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by Greg Wilson
Napa Valley, California – As gas inches up towards a dollar a litre, you have to wonder whether the world needs a 300 horsepower full-size SUV. With a name like “Armada” which conjures up images of a large, aggressive invading force, the new Nissan Pathfinder Armada is a not-too-subtle edition to the full-size SUV market which now includes the Ford Expedition, Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and Toyota Sequoia.
According to Nissan Canada’s Marketing Director, Ian Forsyth, the Pathfinder Armada is targeted at the “Modern Dad” who has “a large house, large yard, large garage, and large BBQ..” Obviously, he needs a large vehicle too. Forsyth says the “modern Dad doesn’t mind displaying his success…and doesn’t dream of adventure, he does it..” Go Dad!
The Pathfinder Armada – which from now on I will refer to as the Armada since it has nothing in common with the Pathfinder except its AWD system – is based on the new full-size Titan pickup truck platform, but there’s one important difference: the Armada has an independent five link rear suspension for improved ride and handling.
The Armada is about 50 mm longer than a Ford Expedition, but its 3130 mm (123.2) inch wheelbase is about 100 mm (4 inches) longer than the Expedition’s. Inside, the Armada is very roomy and has the most 1st and 2nd row legroom in it class. Armada’s will seat 7 or 8 people in three rows of seats, depending on the seating configurations chosen.
The third row seat folds flat and the second row seatback folds flat, creating a level loading surface and up to 97 cubic feet of storage space. As well, the Armada’s front passenger seatback will fold flat, creating a potential 3 metres (10 feet) of load length. In the Armada, the third row seat does not have to be removed from the vehicle – only the Expedition and Navigator have comparable seats in this class. The heavy third row seats in the Sequoia and Tahoe, for example, have to be removed and they weigh about 20 kilograms (44 lb.)
Like the Expedition, the Armada is equipped with rollover sensors that automatically deploy the roof-mounted side impact curtain airbags should the vehicle begin to roll over. These curtain airbags protect the heads of occupants in all three rows. This feature is standard equipment in the Armada. As well, audible rear proximity sensors, which warn of objects behind the vehicle when backing up, is a standard feature.
Under the hood is Nissan’s all-new 5.6 litre V8 which develops 305 horsepower @ 4900 rpm and 385 ft-lbs of torque @ 3600 rpm – that’s more torque than the GM’s 6.0 litre Vortec V8 engine has – giving the Armada the best towing capacity in its class: 4,128 kg (9,100 pounds) in the 1/2 ton class. Chevy 3/4 ton Suburbans will tow up to 12,000 lb. Thankfully, the Armada uses Regular Unleaded gas. A five-speed automatic transmission with a Tow/Haul mode, 18 inch wheels and tires, a tire pressure monitoring system, and an anti-skid “Vehicle Dynamic Control” system, are all standard.
In Canada, all Armadas will have Nissan’s all-wheel-drive system which gives the driver the choice of 2WD, 4WD, AWD, and Low Range. This is the same system used in the Pathfinder and in AWD mode, it varies torque anywhere between 0/100 Front/Rear to 50/50 Front/Rear. In the U.S., buyers will also be able to buy 2WD Armadas.
With so much horsepower and torque, the Armada is able to overcome its 2400 kg (5300 lb.) curb weight with ease, and acceleration is brisk. The Armada is easy to drive for a big vehicle and it’s turning circle of 41 feet is not unreasonable for a vehicle this size although the Expedition’s turning circle of 38.7 ft. is less. Its wide track and fully independent double wishbone suspension contribute to stable handling and a comfortable ride, but I would rate the Expedition a nicer vehicle to drive. One thing I didn’t like about the Armada was its noisy cooling fan that switches on automatically when the vehicle is idling.
The interior has plenty of headroom and legroom, especially in the second row where legroom is very generous. The third seat is raised for better visibility, and headroom and legroom are just adequate for adults. The Armada features removable centre consoles between the 1st and 2nd rows, and they include large storage areas. Armadas are available with up to 14 cupholders. Interior quality wasn’t up to the level of an Expedition, but I was driving a pre-production model.
In Canada, Armadas will come in two trim levels: 8-passenger SE models with cloth seats, and 7-passenger LE models with leather. When they reach dealerships in October, Armadas are expected to be priced from the low $50,000 range to the mid $60,000 range.
For Dads and Moms looking for a big family vehicle that has lots of luggage space and will tow the family boat, the new Pathfinder Armada will be a legitimate competitor for the Expedition, Tahoe, Yukon and Sequoia.