Despite a movement away from full size SUVs, Nissan’s new Armada manages to impress, if just.
Amidst the pool of available full-size SUVs slowly drying up, Nissan’s 2021 Armada shows no signs of throwing in the towel. With the departure of the Land Cruiser from the US market, the Armada and rival Toyota Sequoia are the last samurai of full-size Japanese SUV offerings. Like the previous model, the newest offering is based on the Patrol platform sold around the rest of the world. Visual changes for 2021 include an updated front and rear fascia, new LED headlights, taillights, and a redesigned grill complete with the brand’s new logo. The interior has been massaged and a modern infotainment system is now available as standard. Nissan’s trusty 5.6-liter V8 workhorse, also found in the Nissan Titan and Infiniti QX80, remains largely the same despite a 10 horsepower and 19 pound-feet increase. These changes are welcomed, but are they enough?
All Grown Up
Despite the same underpinnings, the 2021 Armada received a plethora of visual updates. Gone is the previous Nissan design philosophy front end, replaced with a much more handsome and sleek design reminiscent of its QX80 brethren. These changes manifest in new LED headlights, tail lights, front and rear bumpers, grill and badging. The 2021 Armada is the first Nissan to wear their sleek new logo, first revealed on the upcoming 2022 Nissan Ariya electric car. It should be noted this received more compliments than anything else during our time with the new Armada. Further changes included new 20” wheels on our test vehicle, though 18” wheels will be standard on the S and SV trims while the flagship Platinum comes to the party with 22” offerings. 10-8 round for the Armada in the looks department.
More Than Skin Deep
Exterior updates weren’t the only thing changed for model year 2021, as the Armada’s interior has been luxuriously massaged to match its handsome new look. Nissan really threaded the needle with this to make sure it’s still a nice place to spend time, but still gives a reason to jump to the QX80 if one wants the Taj Mahal experience. Leather is plentiful throughout, and a redesigned center console ties the look together. Air con and heating controls have been rearranged to match the new design language, and it’s a welcome update. The dash now has a larger digital display in the center, capable of displaying multiple different menus and information. Also added to the roster as standard is a 12.3” touchscreen infotainment system. While tricky to navigate at times, it’s a welcome improvement over the archaic setup the last model used, and more ergonomic than the QX80 and Patrol’s dual screen systems. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard features as well, and services such as XM Radio are available, for an additional subscription. The SL and Platinum trims have the option for captain seats for the second row, while electric folding third row seats and 8” screens on the back of the headrests are an option exclusively for the Platinum. The Armada’s interior is a pleasant place to eat highway or city miles.
The 2021 Armada shares Nissan’s trusty 5.6L VK56DE V8 with the Titan and QX80, and remains largely the same as the previous model. The new figures are 400 horsepower and 413 ft/lbs of torque, up just 10 and 19, respectively, from the previous model. The updated V8 is coupled to a torque converter seven speed automatic that is a delight to drive around town and on the highway. While only seven gears is a bit behind by today’s standards, including the 2021 Titan’s 9-speed automatic, it offers seamless shifts and the option to do so manually using the gear selector if you so desire, or are towing a heavy load. Speaking of, the new Armada boasts 8,500lbs towing capacity. While the rating is great and higher than the rival Tahoe/Suburban’s 7,600-7,900, the GM unit’s 6.2L pushrod V8 offers 20 more horsepower and more low end torque. The Armada’s unit is a screamer, and doesn’t really come alive until around 4,000RPMs, but you are rewarded with an aural pleasure as you move through the revs. Fuel economy is 14mpg city and 19mpg highway for a combined 16mpg for the rear wheel drive model, and 13mpg around town and 18mpg highway for a combined total of 15mpg for the AWD model.
The Armada has non-active dampers, while a bit old tech, it rides very well around town and off road. Not easily jarred unless you hit a massive pothole, the ride is compliant and handles road imperfections well all considered. The new Armada also offers snow and tow mode, along with an intelligent tow load system. Steering eers on the side of heavy, but not entirely communicative, though this is to be expected of an SUV that tips the scale at just over 3 tons. Despite its size the Armada is easy to park, thanks to it’s trick four camera backup assist system utilizing the new infotainment screen and impressive turning radius.
Our test vehicle was the SL Midnight Edition which is new for 2021. Placed just underneath the flagship Platinum, the Midnight Edition is a smooth criminal. Black painted grill, roof rack, mirrors, front and rear skid plate trim, and badging set it apart from the regular SL. Other differences include unique 20” wheels, darker tail lights, and black interior leather and trim.
Nissan’s sophomore effort of the Patrol based Armada passes, if just. Interior and exterior updates bring it up to par with its rivals, and keep it cemented in the full-size SUV market, though it doesn’t do anything better than it’s rivals. The SL Midnight Edition is a welcome twist on the new formula and may be perfect for those who want a premium full-size SUV without paying Infiniti prices. Expect the new Armada to hit showrooms in January 2021.