2009 Nissan Armada LE 4x4
The Armada makes some sense if you need an SUV that can tow a large amount or go off-road, but for most buyers who are looking for extra space, a three-row crossover is a better option. Additionally, the similarly priced Ford Expedition and Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon both drive better than the Armada while serving the same basic needs.
The Armada doesn't offer as much interior space as its external dimensions might suggest, and the steering wheel and secondary vibrations that radiate through the cabin continually remind you that this is a truck-based vehicle. In addition, many of the interior plastics remind you of the cost cutting days at Nissan.
Still, for about $52,000, the Armada comes with an impressive list of features, including a heated steering wheel, heated seats with memory, navigation, hard-drive audio, Bluetooth, and twenty-inch wheels. Add in the discounts offered on a vehicle rated at 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway and a buyer who truly needs all the functionality offered by the very truck-like Armada could get quite a deal from the local Nissan dealer.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
I was surprised by the number of features - and accompanying buttons - inside the Armada. Our test car had a backup camera, powered rear vent windows, Bluetooth, a touch-screen navigation system, heated seats and steering wheel, and parking sensors for both the front and rear bumpers. Nissan's corporate head unit is always a joy to use, but in this application some of its controls have migrated to the outer bounds of the wide center stack, making the buttons on the passenger side difficult to reach. The interior is comfortable, although the conversion-van-like armrests seemed a bit flimsy.
The ride and handling are very trucky. Although this SUV is by no means small, its 317-hp V-8 manages to move it along nicely, providing sufficient passing power. The Armada is rated to tow 9100 pounds, beating GM's Tahoe and Yukon twins as well as the standard Ford Expedition. (A heavy-duty trailering package pushes the Expedition's rating to 9200 pounds.) It's nice that the transfer case can be left in two-wheel drive when the weather allows, which should save some fuel compared with other SUVs with full-time AWD systems.
David Gluckman, Web Producer
There's an old Frank and Troise cartoon from the mid-'90s that I think of any time I get behind the wheel of an Armada. A handful of people are shown riding in a truck the size of a small house, and it's uglier than a monkey's armpit - grilles everywhere, brush bars on top of brush bars, outsized and ridiculous stuff tacked to every corner. I can remember reading it at the time and thinking, "Wow. That's ridiculous. Huge, stupid, ugly, slow, and ugly. Good thing no one will ever build anything that obnoxious."
I wouldn't call the Armada obnoxious, but it's dang close - its styling reminds me of Homer Simpson's Canyonero or maybe the weirdly shaped, jokelike SUVs that get parked next to a Barbie Malibu Playhouse. It's almost a caricature of everything SUV haters hate about SUVs.
Nevertheless, the Armada is an enormously good deal (and you can't tell me that, in this day and age, people aren't getting these things for way under sticker). If big SUVs are your thing, you'd be hard-pressed to find more features and luxury and flat-out hippie-stomping size for the price.
Functionally, however, the Armada needs some help. The interior is nice and decently well-finished, but as Marc pointed out, it's a tad on the flimsy and cost-cut side. Sight lines aren't that great - there's a huge three-quarter blind spot - and steering, suspension, and transmission behavior are awfully truckish. Does the near-bargain MSRP make up for last-century bones, a relatively inefficient interior, and the evil glares you get from tree-huggers on the street? Or, for that matter, an atrocious 12-mpg city fuel economy rating? I don't think so, but the Armada's mere existence is proof positive that when it comes to buying a car, sense and sensibility are rarely on the top of most peoples' want lists.
Sam Smith, Associate Editor
HUGE! POWERFUL! FREIGHT TRAIN! Whoo Hoo! I haven't driven anything this big since the F750 Super Cruizer came to town. Throw down the rope ladder; I'm coming up!
Wow. This interior is more lush than plenty of so-called luxury cars, working several shades of brown, perfect touches of wood accent, satin-finish metal trim with a bit of chrome sparkle here and there. Thoughtful little narrow bins that could hold pens or coins line each side of the center console.
Sorting through the plethora of pushbuttons and layers of electronics just to change how the air flows on you can prove to be a challenge. I even had a hard time finding the radio, which, by the way, was right in the middle of dash. If I owned an Armada, I'm sure I would get used to it. But if I owned this Titan of a monster SUV, I would also go broke. I am very big on the accelerator stomp, especially when it is as rewarding as it is in the Armada. No hesitation, no strain on the mighty V-8. Also, no fuel economy. In fact, I managed to torpedo our office average fuel economy in the Armada by four-tenths of a gallon in one 24-hour period. And at an observed 12 mpg, that was not good.
What's left to say that hasn't been said? Well, I've owned three full-sized trucks and contrary to what young Gluckman thinks, the Armada has a magic carpet ride.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
It's amazing how much the GMT900 platform has changed the way I think about SUVs. This Armada feels ancient and very trucky when running over broken roads, and those make up the majority of my commute. I'm not sure that this Armada riding like an older SUV is a bad thing. Hopefully the people who look for a giant people mover will migrate to crossovers or back to minivans and wagons and let those of us who tow and haul keep the capability in our SUVs.
I love the Armada's 5.6-liter V-8 and the incredible power it produces. I never felt like the truck needed a sixth gear and I will really miss this engine once the Titan becomes a badge-engineered Dodge Ram. If the rumors I hear are correct, Nissan/Infiniti will keep this V-8 for the SUVs, so it's not all bad news. If you haven't figured it out yet, the engine is the strongest part of this package. I do wish the fuel economy was more impressive, but I could live with 12/18 mpg if I spent a lot of time towing with this thing.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
2009 Armada LE 4x4
Base Price (with destination): $46,780Price as tested: $51,810
Options:-Splash Guards $115- Moonroof $1,000-Floor Mats/Rear Cargo Mat $220-Microfilter $50-Technology Package -HDD Navigation system -XM NavTraffic Real Time Traffic -Unique Single CD Bose Unit -Power 3rd Row Seat -Heater Steering Wheel -20" Chrome Clad Wheel
Fuel Economy:-12 / 18 / 14 (city/hwy/combined)
Engine: -V-8, DOHC, 32 valve-Size: 5.6 L-Horsepower: 317 @ 5200 rpm-Torque: 385 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
Transmission: -5-speed automatic
Weight: -5675 lb
Tire Info: -20" Chrome Clad Wheel-P275/60R20 All-Season Tires