The Extra Mile: 2013 Nissan Armada
Entry Price: $36,890
Price as Tested: $59,265
This week, we're driving one of the biggest SUV's on the road, the 2013 Nissan Armada 4WD Platinum Reserve series. Although the entry Armada starts at $36,890, which is the recommended start point for prospective consumers, the top line Platinum 4WD retails for $51,180 plus options and $995 delivery.
With similarities to sibling luxury SUV Infiniti QX56 4WD, which we tested last year, this year's Armada still shares several Q56 components, although the Infiniti is a in a new generation with a shorter wheelbase and a 7-speed transmission versus Armada's "still" 5-speed automatic.
Built in Canton, Mississippi, Armada for 2013 relies on the truck-based chassis and is powered by, not surprisingly, a gas guzzling V8. However, to be fair, when you shop in the full-size to gigantic SUV class of towing and cargo movers, there aren't any gas powered "biggies" out there that deliver good gas mileage, period. Thus, all manufacturers struggle in the MPG area when moving more than three tons with some suitcases and a few passengers onboard.
Under the hood sits Nissan's 5.6-liter V8 that delivers 317 horses and 375 lb. ft. of torque. For comparisons, Infiniti Q56 has the same 5.6 V8 but it puts out 400-horsepower and 413 lb. ft. of torque and is attached to a new 7-speed automatic.
Armada delivers 12 city and 18 highway, while the more powerful Q56 nets 14 city and 20 highway thanks to the 7-speed. When Nissan delivers its next generation Armada, expect a 7-speed automatic for sure.
Notable Armada interior highlights include several leather and comfort enhancements and beautiful trim throughout. If you can think of an option, the Platinum Reserve probably has it as standard fare.
On the road, the 315-horses moves Armada with authority and the tester's 4WD system is computer controlled 2-speed transfer case with a 4-low and automatic 4x4. When in automatic mode, traction is distributed to wheels that need it most but never more in front than in back to prevent torque steer. If you want a 2WD Armada, they are available starting with that $36K entry model.
The underpinnings are upgraded and feature a fully independent setup with auto load leveling rear. If you need to tow, (and tow it will) a 7-pin wiring harness is ready to accept your brake controller while the rear bumper accepts all trailer hookups. There's also a transmission "tow/haul" mode switch to activate modern day suspension technologies, and you'll be able to hook up to 8,500 pounds easily. (See dealer for 2WD and 4WD capacities).
Platinum's "Reserve" option costs an additional $2,090 more, and you receive two-tone chocolate/almond leather seating, genuine light wood trim (beautiful), chrome interior trim, embroidered floor mats, 20-inch dark chrome wheels, grille and outside mirrors and exterior trim. ("Dark chrome" looks black until light shines and it looks like a silver chrome combo).
As for safety, Armada's curb weight alone is noteworthy. When you add all the airbags, traction control, brake assist, ABS four wheel discs, vehicle dynamic control and a host of other standard safety features, you're riding in one of the safest vehicles on the highway.
If you're thinking "big" SUV, ala Chevy Suburban, GMC Denali, Dodge Durango, Ford Expedition EL, Cadillac Escalade, Lexus 570 or Range Rover, you owe yourself a visit to a Nissan dealer. You can choose either seven or eight passenger seating, but remember that third row is cramped for full size adults and the ride on bumpy roads is harsh.
The $40K Armadas are very nice, but contemplate Infiniti Q56 at $61,350 first if you end up desiring the Platinum Reserve Armada.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 123.2 inches, 5,841 pound curb weight, 28 gallon fuel tank, up to 97 cu. ft. cargo space.
Likes: Entry price, amenities, seating, safety, power.
Dislikes: Rough ride on bumpy roads, transmission needs upgrade.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated automotive writer).