The Armada is something of a rarity in new-car lots: a truck-based, eight-passenger SUV. Although large SUVs are not as popular as they once were, there are still buyers who need the strength and versatility of just such a vehicle. The Armada can tackle unpaved terrain thanks to a tough truck chassis and beefy low-range four-wheel drive. It can also tow up to 9000 pounds. A third-row seat is standard. Although the cabin isn’t quite as cavernous as the exterior dimensions suggest, space is plentiful. The quality of some interior materials is wanting, but the space can be dressed up with optional wood trim and leather. The Armada comes with such standard items as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, eighteen-inch wheels, automatic headlights, a power driver’s seat, an eight-speaker sound system, and power-adjustable pedals. The lengthy options list includes push-button start, a power liftgate, Bluetooth, touch-screen navigation, a rear-seat DVD player, and twenty-inch wheels. The sole powertrain is a stout 5.6-liter V-8 and a five-speed automatic transmission, with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Rear-wheel-drive models get 1 extra mpg, but with a beast this thirsty, that’s a negligible improvement. Four-wheel-drive models have a low-range mode with crawl ratios for extreme towing or off-roading needs. Compared with its rivals, the big Nissan drives more like a truck and less like a luxury machine. It is, however, still a worthy choice if you need to haul a big family, travel through the woods, and tow a boat–all at the same time.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel

Trim levels: SV, SL, Platinum

Body style: SUV, 7- or 8-passenger

Engine: 5.6L V-8, 317 hp, 385 lb-ft

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Passenger volume: 127.4 cu ft

Capacities: Towing 6500-9000 lb; cargo (behind rear/middle/front seats) 20.0/56.7/97.1 cu ft

The 2012 Nissan Armada gains a standard power liftgate for the SV with the driver’s package and the SL. The SL trim level adds heated front seats as standard. A new paint color, brilliant silver, is available.

Dual-stage front, front side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are stability control, traction control, ABS with brake assist, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

All: 12-13 mpg city/18-19 mpg highway

  • Excellent V-8 engine
  • Impressive towing capacity
  • Low-range four-wheel drive
  • Trucklike driving experience
  • Dismal fuel economy

An old-school SUV.

  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Ford Expedition
  • GMC Yukon
  • Toyota Sequoia

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