Going into its fourth year in production, the second-generation Nissan Armada was beginning to feel a bit tired next to the newer full-size SUVs in in its segment, such as the Ford Expedition and the even-fresher 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. Nissan understands this and has updated its big ute with some meaningful improvements for the 2021 model year. While the relatively modest changes don't amount to game-changing enhancements, they do make the Armada more functional and attractive—and that's okay because it already was pretty nice to begin with.
Nissan started by improving the Armada's curbside appeal with a new front end that features a more aggressive nose and angular LED headlights, plus a revised tail with a more stylish hatch and taillights. Inside, the interior has been spiffed up with a simpler center stack and a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen with crisper graphics, while a new 7.0-inch full color display now sits between the analog speedometer and tach. Also standard is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although you still need to connect the latter setup with a cord. Map data and software can now be updated via an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot. And a neat feature of the Armada's revised center console is that it can be opened from the front or the rear, making it easier for second-row riders to access.
In the world of behemoth SUVs, the Armada is within a couple of inches of the Expedition, Tahoe, and Yukon in length. But while the Nissan is big and roomy—with three rows of seats and 156 cubic feet of passenger space when equipped with a sunroof—its competitors from Chevy, Ford, and GMC all have 178 cubic feet of people room. The Armada's rear seat is tighter than its rivals', too; average-size adults will feel cramped in the way back. The Armada also comes up short on cargo volume, offering 17 cubic feet behind its third row versus 21 cubes for the Ford and 25 from General Motors's twins.
If the latest Armada is less cavernous than other full-sizers, it gives up nothing to them in the way of appointments. But that's not a new development. It's long been nearly indistinguishable from the mechanically similar Infiniti QX80, and our all-wheel-drive Armada Platinum test truck's interior feels worthy of a premium brand. Its leather seats were stitched in a rich quilted pattern. Its cabin was stocked with amenities, including heated-and-ventilated power front seats, heated second-row seats, a rear-seat entertainment system with dual 8.0-inch monitors, a moonroof, power-reclining-and-folding third-row seats, and a 13-speaker Bose audio system.
The Armada's midlife refresh adds several mechanical and safety-system improvements as well. Nissan's engineers squeezed 10 more horses and 19 more pound-feet of torque out of Nissan's venerable 5.6-liter V-8, bringing the totals to 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet. A seven-speed automatic transmission still manages that grunt. There's also more standard driver-assistance tech, ranging from automatic emergency braking with pedestrian protection to rear automatic braking. Adaptive cruise is standard across the three trim levels—SV, SL, and Platinum.
The posh ambiance of the Platinum model is a prelude to how the Armada conducts itself on the road. There's effortless power underfoot; the last Armada we tested got to 60 mph in less than six seconds, and we expect the same of the new one. Its ride is pleasantly hushed, and it traverses bumps and ruts with admirable suppleness despite rolling on 22-inch wheels. This is a relaxed cruiser with not a whiff of playfulness to its steering, brakes, or handling. But the Armada does drive competently and comfortably—which for a lot of SUV buyers is more than enough. Towing capacity is a stout 8500 pounds.
Where we expect the 2021 Armada to excel, however, is on its window sticker. Nissan won't announce pricing until it goes on sale in January. But based on the 2020 model's $48,895 starting price, we predict that the base Armada SV will about a thousand dollars below the newer Chevy Tahoe. We think a Platinum model, equipped with the optional second-row captain's chairs, will come in at well under $70K. Considering how easy it is to option a Tahoe or Expedition beyond $80,000, we're inclined to overlook some of the Nissan's shortcomings, of which there are now fewer than before.
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