A family looking for a minivan that is set apart from the rest
Comparable models in this class:
Chevrolet Venture, Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Pontiac Montana, Toyota Sienna
Nissan sets sail into large SUV market
When a manufacturer enters a new segment, its vehicles name plays a significant role; after all, who would challenge the ruggedness of something named Tahoe, Expedition or Yukon? So, when Nissan decided to makes its debut into the larger-than-life, goliath SUV market it chose the name Armada to represent its 5,013-pound giant.
Lets just hope this Armada doesnt have the same destiny as its namesake: the Spanish Armada of 1588. For those history buffs out there, the Spanish Armada was Spains attempt to conquer England. 125 ships large, this floating brigade left Portugal in late May of 1588, heading for the British Isles. The short version is that when they arrived, the English fleet gave them a beating and what was left of the Armada limped back to Spain. Thus, marking the turning point between the era of Spanish world domination and the rise of Britain. Essentially, they came, they saw and they lost.
Of course, thats history. Todays Nissan Armada is a different story. Previously, Nissan has tested the SUV waters with smaller utility vehicles, like the Pathfinder and Xterra and, during the process, found a loyal following. Nissan research analysts decided to take these same fans and pose the question: what would make our SUVs more appealing? Bigger is better came the reply, and thus, Nissan responded by challenging the domestic-dominated large SUV market with their new 2004 Nissan Armada.
First impressions If there is one thing for certain its the fact that the Armada is huge (you could probably fit a small boat in there with the seatbacks folded down). It overshadows its three main competitors Ford Expedition, Chevy Tahoe and Toyota Sequoia in wheelbase and comes in second, by one inch, in width to the Tahoe. With all seatbacks upright, the Armada offers 20 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row, 56.7 cubic feet behind row two and, with all the seats folded flat, theres 97.1 cubes ready for luggage, sporting gear, dogs and practically anything else you need to haul.
Speaking of the Armadas generous cabin, passengers are spoiled with best-in-class second row legroom (a full three-inches more than its competitors) and wide, leather-swathed seats. This open space is most noticeable when clamoring in and out and installing child safety seats and when escorting taller-than-average adults around town.
Because the Armada is a vehicle made for pack rats, cubbyholes abound. They are everywhere; theyre in the door panels, in the console and under the steering wheel. There is even a small armada of them along the ceiling. In addition to having enough bins for storing every imaginable toy, key chain, cell phone and sunglasses, youll also find no less than twelve cupholders positioned throughout the cabin in various sizes capable of holding anything from a Big Gulp to 12-oz. Coke cans.
Engine performance In the large SUV market, a vehicle needs to not only tower over every other car on the road, but it also needs to have a muscular engine to back it up. After all, large SUVs are really enclosed trucks. And when it comes to trucks, the measuring tape focuses on two things: towing capability and engine performance; as such, the Nissan Armada has come prepared.
Producing a low, throaty rumble thats often associated with domestic trucks rather than Japanese imports, the Armadas 5.6-liter, 32-valve DOHC V8 engine is responsible for unleashing 305 horses at 4,900 rpm. Left alone these mustangs are decent, but arent necessarily worthy of bragging rights. Enter 385 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm and youre staring at a 9,100 towing capacity now thats something to tell your friends about especially if theyre driving a Tahoe, Expedition or Sequoia.
Driving impressions Weighing in at over two tons, piloting this King Kong can take some getting used to, with the most obvious hazard being tight urban spaces. We suggest avoiding close parking quarters, or if you do find yourself in a lot with narrow yellow lines, then you may consider taking up two spaces. Yes, this will annoy owners of sedans and sport wagons, but the alternative of accidentally smacking one of these smaller, four doors makes this approach seem more considerate than selfish. Note: during our drive, we found the radar parking assist to be a big help in alerting us to obstacles when we were backing out this heavy metal behemoth.
Around town the Armada made an impression, not only on us, but also on other drivers, as we seemed to garner more respect on the road: cars would yield to us when we merged, seemingly glad to move out of our way. Big vehicles make big impacts.
All in all, given the Nissan Armadas size, cabin layout and powertrain it looks as if this Armada will have a much better chance of challenging its rivals than its namesake.
Copyright 2013, Michele Brooke
Standard Equipment (partial list)
4-speed automatic transmission
Front and rear ventilated disc brakes
Emergency braking assist
Front, rear and third row head airbags
Tire pressure monitoring
Power windows, mirrors & door locks
Tilt-adjustable steering wheel
Front and rear air conditioning
AM/FM in-dash single CD player stereo with 8 speakers
SL models also include: (partial list)
Power sliding side door
Rear power liftgate door
8-way power driver seat
Height adjustable pedals
Overhead console with storage
Universal remote transmitter for garage door
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Rear volume controls for audio system
SE models also include: (partial list)
5-speed automatic transmission
Dual power sliding side doors
Power glass sunroof
Fixed glass rear sunroof
Power opening rear quarter windows
Dual front side-mounted airbags
Rear parking sensors
Driver seat memory
4-way power passenger seat
Heated driver and front passenger seats
Dual zone front climate control with rear air
Bose premium brand in-dash 6 CD stereo system with 10 speakers