissan North America. We didn't come up with any larger-than-life experiences to coincide with the Armada's visit. But we would have been happy to have had the Armada's covered cargo space a week earlier, when on the Maine coast we were forced to wrap all the accoutrements for a boating trip -- seat cushions, life jackets, charts, flares -- in plastic to keep them dry in back of my brother-in-law's Toyota Tundra pickup during a surprise thunderstorm. The Armada performed just fine in rush-hour traffic, and gave us a catbird's seat on what was unfolding on the road ahead. A backup sensor was welcome in helping a driver used to smaller vehicles navigate the Armada into parking spots. Meanwhile, that added height -- always a pleasant surprise to an SUV newcomer -- was welcome on the highway, but even more so in exiting our driveway. That's where a neighbor's unofficially abandoned black '78 Chevy pickup has been parked for months, claiming squatter's rights at the curb and making it treacherous to edge out into our side street. Sitting in the Armada, you could look either through or around the old Chevy, then pull out with confidence. It was a reminder of our original family SUV -- a black 1978 Chevy Suburban, a vehicle that served us as the family station wagon and would have been a big brother to our neighbor's pickup. One big difference: The Suburban had a long, flat hood. The Armada's hood slopes gently away, masking the vehicl e's size from its driver. Thinking back to those 1978 days and mentally comparing the vehicles, you realize how far the auto industry has advanced, design-wise, comfort-wise, and electronics-wise. Fuel economy is the one area where advances haven't kept pace. That old '78 Suburban would return 15 miles per gallon, assuming the air filter was relatively clean. In this time of rising gas prices, the Armada is rated at 13 mpg city and 18 highway. With a 28-gallon tank, it should get you 400 miles between wallet-emptying fill-ups. The only good news is that it runs on regular unleaded. But those old Chevys didn't have the independent rear suspension that allows the Armada to handle so well on the highways and permits the design advances for the fold-flat third-row seat. Still, big is big. The Armada features: 18-inch tires. Three 12-volt outlets within the driver's reach. Large side mirrors, to remind you not to squee e through small alleys. Seven-person seating (eight if you prefer a second-row bench seat instead of the captain's chairs). Matching consoles between the front seats and another between the second-row captain's chairs. Plenty of storage nooks and crannies in which to stash change, maps, cellphones, transponders, and the like. A 5.6-liter, 305 horsepower V8. Nissan's engineers thoughtfully allowed it to have a wonderful exhaust note, too. 14 cup holders. Relatively large knobs on the climate control system. A 9,100-pound towing capacity, and seven-prong electrical connection with the hitch. The Armada was introduced for 2004, sharing drivetrain and a ladder chassis (truck-based) with the Titan pickup. For a "big guy," the Armada has a lot of these thoughtful touches. And, knowing Nissan, there are more to come. 2004 Nissan Armada
MSRP base price: $36,450
Torque: 285 lb.-ft.
Wheelbase: 123.2 inches
Overall length: 206.9 inches
Width: 78.8 inches
Height: 77.8 inches
Curb weight: 5,013 lbs.
Seating: 8 passengers
Fuel economy: 13 mpg / 19 mpg
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||September 12, 2003|
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||December 19, 2003|
|Kristin Varela||Mother Proof||August 24, 2004|
|Bill Griffith||Boston.com||August 22, 2004|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||April 11, 2004|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||January 18, 2004|
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