We came to call it the family bus, a seven-passenger SUV that – shockingly – was so stable and solid, a third-row passenger during one road trip was able to read an e-book for two hours without getting car sick.
On the other hand, in today’s world of tight city parking spots and low underground lot clearances, parking the 2018 Nissan Armada Platinum edition was a monstrous pain in the butt – impossible to keep within the lines of spaces designed for Nissan Micras. What’s more, for the $74,999 price of my fully loaded Platinum model, you could buy seven base-version Micras. (Note: I have seen Armada demo models listed for as little as $61,000 and change.)
It would, of course, be silly to have seven Catos each run about in a personal Micra minicar. And so, after a week of busing around my relatives visiting from England, I came to a grudging admiration for the actual functionality of the Armada. Somewhere between 60-80 Canadians who buy an Armada every month surely come to the same conclusion. This Titanic-sized rig has limited appeal, but what it has is very real.
As for parking, the 2018 Armada has a new tech toy called the Intelligent Rearview Mirror to help you back into a space or maintain a clear-eyed, high-definition look at what’s behind. An embedded screen delivers a video feed from a rear-mounted camera, giving the driver a stunningly clear picture.
If it’s too vivid, flip the switch that allows the driver to toggle from camera view to conventional mirror. We’ve seen this sort of technology – streaming video – in the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Cadillac CT6 and Cadillac XT5. What’s the advantage? The views in conventional mirrors can offer limited rearward help, but that’s not the case here. The picture is sharp, sharp, sharp.
This gizmo is very helpful for those who tow – and the Armada, properly equipped, can tow up to 8,500 pounds or 3,856 kilograms. That’s what a Tiny Home weighs.
There is enough power here to yank about big things, too. The standard engine is a new 5.6-litre V8 (390-horsepower/394 lb-ft of torque) mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Smooth, strong and quiet. The usual suite of high-end safety features is also available: Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Backup Collision Intervention and Around View® Monitor with Moving Object Detection.
This version of the Armada was upgraded for 2017 and it’s based on the Nissan Patrol, a rugged SUV rivaled by Toyota’s Land Cruiser and sold in Australia, South America and elsewhere. The Infiniti QX80 also rides on this platform. We are, then, talking about a body-on-frame, pickup-style rig with an SUV body bolted on top.
A few observations from my test. The seats? No complaints. The defroster for the rear side windows is completely useless, which means those sitting in back must wipe off the windows with regularity. The third row is tight, unless you are a small person. Access is awkward, which is not unusual for this sort of truck.
The infotainment system with its 8.0-inch touchscreen is reasonably sensible, though simple things like syncing a smart phone are more troubling than they should be. There are lots of USB ports and the 13-speaker Bose audio system, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and Nissan’s Intelligent Around View Monitor (a camera system that provides a virtual 360-degree view) all function as advertised. The liftgate includes an auto-closure feature and available power function.
As for the design, look, there’s only so much the stylists can do with a big box on wheels based on a safari vehicle. I get it. But I don’t think the designers did enough to distinguish the Armada from, well, the Toyota Sequoia, Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon. They’re all big and blocky.
Frankly, if you’re shopping here, these rigs all smudge together, with incredibly similar capabilities and features. Shop on price, and that means keep an eye out for demo deals.
2018 Nissan Armada Platinum Edition
Price: $74,998 plus $2,076 for freight, PDI and various fees (base model lists for $64998).
Engine: 5.6-litre V-9 (390-horsepower/394 lb-ft of torque)).
Transmissions: seven-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.8 city/17.5.
Comparables Toyota Sequoia, Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon.