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2017 Nissan Armada Takes On the Toyota Land Cruiser

Not a bad way to keep a niche model on (and off) the road.

Since 1951, the Nissan Patrol has challenged the globetrotting, do-anything off-road sport-utility vehicle image of both Land Rover and the Toyota Land Cruiser. And since 2011, the modern Patrol has been the basis for Infiniti's Range Rover alternative, the QX80. Now, the Patrol is the basis for the 2017 Nissan Armada, which ditches its Titan pickup-based chassis and moves production from the U.S. to Japan. Nissan serves it up as the biggest premiere of the 2016 Chicago auto show.

The production strategy, and separation from the Titan, make sense as the big sport-utility vehicle segment is low on numbers -- Nissan sold just 12,737 in the U.S. last year - though still high on profit margins. Just as the Toyota Land Cruiser has been a high-priced outlier in its brand's showrooms for years, the new Armada takes on the look and stature of a fairly famous global SUV while serving as a sort of flagship for Nissan's smaller, popular car-based crossovers, the Pathfinder, Murano, and Rogue. The Patrol's image says "United Nations Support Vehicle" as much as it says "V-8 gas guzzler."

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The 2017 Nissan Armada is again available in SV, SL, and Platinum trim levels. It comes with wider, fully boxed frame rails, increased from 60 mm to 100 mm, contributing to what Nissan says is a 20 percent improvement in twisted body stiffness. For the U.S. market, the Armada's multilink suspension is tuned for comfort rather than off-road capability, though Nissan says it's competent in many off-road situations. Nissan sells about 40,000 Patrols globally every year, with the Middle East by far its largest market.

Though there are ties between the Patrol and Land Cruiser, the new Armada will again be priced against the less expensive Toyota Sequoia and targets the segment-leading Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban as its chief competitor. The 2017 Nissan Armada goes on sale in late summer.

For '17, the seven- or eight-passenger, body-on-frame Nissan Armada gets an all-new exterior and interior, plus a new 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 with 390 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque and a new seven-speed automatic transmission, with Adaptive Shift Control and Downshift Rev-Matching. That's 73 more horses than the output from Nissan's old 5.6-liter engine. The new engine features variable valve timing and lift, direct injection, and a new piston design making an 11.2:1 compression ratio possible, up from 9.8:1.

Compared to the former model, the 2017 Armada's wheelbase is slightly shorter, at 121.1 inches, though overall length is up 1.2 inches, to 208.9 inches. The new Nissan Armada is 79.9 inches wide and 75.8 inches tall.

Standard features accessible from its 8-inch color monitor are Nissan Navigation with NavTraffic and NavWeather (though you must buy a separate SiriusXM subscription for it to work), heated front seats, and a Bose 13-speaker audio system.

Nissan also offers many active-safety features: Predictive Forward Collision Warning, blind-spot warning, Backup Collision Intervention, and Around View Monitor with moving object detection. In addition, Nissan offers optional adaptive cruise control, Distance Control Assist with Forward Emergency Braking, and lane-departure warning and prevention systems. LED low-beam headlamps and daytime running lamps are standard. A puddle-light system turns on automatically when the driver approaches the Armada. So the new 2017 Nissan Armada leaves the rugged simplicity of the venerable Patrol behind, while retaining its attitude and its place in the brand's lineup. It's a recipe for a big, low-volume though high-profit model that should serve Nissan as well as it has served Land Rover with its Range Rover and Toyota with its Land Cruiser.