2005 Nissan Armada
    MSRP
    $41,900
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    2005 Nissan Armada Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

    Powerful full-size SUV for rugged adventure.

    Introduction

    The Nissan Armada is truly the workhorse of the full-size sport utility class. With its powerful V8 and substantial body-on-frame design, it can easily handle rugged off-road family camping, pull a big boat or horse trailer, or just haul the gymnastics team and gear in comfort. 

    The Armada is big. It's as big as a Ford Expedition, and it's longer than the Toyota Sequoia and Chevy Tahoe. Armada can easily accommodate seven or eight occupants on any adventure trip. The cabin is comfortable, convenient and nicely appointed. Three rows of seats are provided, with limo-like roominess in the second row. Nissan claims best-in-class rear legroom, and the back seat looks and feels roomier than the Expedition's, which isn't exactly cramped. Both rear rows fold flat giving the Armada enormous cargo capacity. 

    Armada is based on the Nissan Titan full-size pickup and comes equipped with a powerful V8 that betters its competition in horsepower and torque. Stand on the gas and Nissan's 5.6-liter engine delivers immediate throttle response and quick acceleration. Rated to tow up to 9,100 pounds, Armada boasts the best towing capability in its class. A smooth five-speed automatic transmission adds to the responsiveness of the 32-valve double overhead-cam V8. 

    Handling is impressive as well. The four-wheel independent suspension and rack-and-pinion steering give the Armada a direct and steady feel, whether cruising down the highway, hustling through the hills or parking in a crowded lot. Armada was designed in California and is built at Nissan's recently built $1.4 billion factory in Canton, Mississippi. 

    Introduced as a 2004 model, the Armada receives minor enhancements for 2005. Among them: availability of a power rear liftgate and an optional RearView Monitor that displays what's behind the vehicle on the navigation screen. New standard equipment includes driver and front-passenger active head restraints, seat belt pretensioners added to the first row; SE and LE models come with a higher level of standard equipment. Introduced as the Pathfinder Armada, it's now known simply as the Armada. 

    Lineup

    Nissan Armada comes in one size, extra-large. It's available in SE and LE trim, both of which are well-equipped models. Armada comes standard with three rows of seats and all models come with the V8 engine. It can be equipped with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). 

    SE ($33,600) and SE 4WD ($36,400) come with air conditioning, adjustable lumbar support for the front seats and eight-way power adjustment for the driver, second- and third-row bench seats, an in-dash six CD changer, cruise control, power windows, power mirrors, power locks with remote keyless entry, auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio control buttons, running boards, privacy glass, flip-out rear quarter windows, a roof rack, and five-spoke wheels with 18-inch tires. The SE can be equipped with the Bose premium audio system with steering wheel controls ($750); a Leather Package ($2,350) including Bose options; a Sunroof package ($3,750) that includes Leather Package options; a Journey Package ($4,350) that includes second-row bucket seats with a removable center console and Sunroof package options; and a Tow package ($650). 

    LE ($38,700) and LE 4WD ($41,500) add leather upholstery, a heated driver's seat, a memory system for the seat, mirrors, and adjustable pedals, second-row captain's seats, Bose audio, puddle lamps, power rear quarter windows, six-spoke, 18-inch wheels, and full tow package. Options for LE include an Upgrade Package ($600) with power rear lift gate and power front passenger’s seat; a Sunroof Package ($1000) including Upgrade Package options; and a Technology package ($3,600) with a navigation system, rearview video monitor, and dual-zone climate controls plus Sunroof Package options. Two second-row bucket seats are standard, but can be replaced with a three-passenger second-row split bench seat at no charge which increases the seating capacity from seven to eight passengers. 

    The SE Off-Road 4WD ($39,550) features Rancho shock absorbers, a lower final drive ratio, heavy-duty cooling system, transmission temperature gauge, skid plates to protect the underside of the vehicle from damage while venturing off road, and seven-spoke 17-inch wheels to allow greater up-and-down movement in off-pavement travel, shod with brawny 285/70R17 all-terrain tires. Off-Road versions also add Seton leather seating surfaces, side-impact airbags for the front seats for head protection in roll-overs, six-way power adjustment for the front-seat passenger, Bose audio, and fog lamps. Also available is a sunroof ($1,400) which is also included with second-row bucket seats in the SE Off-Road Journey Package ($2,000). 

