G. Chambers Williams

Redesigned just last year, Nissan Armada has room for up to eight, starts at $45,600

Nissan’s second-generation Armada full-size SUV starts at $45,600 (plus $1,195 freight) for 2018, and ranges to $61,950 for the top model, the Platinum four-wheel drive, shown here in the Forged Copper color. The big three-row SUV can tow trailers weighing up to 8,500 pounds, thanks to its 390-horsepower Endurance V-8 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission.
Nissan’s second-generation Armada full-size SUV starts at $45,600 (plus $1,195 freight) for 2018, and ranges to $61,950 for the top model, the Platinum four-wheel drive, shown here in the Forged Copper color. The big three-row SUV can tow trailers weighing up to 8,500 pounds, thanks to its 390-horsepower Endurance V-8 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission. Nissan

The second generation of the Armada, Nissan’s full-size sport utility, arrived last year, and it returns for 2018 with a few minor updates and a new top-of-the-line model, the Platinum Reserve.

There are now four trim levels, including last year’s three: the SV, SL and Platinum. While rear-wheel drive is standard, four-wheel drive is available on all levels for an additional $2,900.

Prices for the 2018 Armada begin at $45,600 (plus $1,295 freight) for the base SV two-wheel-drive model, and range as high as $64,590 for the Platinum Reserve all-wheel-drive version.

In between are the SV four-wheel drive ($48,500); SL two-wheel drive ($50,350); SL four-wheel drive ($53,250); Platinum two-wheel drive ($58,690; Platinum four-wheel drive ($61,590); and Platinum Reserve two-wheel drive ($61,690).

Also for 2018, the Armada comes with NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM, including an eight-inch multi-touch display, HD Radio, SiriusXM Travel Link with three years of service (SiriusXM subscription sold separately), Enhanced Voice Recognition, Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant, and additional USB ports for all models. The 2017 model had just one USB port; extras were available at a small price.

Features of the Platinum Reserve model include Dark Chrome on the grille, door handles and outside mirrors; special 20-inch Dark Chrome wheels; two-tone leather seats with unique stitching; Black Quartz and premium wood-tone interior trim; and an embossed “Platinum Reserve” emblem on the lid of the center console.

Additionally, for 2018 the Platinum and Platinum Reserve models come with the Intelligent Rear View Mirror, which uses a high-resolution camera at the rear exterior to transmit a rear-facing image onto a monitor built into the interior rearview mirror.

There is even a switch at the bottom of the mirror that lets the driver toggle between camera and standard mirror views. I’ve used this camera system, and it eliminates blind spots in the rearview mirror image caused by such interior elements as headrests, body panels and large cargo items.

This new Armada generation is based on the architecture of the similar Infiniti QX80. The original Armada was introduced in 2004 as the Pathfinder Armada, and was built on the same chassis as the Nissan Titan pickup. It was assembled at the Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. Now, the Armada comes from the same plant in Kyushu, Japan, that has been making the QX80 since its redesign for 2011.

Since the midsize, seven-passenger Nissan Pathfinder was shifted to a car-based crossover format four years ago, the Armada is the only three-row, truck-based SUV left in the Nissan lineup.

It has room for up to eight people, and is still a conventional body-on-frame SUV rather than a crossover. It’s 1.2 inches longer overall than the first-generation Armada, but has a 2.1-inch shorter wheelbase. It’s 0.6 inches wider and 2.2 inches lower.

Besides the standard eight-passenger setup, the Armada can be configured for seven passengers by replacing the standard three-person second-row bench with two captain’s chairs ($450 extra). That lowers the capacity to two in front, two in the middle and three in the rear.

For this report, we tested the Armada Platinum four-wheel drive, which came with the eight-passenger seating. We didn’t need the third row during our week with the Armada, but it can easily accommodate big kids or average-size adults.

The Armada is high enough off the ground that it can be a bit difficult to get into from outside, especially for short people. To help, there are steel side step rails with rubber pads on each side.

Armada competes in the full-size SUV class along with the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and its siblings, the GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, as well as the Ford Expedition (redesigned for 2018) and the Toyota Sequoia. Also in the mix is the Lincoln Navigator, which also is a direct competitor to the QX80.

The Armada is powered by a 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 engine, rated at 390 horsepower and 394 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission. This powerful engine moves the heavy Armada quite easily, and offers plenty of passing and towing power. Trailers up to 8,500 pounds can be accommodated.

