After taking a hiatus for 2016, Nissan’s full-size Armada SUV is back for 2017 in all-new form. It’s not quite the same Armada North Americans have grown accustomed to, however: Where the previous Armada was based on the Titan pick-up truck and built in Canton, Mississippi, the new Armada makes a clean break from the Titan and is instead built in Japan based on the global Patrol platform, same as the luxury-oriented Infiniti QX80. Nissan could equally well have decided to align the naming convention and ditch the Armada nameplate here in favour of Patrol, but either way it’s a capable SUV that’s well-respected worldwide.

The all-new North American market Patrol – Armada, that is – was revealed at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, and journalists were given an opportunity to drive it recently both on the road and off-road in sunny northern California.

The Patrol traces its roots back to 1951 model year, when it was introduced as a competitor to the Toyota Land Cruiser. Now in its sixth generation (which has been around since 2010), it features stout body-on-frame construction, four-wheel-drive underpinnings, and three-row seating for up to eight passengers.

Styling-wise the North American Armada cleaves very closely to the global Patrol on which it’s based (unlike the related Infiniti QX80, which sports a bulbously overstyled front end and enough blingy details for several SUVs). The bumpers and parts of the frame have been modified from the global platform to meet North American standards, but the overall look remains the same. Up front, there’s the familial Nissan V-motion grille, with standard LED headlights and taillights, and distinctive boomerang LED character lighting. The basic shape is upright and sturdy, as befits a big SUV, and the overall effect is handsome and purposeful (even the enormous fender ports are apparently functional, if a little unsubtle). In terms of size it’s a fraction longer overall than the previous Armada (30 mm longer) but rides on a slightly shorter wheelbase (53 mm shorter). From a practical standpoint, the upright, no-nonsense styling means that the Armada has big windows and very good outward visibility for such a large vehicle.

Under the hood, the 2017 Armada gets a new version of Nissan’s 5.6L Endurance V8 engine, the same as used in the new 2017 Titan. The engine was developed specifically for North American requirements and is built in Decherd, Tennessee then shipped to Japan for installation on the Armada assembly line. It develops 390 hp at 5,800 rpm and 394 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, with direct injection and improved heat management systems allowing both more power and better fuel economy than the previous V8. At idle it’s smooth and quiet, and under hard acceleration it offers a pleasing deep bellow.

While official fuel consumption numbers aren’t yet available, Nissan’s engineers indicated that fuel consumption for the Armada should be better than the current QX80, which rates 17.4 / 12.2 L/100 km city/highway. As well, the Armada is tuned to run on regular fuel, versus the QX80 which requires premium. During our mixed test driving we saw about 13.6 US mpg, which works out to 17.3 L/100 km, but that included a lot of idling while taking photos. Unlike in the Titan, there are no plans to offer a diesel in the Armada.

Epic Spec Battle: 2017 Nissan Armada vs. 1588 Spanish Armada

The engine is hooked up to an all-new seven-speed transmission (in place of the previous five-speed) with adaptive shift control and downshift rev-matching. The transmission is designed to provide a wide range between its low ratio and high ratio gears, and is well-matched to the engine. During the test drive it scored high points, with crisp shifts and quick responses in manual mode.

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