    A DVD-based mid-cabin overhead entertainment system ($1,600) is available for any Bose-equipped Armada. Also available is a choice of XM or Sirius satellite radio ($400). Available dealer accessories include a grille guard ($630), floor and cargo mats ($200) and cargo tray ($70). 

    Safety equipment includes curtain airbags for head protection for outboard passengers in all three rows, seat belt pretensioners for driver and front passenger, shoulder harnesses for all seating positions, Vehicle Dynamic Control (an electronic stability control system), and a tire-pressure monitor, all standard. All models have power adjustable pedals and sonar-based rear proximity (park-assist) sensors. Anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist are standard. Side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger are optional and we recommend getting them for the torso protection they can provide. Using a tiny video camera, the optional RearView Monitor displays an image of what's behind the vehicle onto the navigation screen. 

    Walkaround

    One of the first things you notice about the Nissan Armada is its gargantuan proportions. Nearly 207 inches long, Armada is a foot longer than the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon. It's 3 inches longer than the Toyota Sequoia and an inch longer than the Ford Expedition. 

    Armada presents a bold and unmistakable appearance. It is big, but the design and styling features further emphasize its bulk and capabilities. Its wide stance and long wheelbase with short front and rear overhangs give Armada visual strength. Pushing the wheels out toward the corners of the truck makes for easier maneuverability in tight quarters as well as rock-solid stability on the highway. 

    Adding to the Armada's strong presence are its big chrome bumpers and big grille. The grille is body-colored on the SE, and chromed for even more visual strength on the LE. We think it looks best in chrome and makes for an imposing image in rearview mirrors. 

    From some angles, the Armada almost looks like a cartoon drawing. Large flared front and rear fenders accentuate the substantial wheels and high-profile tires. The rear door edge, extending in a bold rearward diagonal from the running board to the roof rack, makes a strong design statement, emphasizing the high roof line over the main passenger section. The rear-door handles are mounted on the C-pillar above the fenders instead of down on the door panel. The overall design gives the Armada a distinctively strong side view, like a football tackle poised at the line. The standard running boards are a good feature because step-in height is 21 to 22.5 inches, depending on drivetrain and wheel size. 

    Viewed from the rear, the Armada has a wide rear window, which can be opened separately. The hatch is large, providing a big opening for loading or unloading cargo. Though large, the rear door feels light when it is opened or closed. A power option allows the door to be opened or closed at the touch of a button on the key fob, useful when approaching with an armload of groceries on a rainy day. Enhancing Armada's wide stance are narrow shoulders that frame the vertically stacked tail lamps and a tall chromed center section of the rear bumper. 

    Interior

    Armada's cabin is attractive, comfortable and convenient. A nice mix of interior materials gives it a nice look without fake wood-grain trim or excessive use of chrome. The Seton leather available on the Off-Road model is rich and luxurious with texture that's visually appealing. 

    The eight-way adjustable driver's seat is comfortable and supportive. Adjustable pedals and a tilting steering column help ensure the proper driving position. We found the seats comfortable and liked the commanding view of the road. A two-piece sun visor keeps the sun off the eyes. The gauge package includes speedometer and tachometer, oil pressure, temperature, voltage and fuel gauges. Ordering the towing package adds a transmission temperature gauge. 

    Places to stash stuff are provided. Opening the lid to the center console reveals a deep storage compartment. In front of that is a large open binnacle, perfect for tossing odds and ends, and an arm swings out to secure a big water bottle. There are narrow storage channels along the sides of the center tunnel and more storage is found in the interior door panels and on top of the dashboard above the outer vents. The center console's well-designed cup holders are easy to access. Armada offers 14 cup holders and four of them are designed to hold 64-ouce beverage containers. A long, overhead console provides more storage and a pair of map lights. Three 12-volt outlets are provided, including one in the rear, and two of them provide power even when the engine is not running. 

