Nisan Armada essentially an Infiniti QX80 for the price of a Nissan

By Jim Prueter

(December 10, 2018) These are boom times for big SUVs which, perhaps more than any other style of vehicle, are affected by the price of gasoline. As I write, today’s AAA national average is $2.44, with some locations around the country surprisingly less than $2 per gallon. That’s great news for those who own the latest generation Nissan Armada, a huge V-8 powered SUV that’s rated by the EPA at 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined.

Those numbers surely set the hair on fire of those running the Sierra Club. The EPA scores the Armada at a two out of a possible 10 for fuel economy and greenhouse gas ratings, and a three out of a possible 10 for smog. Not the friendliest vehicle to mother earth.

My weeklong test drive of the new 2019 Armada returned fuel economy of 13.2-mpg almost entirely interstate driving. Thankfully, the Armada runs on regular unleaded gasoline; it cost just over $53 to fill the empty 26-gallon tank, based on the $2.44 per gallon price in Arizona, where I reside.

The second-generation 2019 Armada, now entering its third year, is a super large SUV, that is mostly comfortable and seats up to eight passengers. All trim levels of the Armada are powered by a 5.6-liter, 390-horsepower V-8 and 394-lb-ft torque capable of towing up to 8,500 lbs. It powers through a seven-speed automatic with overdrive transmission. Our test Armada came equipped with all-wheel drive; two-wheel drive is standard.

For 2019, Armada is mostly a carryover vehicle from last year yet adds to its list of standard equipment across all trim levels with features like rear door alert, a system that uses the horn, in addition to door sensors and a message display, to remind drivers to check the back seat for kids and pets after the vehicle is parked. Additional standard equipment for 2019 includes intelligent cruise control, automatic emergency braking and intelligent forward collision warning. Otherwise, the Armada remains unchanged.

The Armada is built on the same platform as the Nissan Patrol sold in Japan and elsewhere. It’s built in Japan rather than Mississippi where the first-gen Armada was built. It is essentially the more modest and affordable cousin of the luxury QX80 offered by Nissan’s up market Infiniti brand. The visual styling both inside and out shares a striking resemblance to the QX80 and is nearly identically equipped, but undercuts the price by just over $18,000.

The Armada has standard eight-passenger seating — seven with optional second-row captain’s chairs — with all three rows offering best-in-class leg and shoulder room. But know that with all eight seats occupied, cargo space behind the third row isn’t as much as you would expect or like, nor as much as the Chevy Suburban or Ford Expedition EL.

The 2019 Armada offers a choice of four trim levels — SV, SL, Platinum and Platinum Reserve — in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive configurations.

Our test Armada was the top-rung Platinum Reserve grade that adds a dark chrome front grille, door handles, outside mirrors and 20-inch dark chrome wheels, premium two-tone leather seats and interior trim with unique French stitching.

Inside, the interior appears as though it was lifted directly out of the QX80 and is an exact look alike. A good thing for the Armada, not so good for the Infiniti. While the seating position affords excellent overall visibility, getting into the Armada isn’t easy especially for taller drivers like myself, requiring me to either do an awkward twist while lowering my head to get in under the door opening or put my head in first and then slide the rest of my body in via some unusual moves. It’s the same gyrations in reverse for exiting the driver’s seat.

There are other areas about the interior that are, frankly, unforgivable given a vehicle of this size, class and price: Driver’s legroom is surprisingly scant with minimal fore and aft travel room. I always felt like I was sitting entirely too close to the steering wheel and instrument panel and unable to adjust the seat further back. It also feels like the seat sits way too high, like I’m driving a bus. I felt wedged in behind the wheel.

Additionally, the power lumbar support in the seat only adjusts two ways while competitors commonly offer four-way adjustment. While second-row legroom is excellent and actually felt roomier than the driver’s seat, the seats do not slide for and aft as do competitors, making access to the third row more difficult. Third row seating is small with minimal headroom and is best left for children. The A pillars up front are extremely wide and obstructs visibility especially when at a pedestrian crosswalk.

Finally, in a world where auto manufacturers are equipping their vehicles with very large panoramic sunroofs that can take up most of the roof area, or installing two or even three individual sunroofs, the Armada has the smallest we’ve seen in almost any vehicle; it’s barely the size of a large shoebox.

We did like that second-row passengers have their own climate controls, heated seat controls and a standard family entertainment system that included two individual 8-inch color display screens, individual wireless headphones, and an HDMI input. And all Armadas come standard with an 8-inch touchscreen with Nissan Connect Services, HD radio, hands free text messaging, and USB ports throughout the entire cabin.

One other feature that our Platinum trim model came with is what Nissan calls the intelligent rearview mirror. When you switch what you normally would consider the dimmer switch, you get a view from a video camera that shows only what’s behind the vehicle, rather than a conventional rearview mirror that usually shows the second and third row passengers, or headrests, and some of the rear window.

On the road, acceleration is smooth and excellent while achieving a zero to 60 mph time of just a tick over six seconds. Yet the Armada is a big, heavy vehicle whose ride is rough with clumsy handling that requires you to slow down when negotiating corners and sharp curves. Sporty handling is not part of the package; it feels floaty and I found the ride quality to be rough and unsettled. 

Our test Platinum trim, at $67,850, is definitely loaded with equipment and conveniences, but it didn’t feel like much of a bargain or a value at that price. Especially because most of the included technology dates back to and borrowed from the 2011 Infiniti QX80.

If you like the Armada, we’d recommend considering the base SV trim that starts at $47,100. It is very well equipped, and a significant cost savings without giving up much along the way.

Vital Stats
Price: $47,100 to $66,100
Price as Tested: $67,850
Powertrain: 5.6-liter 390 hp V-8 connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.
Fuel Economy: 13-mpg City – 18-mpg Highway -15-mpg combined
Seating: Up to 8

Where Built: Kyushu, Japan

Crash Test Results: Overall four out of a possible five star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It has not been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Competes With:
Chevrolet Suburban
Ford Expedition
GMC Yukon
Toyota Sequoia

Fab Features
Nearly an Infiniti QX80 at a Nissan price
Powerful V-8 engine
Rear Door Alert system