The last time I drove a Nissan Armada, I wasn’t impressed. It felt massive and ungainly on my errand route around suburban Los Angeles, and the fuel economy in traffic was abysmal. It seemed that every time I got behind the wheel, I discovered something else to gripe about. Last week, however, I had the opposite experience. On a long, 800-mile road trip to see family, the Armada endeared itself to me time and time again.
Unsurprisingly, the big Nissan’s design brief is far better suited to freeway cruising than it is commuting through Mid-Wilshire. With a hushed, glassy-smooth ride and interior materials that rival the latest Lexus LX, the Armada is nearly ideal for a Sisyphean quest for the horizon – as long as you don’t expect much efficiency from the husky, 400-horsepower V8.
|2023 Nissan Armada Platinum
|13 City / 18 Highway / 15 Combined
|16.5 / 49.9 / 95.4 Cubic Feet
|Price As Tested
Gallery: 2023 Nissan Armada Platinum Review
The Armada’s most notable advantage over some of its competitors is a nicely constructed cabin. Soft-touch plastics and contrast-stitched leather cover the dashboard, and the door panels have ruched vinyl that calls a mid-1990s Avalon to mind – dated but cushy-soft. My Armada tester featured the $750 captain’s chairs in the second row, and the fixed console is the most obviously cheap bit of plastic in the cabin. Save some cash, leave the standard rear bench in place, and revel in the big Nissan’s soft, squishy definition of comfort.
That description also applies to the Armada’s ride out on the open road. A smooth, four-wheel independent suspension and abundant sound deadening provide insulation more akin to hyperbaric chambers than automobiles. The front and rear buckets are Kansas-flat and I could have used a bit more shoulder support after several hours in the saddle, but they do get heating all around and ventilation up front if you opt for the Platinum trim. The handling gets sloppy if the road starts to curve, but the Nissan SUV does Town Car–style luxury very well.
A smooth, four-wheel independent suspension and abundant sound deadening provide insulation more akin to hyperbaric chambers than automobiles.
However, while it excelled for my little family’s trip to the mountains, I suspect larger broods will have more to complain about. That’s because the Armada offers only 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the third-row seats in place, last among its competitive set and trailing the Chevrolet Tahoe by 9.0 cubic feet. It's even down on its smaller Pathfinder sibling by 0.1 cubes. And you won’t be gaining much passenger space in exchange for luggage – a high floor gives folks in the way-back an uncomfortable seating position, and there’s less leg and shoulder room than in the Chevy, Ford Expedition, or Toyota Sequoia.
The growly V8 under the hood gives the Armada an above average 8,500-pound towing rating, but it also has a hefty appetite, especially paired with full-time four-wheel drive with a selectable low range. Its standard 400 hp beats the Tahoe and equals the Expedition, but it demands more fuel than either, at 13 miles per gallon city, 18 highway, and 15 combined. The Bow Tie brigade boasts 15 / 20 / 17, while the Ford does even better at 16 / 22 / 19. And the Tahoe even offers a torquey turbodiesel inline-six that can hit up to 26 mpg on the highway with four-wheel drive.
The Armada offers only 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the third-row seats in place, last among its competitive set and trailing the Chevrolet Tahoe by 9.0 cubic feet.
Still, I found myself charmed by the big Nissan’s sultry V8 and posh expanses of quilted, stitched leather. I’ve said before that the Armada – what with its impressive interior quality and off-road lineage donated from the overseas Nissan Patrol – should be considered a budget Land Cruiser, but I also think it makes a perfectly respectable family vacation machine.
I drove a 2023 model with an as-tested price of $73,310 thanks to the rear bucket seats and a $395 coat of paint, pricing that’s roughly comparable with the Tahoe High Country, Expedition Limited, and Sequoia Limited. The 2024 Armada starts at a reasonable $57,515 for an SV 4x2 or $60,515 for a 4x4, also in line with its rivals.
The Verdict: That may not be cheap, per se, but it seems like a decent buy for someone looking for more space or power than the similarly priced, four-cylinder-only 2024 Land Cruiser can provide. More so since even the SV has an excellent interior and the same smooth ride as my Platinum tester. If you need the space of a Tahoe, the Nissan will disappoint. But as a Land Cruiser-slash-Lincoln road tripper, it’s hard to ignore the sneaky charisma of the Armada.
2023 Nissan Armada