    The back seats offer acres of space. Passengers in the second row enjoy a limo-like 42 inches of leg room. Families told Nissan they need more room in the second row than what's available in other full-size SUVs, so the Armada was designed with best-in-class rear legroom. The second-row seats recline so you can really stretch out. A choice of rear seats is available: a bench seat with a flip down armrest or captain's chairs with a large center console. Either way, the second-row seat feels significantly roomier than in the Ford Expedition and much roomier than in Tahoe, Yukon, or Sequoia. 

    Third-row seats are raised, stadium style, for better forward visibility by those sitting back there. The second-row seats easily flip down and tumble out of the way when getting in and out of the third row; the release is a little easier to operate than the Expedition's. Once seated, we found them reasonably comfortable for third-row seats, but are more suitable for children or short distances. 

    The Nissan Armada can carry almost as much cargo as an old Spanish armada. With all seats in their full upright positions, the Armada provides 20 cubic feet of space behind the third row, which is similar to that of the Expedition. It's deep enough to fit a 30-gallon cooler. There's also a nice storage area hidden beneath the rear section of the cargo floor. The second- and third-row seats fold flat to the cargo floor. Folding down the third row reveals 57 cubic feet of cargo space, considerably more than what's found in the Expedition. Folding down both rows provides 97 cubic feet of space, a little less than the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition. Fold down the front passenger seat and you can fit a 10-foot ladder inside. Like the Expedition, there are gaps in the floor between the second- and third-row seats when all are folded flat. 

    Getting in and out is easy in spite of the high step up. The inside door handles are well designed for easy exit. The rear doors open wide. And the running boards help when climbing in or out. 

    Driving Impression

    Its brilliant throttle response was the first thing we noticed while driving the Nissan Armada. Armada feels quicker and more responsive than other SUVs in its class. Its 5.6-liter V8 produces a best-in-class 305 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque. 

    The five-speed automatic transmission takes full advantage of the engine's strong low-end torque. Having five gears to choose from makes the Armada very responsive and the transmission never hunts around for the right gear. It shifts smoothly and the close ratios eliminate abrupt downshifts. The substantial torque is available even at low rpm, providing confidence-inspiring power when merging into heavy highway traffic with a loaded two-horse box in tow or when maneuvering off road. A 2WD Armada earns a 13/19 mpg City/Highway EPA fuel economy rating, 13/18 for 4WD. 

    Like the Titan, Nissan's brawny full-size pickup, the Armada is built on a fully boxed steel ladder frame that yields a smooth ride and responsive handling. Unlike Titan, Armada features an independent rear suspension, a design that enhances ride and handling. Indeed, the Armada makes a smooth transition as it turns into corners. Its handling feels controlled and handles emergency lane-change maneuvers well at highway speeds. The front suspension is also independent with rack-and-pinion steering. 

    We found Armada to be very well-mannered, instilling a sense of confidence in the driver that this full-size SUV will go and turn and stop as well if not better than its competition. 

    The Off-Road package rides much better than we expected after looking at its big, aggressive off-road tires and reading about its Rancho suspension. Even with the off-road suspension, the Armada seems to ride as good or better than the competition. For driving off road, the angle of approach (without the front spoiler) and departure are 31.1 degrees and 27.7 degrees, superior to the Toyota Sequoia and Chevy Tahoe, and the ramp-over angle is 25.0. The 4x2 SE has 9.9 inches of ground clearance while the SE 4x4 and all LEs have at least 10.6 inches of clearance. 

    Summary

    The Nissan Armada is a well-designed full-size sport-utility. Its powerful V8 and five-speed automatic work to produce responsive performance and smooth cruising. Its cleverly conceived interior provides the room and the creature features that should satisfy its owners. Armada provides heavy-duty towing capability. And the off-road model is capable in rugged terrain. In short, the Armada ranks at or near the top of its class, particularly for those who tap into its workhorse capabilities. 

    Model Lineup

    Nissan Pathfinder Armada SE 2WD ($33,600); SE 4WD ($36,400); LE 2WD ($38,700); LE 4WD ($41,500); SE Off-Road 4WD ($39,550). 

    Assembled In

    Canton, Mississippi. 

    Options As Tested

    Technology Package ($3,600) includes automatic two-zone climate control, navigation system, RearView monitor, sunroof, power passenger seat and power lift gate; DVD Entertainment system ($1,600). 

    Model Tested

    Nissan Armada LE 2WD ($38,700). 

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