EPA ratings are 14 city/19 highway/16 combined for rear-drive models, and 13/18/15 for four-wheel-drives. During our test week, with about 70 percent interstate highway driving, we averaged nearly 17 mpg.

Adaptive Cruise Control was standard on our Platinum, and was very precise, holding the vehicle to the preset speed with little or no variation going uphill or down. Unlike some high-end vehicles, the Armada’s cruise control can be adjusted up or down in 1 mph increments, and the driver can see the set speed on a digital readout in the center of the instrument panel.

With the redesign, the Armada got a completely new exterior similar to that of the QX80. Corners and edges are more rounded than those of the previous Armada, and this vehicle sits up above most other vehicles, giving driver and passengers great outward visibility.

Among other premium features on our vehicle were heated and cooled front seats; a 13-speaker Bose audio system; and a rear entertainment system that included nine-inch monitors in the backs of the two front seats, along with wireless headphones and remote control.

Nissan says there was an increase of 20 percent in body stiffness, helping to enhance handling and ride comfort.

Exterior elements include a black V-motion grille and standard LED low-beam headlights with halogen high beams and LED Daytime Running Lights. Headlights are automatic on/off, and there are fog lights on the SL, Platinum and Platinum Reserve models (optional on SV).

At the rear, there are LED taillights. There are functional air intake vents on the front fenders. Chrome-plated electro-chromatic mirrors with memory, heat and puddle lamps are standard on SL and Platinum models.

The Armada has 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat, or 49.9 cubic feet with the third-row seatbacks folded down (they are split 60-40, with power-folding feature). We hauled some Black Friday purchases in the rear with the third row folded, and had lots of room for everything we bought. A power tailgate with an auto-closing feature is standard on SL and Platinum/Platinum Reserve models, optional on the SV.

There are also body-color front and rear bumpers; chrome trim on the grille, side-window moldings and door handles; privacy glass; dark-painted over-fenders; dark-painted roof rails; and front and rear parking sensors.

Rain-sensing front wipers and wiper de-icers were included on our test vehicle, along with a heated steering wheel.

SV models have premium cloth seats, while leather is standard on SL and Platinum/Platinum Reserve. Three interior colors are offered – Charcoal and Almond (cloth and leather) and Tan (leather only).

Because this is a truly off-road-capable SUV, the all-mode four-wheel drive features low-range gearing with a two-speed transfer case for extreme trail driving. We didn’t take our Armada off road, though.

Also standard are four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist.

Three wheel and tire combinations are offered, depending on model, either 18 or 20 inches. Our Platinum model came with special 20-inch Premium Machine Finished Alloy Wheels in silver and black.

No extras were included on our Platinum four-wheel drive, as the only available factory options are the middle-row captain’s chairs ($450) and special Pearl White exterior paint ($395).

But there are some port-installed accessories available, including roof rail cross bars ($375), carpeted floor mats ($310), a cargo package ($225), illuminated kick plates ($365), an interior lighting package ($330), and a welcome lighting package ($375).

Total price of our Armada Platinum four-wheel drive was $62,885, including freight.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2018 Nissan Armada

The package: Full-size, seven- or eight-passenger, five-door, rear- or four-wheel-drive, V-8 powered, body-on-frame sport utility vehicle.

Highlights: The Armada was redesigned for 2017 to mirror the premium Infiniti QX80 model on which it is based. A new Platinum Reserve model is added for 2018. This is a big, premium family hauler with lots of power, a smooth ride, and a long list of available comfort, convenience and safety features.

Negatives: Can get pricey with all the extras.

Engine: 5.6-liter V-8.

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 390 HP./394 foot-pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Length: 208.9 inches.

Curb weight range: 5,576-5,963.

Cargo capacity: 16.5 cubic feet (behind third row); 49.9 (third row folded).

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, three-row side curtain.

Towing capacity: 8,500 pounds.

EPA fuel economy: 14 mpg city/19 highway/16 combined (2WD); 13/18/15 (4WD).

Fuel capacity/type: 26 gallons/premium recommended, but not required.

Base price range (2018): $45,600-$64,590, plus $1,295 freight.

Price as tested: $62,885, including freight and no options (Platinum 4WD).

Major competitors: Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban/GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Ford Expedition, Audi Q7, Toyota Sequoia, Infiniti QX80.

On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.