An all-new model for 2004, the Nissan Armada receives only minor changes for 2005. In 2004, it was called the Pathfinder Armada; for 2005, it’s a nameplate all its own. Active head restraints and seatbelt buckle pre-tensioners are now found on the front seats. Cosmetic changes include V8 badges on both front doors, darker finish wheels on the Armada SE, aluminum-look centre console and instrument panel trim, a revised red exterior colour, and a new Sand interior colour. The navigation and dual air conditioning packages have been combined into a single Technology Package, which also includes a rear vision backup monitor.

Based on the Nissan Titan pickup truck, and also appearing at Infiniti as the QX56, the massive eight-passenger Armada is Nissan’s largest SUV and appears in SE and LE trim. Both are powered by a 5.6-litre V8 hooked to a five-speed transmission. Its All Mode four-wheel-drive technology is derived from the not-sold-in-North-America Skyline GT-R. Nissan claims that it’s more sophisticated than a truck-based system, designed to instantly distribute torque to all four wheels when warranted, and capable of sending up to 50 per cent of torque to the front wheels on demand. A two-speed electronic transfer case allows the driver to select between auto, full-time four-wheel-drive and 4LO. (A rear-wheel-drive only version sold in the U.S. is not available in Canada.)

The SE includes 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, black mesh grille, running boards, privacy glass, manual flip-out rear quarter windows, power-adjustable pedals, full-length overhead console, fold-flat second- and third-row seats, heated mirrors, eight-way power driver’s seat, fold-down front passenger seat with recessed “work area” and cupholders, six-CD Bose system with ten speakers, front and rear air conditioning, cruise, power windows and locks, rear air levelling suspension, speed-sensitive intermittent wipers, automatic halogen headlights and skid plates.

The LE adds 18-inch six-spoke alloy wheels, chrome grille, mirror-mounted puddle lamps, power flip-out rear quarter windows, six-way power passenger seat, power sunroof, power liftgate, rear centre console, fog lights, footwell lights, and heated leather seats.

The Armada is a huge vehicle, and although its steering and handling are much sharper and more precise than you’d expect for its size, you won’t mistake it for a Sentra when it’s time to manoeuvre in city traffic or find a place to park. Its potent but thirsty powerplant also adds to the illusion of a smaller vehicle, since it hauls this beast around admirably. Dwarfed only by Ford and GM’s largest SUVs – it’s slightly longer than the Toyota Sequoia – the Armada can tow up to 4128 kg (9100 lbs). Styling is not the Armada’s strong point, but the Titan-style grille looks a little more at home here than the Infiniti’s face does on the QX56, and you can get all the bells and whistles of the top-line Armada LE for $17,400 less than the Infiniti version. Add the navigation system, dual air, backup camera and DVD entertainment system to the LE and you’re still $11,400 ahead.

The Armada is built in Canton, Mississippi.

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