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Thursday, January 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

2019 Nissan Armada: Big SUV finds comfort/work balance

We’re back in the Land of the Large this week, courtesy of Nissan and its three-row bruiser, the 2019 Armada SUV.

The Armada ($48,395) is a full-size sport-ute that accommodates eight in a well-equipped and thoughtfully designed cabin. 

Built on a truck’s ladder-frame chassis, the Armada strong and durable. Its four-wheel-drive system includes a two-speed transfer case that’s central to its off-road capabilities. Under normal conditions, the system operates in RWD, but up to 50 percent of torque can be shuttled to the front wheels when conditions demand.

Penalty at the pump

Every Armada is equipped with hill-start assist, a tow-mode function and a limited-slip differential, which reduces traction loss in slippery conditions.

The Armada comes prewired for four-pin trailer lighting. A seven-pin socket is provided should the owner choose to add an aftermarket trailer brake controller.

Ground clearance is 9.1 inches, which is about mid-pack among large SUVs.

Armada is powered by a 390-horsepower V-8 that produces an 8,500-pound tow rating and powers the 5,600-pound brute from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. A seven-speed automatic transmission makes sure, swift and smooth shifts.

There’s a penalty at the pump, of course; the EPA calculates mileage at 15 combined/13 city/18 highway.

But if it’s any consolation, that big eight sure sounds good.

The changing nature of work

In bygone times, big SUVs like this were expected to work hard in tough conditions. They served ranchers and hunters. Strength and utility trumped comfort and style. 

But the nature of the work has changed. These days, you’re more likely to spot an Armada towing a travel trailer than fording a rain-swollen stream. 

To better serve this mission, Nissan messes with tradition. Instead of an SUV’s traditional solid rear axle, it runs a four-wheel-independent suspension, with double wishbones front and rear.

For the most part, the setup controls the Armada’s bulk and the big fella handles quite well for such a tall and heavy rig. Nissan softens its suspension to absorb the impact of potholes and broken road surfaces. Even on 20-inch wheels, our tester felt calm and settled on city streets.

Predictably, though, undulating and uneven roads can upset its composure, causing it to jiggle and sway. 

A corner taken too quickly causes a good deal of body roll.

Quiet and comfy accommodations

In the SUV’s heyday, vinyl upholstery and steel dashboards were standard fare. But Nissan finishes all but the base Armada in top-notch leathers and stitched soft-touch surfaces. Fit-and-finish and materials quality are first-rate. Seats are large and supportive, with just enough bolstering to provide a sense of security. Numerous storage bins and cubbies swallow tablets, phones and purses. 

The cabin is mausoleum-silent — except for those moments when the V-8 is making its voice heard.

Every Armada is equipped with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and power-adjustable front seats, automatic LED headlights, heated mirrors, roof rails, side steps, keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors and a tow-hitch receiver.

Tech highlights include navigation, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, Bluetooth connectivity and a 13-speaker Bose audio system. Nissan makes liberal use of buttons and knobs to supplement the touchscreen, minimizing distraction time.

Living on borrowed time?

For 2019, a batch of driver-assist functions — adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking — become standard. There’s also a new Rear Door Alert feature that reminds the driver to check the back seat for items — including children — upon exiting the vehicle. 

If leather is on your wish list, the SL trim ($53,195) adds it, along with rain-sensing wipers and a 360-degree top-down parking camera with moving-object detection and warning. The camera is a great help when maneuvering in tight spaces.

The steering system is heavily boosted to minimize effort and has an artificial feel and so-so communications skills. It responds slowly to inputs and lacks precision. 

A decent on-center valley minimizes the need for endless driver inputs.

Most likely, big and thirsty rigs like the Armada are living on borrowed time. For now, though, Nissan’s flagship motors on, often with a trailer attached.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2019 Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD
Vehicle base price: $48,395
Trim level base price: $62,690
As tested: $67,850 (includes destination and handling)
Options: 20-inch dark chrome wheels; dark chrome grille, door handles and outside mirrors; two-tone stitched leather seats; second-row captain’s chairs; second-row center console with padded armrest; carpeted floor mats.
Tow rating: 8,500 pounds
EPA ratings: 15 combined/13 city/18 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified
 



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.