2014 Nissan Armada

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2004 Nissan Pathfinder Armada

This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2014.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 9

Bottom Line:

Nissan does it up in a big way with its first full-size sport utility vehicle. The 2004 Pathfinder Armada bests major competitors in some dimensions, and its V8 is so brawny, towing capacity is a surprising 9,100 pounds.
Pros:
  • Doesn't skimp on size
  • Brawny V8
  • Large-sized interior controls
Cons:
  • Odd styling at rear pillars
  • Some might prefer quieter engine sounds
  • Big reach into rear cargo area

Go figure. Nissan's first entry in the full-size sport-utility segment isn't just as sizable as many of its major competitors. It's longer and more powerful.

The 2004 Nissan Pathfinder Armada, more commonly known simply as the Armada, also came to market as the first shorter-wheelbase, full-size SUV with a 5-speed transmission and head curtain airbags that are standard, not optional, on all models.

Add the Armada's convenient fold-flat-into-the-floor third-row seats, a haughty V8 exhaust note and a nicely tuned suspension that doesn't make the ride loose and 'wallowy,' and it's easy to see why Nissan officials predict a respectable 40,000 to 45,000 purchases during the 2004 model year, the first year of sales.

This is Nissan's first foray into the segment dominated by the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition. Not many import brands, particularly from Asia, are in the segment. Toyota, now selling its full-size Sequoia, was the first.

Priced with the competition
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of approximately $33,000 puts the new Armada, with 123.2-inch wheelbase, in the heart of full-size SUV territory.

For example, the Tahoe, Expedition and Sequoia have starting prices in the $32,000 to $34,000 range and wheelbases that are in the 116-inch to 123-inch range. Larger full-size SUVs, such as the Ford Excursion and Chevy Suburban, have wheelbases that are in the 130- to 137-inch range.

It's best if you like the front-end styling of Nissan's full-size pickup truck, the Titan. The new Armada has the same front styling. Indeed, the two vehicles—both launched for the 2004 model year—share the same platform, V8 engine and many other parts as well as their Canton, Miss., assembly plant.

Don't confuse the Armada, which can carry seven or eight passengers, with the five-passenger Nissan Pathfinder SUV, which Nissan has sold for decades. The long-running Pathfinder remains in the Nissan lineup, but it's a smaller, midsize vehicle which comes only with a V6.

The new Armada includes the Pathfinder name because Nissan officials found "Pathfinder" has good name recognition and image with consumers.

Riding high and large
Everything about the Armada, which is targeted at men with families who want to ride in comfort, is big. In fact, the nearly 207-inch-long Armada is longer, overall, than the 205.8-inch Expedition, the 203.9-inch Sequoia and 196.9-inch Tahoe.

It's a big step up into the tall-riding Armada, which wears standard 18-inch tires. In contrast, 16- and 17-inch tires are the norm on the Tahoe, Sequoia and Expedition.

There's big space for Armada passengers as front-seat legroom of 41.8 inches is more than the 41.6 inches of the Sequoia, the 41.3 inches of the Tahoe and the 41.1 inches of the Expedition. The Armada's second-row legroom of 41.9 inches is greater than that of the main competitors, too, though the 32.4 inches of legroom in the Armada's third row is less than the Tahoe's and Expedition's but better than the Sequoia's.

Shoulder room in all three rows of seats of the Armada is greater than in the Sequoia and Expedition, but not quite as good as the Tahoe's.

When seats are used in the Armada's third-row bench, the Armada's 20 cubic feet of cargo room behind is close to the 20.6 of the Expedition and more than the 16.3 cubic feet in the Tahoe. But the Sequoia can offer more than 26 cubic feet back there.

Many shoppers are likely to appreciate the Armada's fold-flat third row. These seats don't need to be removed to provide the maximum 97.1 cubic feet of cargo space. Note this is less than the 110.5 cubic feet of the Expedition, which also has fold-down-into-the-floor rear seats.

If you're my size—5 feet 4 inches tall—it can be a major reach into the rear cargo area to get at items. The cargo floor was very nearly at waist height on me!

V8 sounds readily heard
The Armada's 305 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm is palpable. Gosh, my head and those of my passengers were pressed back into the head restraints as I pressed the Armada's accelerator the first few times, because power came on so quickly.

Riders can hear the sporty V8 at nearly every touch of the gas pedal, too. And I found I would get up to city speed limits in no time and had to keep a close eye on the Armada's speedometer.

Nissan offers only the one engine—a 5.6-liter double overhead cam V8—for the Armada—and what a V8 it is.

The Armada can tow a 9,100-pound trailer, while maximum towing capacity for the main competitors ranges from 6,200 to 8,650 pounds.

Tahoe's top V8—a 5.3-liter overhead valve V8—generates 295 horses and 330 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, and the Expedition's top V8, a 5.4-liter single overhead cam V8, generates 260 horses and 350 lb-ft of torque. The Sequoia's sole V8, a 4.7-liter double overhead cam powerplant, has maximum 240 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm.

Don't look for fuel savings here. The Armada's fuel economy of 13 miles a gallon in city driving and 18 mpg on the highway is about par for this group of big SUVs.

Note the console-mounted gated gearshifter adds a modern touch to a segment where old-style, steering wheel-mounted shifters have been common.

Odds and ends
The Armada's dashboard and gauges are largely borrowed from the Titan and are well-arranged and easy to understand.

It did take some getting used to the Armada's roofline and back window pillars, though. The roof seems to have two contours—sort of rounded over the front seats and then squared off toward the back—and it doesn't seem to match. The look sort of reminded me of a hearse, in fact.

I liked that power adjustable foot pedals are standard on the Armada, helping both tall and petite riders find proper driving positions.

Another nice touch: With just one hand, I could flip and move aside an Armada second-row seat for entry to the third row.

The big storage area in the center console between the front seats got lots of use. It was just right to hold my purse and keep it handy. This was important, because it was a long reach to get at my purse if I left it in the front passenger seat and it flopped over toward the door.

Unfortunately, though, the test Armada had an intermittent squeak that emanated from a rear seat, and the tire pressure monitor on the test vehicle kept triggering, despite tire checks that showed all tires had correct pressure.

The Armada's ride is surprisingly stable, as this big vehicle held its line quite well in mountain twisties. I always made sure to find wide parking spots at the grocery.

Everyone inside has great views over traffic, and seats are decently sized, but the driver can have a difficult time seeing what's directly behind the vehicle when backing up.

Since the Armada is a new model, there is no reliability history.

One last note: The Armada's sibling, the luxury QX56, is on sale at Infiniti dealerships. Nissan Motor Corp. sells vehicles under both the Nissan and Infiniti names. The starting price for the QX56 is in the upper $40,000s.

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BB04 - 8/21/2014 4:08:50 AM