Students of history know the Spanish Armada was one of the most formidable fleet of ships of the 16th Century. They also know the Armada was ultimately a victim of its own size and was readily defeated by the English navy. Which begs the question; why would Nissan name its flagship SUV Armada?
The answer to that question lies buried somewhere in the annals of Nissan’s history. However, like that Spanish fleet, the Nissan Armada is one of the largest SUVs available today. The thing is huge.
Standing in front of one is like looking up at a mountain. The good news is because of its size, spaciousness is a given. The Armada seats up to eight people quite comfortably, and with its fold-flat second and third rows, can be converted into a virtual moving van.
Introduced at the New York Auto Show in 2003, as a 2004 model, the Nissan’s powerful V8 engine endows it with a 9100-pound tow rating. The model’s original name for the body on a fully boxed frame SUV was Pathfinder Armada, in a nod to Nissan’s most popular SUV. For the 2005 model year the Pathfinder name was dropped and the super-sized SUV sailed forth under the Armada name.
While its size does present some challenges, among them fuel economy (big surprise there — right?) and finding somewhere to dock uh, park the big-ass thing, its driving manners are quite refined. The Armada accelerates, steers, stops, and hauls with outstanding capability.
IT’S JUST BIG!
There’s good news though, thanks to a four-wheel independent suspension system with double wishbones at all four corners, the Armada rides smoothly and handles reasonably — for its size. There has been but one generation of the Nissan Armada offered to date.
2004 - 2012 Nissan Armada
At introduction, the Nissan Pathfinder Armada was offered in three basic states of trim; SE, SE Off-road and LE. In typical Nissan fashion, SE was the base model, LE was the more upscale and luxurious model, and as its name implies, the SE Offroad was the mid-level model equipped with all terrain tires and extra duty shocks to give it a fighting chance should a driver ever decide to take it offroad (very few did).
We’ve made a number of allusions to the Armada’s size. At 77.8 inches high; the Nissan Armada’s roof is suspended some 6.4 feet above the ground. In other words, the Armada could play guard in the NBA. Thing is though, rather than tall and lean like a basketball player, the Armada is also 6.5 feet wide and seventeen feet long. Suddenly we’re talking about something more like the equivalent of an NFL middle linebacker.
Nissan’s Armada came nicely equipped though. The base SE model rode on eighteen-inch alloy wheels, featured a full-size matching spare and the driver got an eight-way electrically adjustable seat. A full power accessory kit armed the Armada (you had to know that was coming…) with heated exterior power mirrors, power door locks and a pair of one-touch power windows. The pedal-set was adjustable to accommodate a broad range of drivers and the steering wheel adjusted for tilt. Cloth upholstered the Armada SE’s seats, but leather swaddled the steering wheel and the shift knob. And, to ease parking woes, radar sensors were mounted in the rear bumper.
The SE Off-road offered all of the above, plus; leather seating, seventeen-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tires, a six-way electrically adjustable front passenger seat, and a ten-speaker 265-watt Bose audio system with a subwoofer and a six-disc CD changer.
The LE added heated seats for the driver and front passenger, leather door-trim, and memory settings for two drivers.
All three were available with either rear- or four-wheel drive through a five-speed automatic transmission. The 5.6-liter V8 made 305 horsepower and 385 ft.-lbs. of torque. Four-wheel drive models featured a mechanical locking center differential, descent control, automatic locking hubs, hi/lo gearing, and a center limited slip differential.
Safety highlights included ABS, side curtain airbags for all three rows, electronic brakeforce distribution, stability control, traction control, and tire pressure monitoring.
The Pathfinder portion of the name was dropped, leaving the big SUV to be known as simply the Nissan Armada. Detail changes to its outfit of kit included the addition of a rear view video monitoring system, active head restraints, and seatbelt pre-tensioners for front seat occupants and a power rear liftgate.
Dual-zone automatic climate control and a 60/40 fold-flat split third row seat were added to broaden the Armada’s passenger/cargo capabilities. The SE Off-Road got a tow package as standard equipment and satellite radio debuted as an option.
For 2006, Armada SE featured eighteen-inch alloy wheels, a dual-zone automatic climate control system, three rows of seating, a power driver seat, a tire-pressure monitoring system, power-adjustable pedals, rear parking sensors, rear-seat air conditioning, an eight-speaker stereo audio system driven by an in-dash CD changer, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
To all of the above, the SE Off-Road added heavy-duty shocks, a lower final drive ratio, seventeen-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, foglights, and skid plates.
The LE ran without the offroad kit, but added a power liftgate, heated leather seats, driver-seat memory, a power front passenger seat, second-row bucket seats, and an upgraded ten-speaker Bose audio system with a subwoofer.
It should be noted many of those features were offered as optional for SE and SE Off-Road models. DVD-based navigation, incorporating video with a rearview monitor was an exclusive LE option. Additionally, a sunroof and a rear DVD-based video entertainment system were optional on all trims.
The Off-Road model was dropped from the lineup, leaving only SE and LE trims. Thanks to the SAE’s recalibration of its horsepower quoting methods, the Armada’s 5.6-liter V8’s horsepower rating was bumped up to 317, though actual output was unchanged.
For 2007, SE featured eight-passenger seating with eighteen-inch alloy wheels; an eight-way electrically-adjustable driver’s seat; a second-row bench seat with reclining capability; a dual-zone climate control system with separate controls for the front and rear passenger compartments; an eight-speaker sound system fed via an in-dash CD changer as well as an MP3 player audio input jack; power-adjustable pedals; full power accessories; and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The 2007 Nissan Armada LE’s feature-set consisted of a power liftgate; foglights; heated leather seats with power adjustments for the front passenger and memory settings for the driver; second-row captain's chairs; and an upgraded 265-watt, ten-speaker Bose sound system. LE options included eighteen-inch chrome wheels and a DVD-based navigation system.
The LE’s power liftgate, leather upholstery and Bose audio system were also available as options for Armada SE. A DVD-based video entertainment system, satellite radio, and a sunroof were optional for both.
An appearance refresh marked the primary changes for the 2008 model year.
On the outside, the grille was reworked along with the headlights. The interior treatment was also redone and the aluminum “boom box’ center console was kicked to the curb in favor of a more contemporary and upscale treatment. The heavily plasticized interior componentry was replaced with soft-touch materials and wood-tone accents replaced the aluminum trim, warming the Armada’s passenger compartment considerably.
On the tech front, keyless start was introduced, along with Bluetooth and a nine-gig hard drive storage system for music and the navigation system. The majority of that new kit came standard on the LE, which for 2008, was equipped with twenty-inch alloy wheels, keyless starting, a power liftgate, a rearview monitor, leather upholstery, heated front seats (with power adjustments for the front passenger and memory settings for the driver), second-row captain's chairs and an upgraded 265-watt, ten-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio.
The third-row seat got power folding capability, and the rear-seat DVD-based video entertainment system, satellite radio, and the sunroof were options applicable to all models.
For 2009, Bluetooth, heated front seats and power folding mirrors were included as standard equipment on LE Armadas. With the advent of the Technology Package bundle, SE models could get the LE’s navigation system with real-time traffic, as well as its nine-gig hard drive based server for digital music storage. Ordering the Tech Pack would also endow a SE Armada with a heated steering wheel, a power-folding third-row seat, and twenty-inch chrome wheels.
The LE trim designation was dropped for 2010 and its componentry was divided into two new trim nomenclatures. Thus the Armada’s 2010 lineup consisted of SE, Titanium and Platinum.
While the SE continued outfitted largely as before, the Titanium came standard with auto-leveling rear air suspension, a tow package, foglights, keyless entry/ignition, leather upholstery, a power-folding third-row seat, a back-up camera, Bluetooth, and an eleven-speaker Bose audio system.
To all of that, the 2010 Nissan Armada Platinum Edition added front parking sensors, a power rear liftgate, a sunroof, dual power-folding mirrors, heat for the front seats and steering wheel, driver memory functions, a DVD-based video entertainment system, and a 9.3-gigabyte hard-drive based navigation system with real-time traffic notifications and music storage.
Optional kit for the SE included the power-folding third row seat. The DVD-based video entertainment system was offered as optional for SE and Titanium.
For 2011, the Armada’s naming system was changed again — this time omitting the SE and Titanium designations in favor of SV and SL nomenclatures. The Platinum model got a return engagement though.
Thus, for 2011, SV models were outfitted with eighteen-inch alloy wheels, running boards (to make it easier to clamber up into the big SUV), rear parking assist, dual-zone automatic climate control with separate rear controls, an eight-way electrically operated power’s driver seat, a tilt steering wheel, and power-adjustable pedals. For entertainment, satellite radio and an in-dash six-disc CD changer fed an eight-speaker stereo audio system with an auxiliary audio input jack.
The SL got twenty-inch alloy wheels, along with foglights, an auto-leveling rear air suspension system, a roof rack, a tow package, keyless entry and pushbutton start, leather upholstery, a power-folding third-row seat, a back-up camera, Bluetooth, and an eleven-speaker Bose audio system with satellite-radio capability.
To all of that, the Platinum model added 20-inch chromed wheels, front parking sensors, a sunroof, dual power-folding mirrors, a power rear liftgate, heat for the front seats and steering wheel, driver memory functions, a sat-nav system with real-time traffic display, a rear-seat DVD-based video entertainment system, and a Bose audio system with a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for media storage.
The SV’s options list contained the power-folding third-row seats and Captain's chairs could be ordered for the Platinum model to replace the standard bench. As before, the DVD-based video entertainment system could be added to the SV and the SL.
2012 (Current Model)
For 2012, the Armada’s product planners added heated front seats and the power rear liftgate to the SL’s standard outfitting. Platinum models got heat for the rear seats, too.
Clearly, the Nissan Armada is a specialized vehicle, best suited for individuals with huge families, or something big to tow, or a need for an extraordinary amount of enclosed cargo capacity. Even still though, it’s a lot to haul around everyday and with fuel economy figures of 13-city and 19-highway (in two-wheel drive guise), using an Armada as your daily driver will run into a considerable bit of expense. The good news is it will run on regular unleaded fuel—but still, it isn’t going to be an inexpensive proposition.
That said, the 5.6-liter V8 and the five-speed automatic are very robust, as is the rest of the Armada’s powertrain, so if you find a good, clean, well-maintained example, it should give you very little trouble mechanically. Regardless of that circumstance however, we advise you to run a vehicle history report against the VIN of any pre-owned vehicle you’re considering. Getting an idea of the trials and travails the auto may have seen could save you money and hassle in the long run.
Similarly, an Internet search for Nissan Armada recalls will put you in good stead in terms of ensuring any required updates for the model were performed on the vehicle of your choice. And finally, a very thorough pre-purchase inspection by a trusted professional mechanic — one very knowledgeable in the ways of Nissan’s autos — will always be a terrific idea before buying.