In a class full of older designs, the 2012 Nissan Armada (Base MSRP: $39,280 to $54,740) is outshined by its competition, reviewers say. The 2012 Armada's last significant updating occurred in the 2008 model year, similar to the competition, but there are a few key areas in which models like the 2012 Toyota Sequoia (Base MSRP: $40,930 to $61,805) and 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe ((Base MSRP: $38,530 to $55,850)) are clearly superior.
The Armada does have some strong points. Depending on trim level and powertrain (two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive), tow capacity ranges from 6,000 to 9,000 pounds. The Armada also has relatively good handling and an interior that still feels fresh and modern, reviewers say. It falls short when it comes to maximum cargo space and comfort for third-row passengers.
Nissan's 5.6-liter V8 engine produces 317 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque. Rivals such as the Toyota Sequoia offer optional, more powerful V8s. The Armada's V8 is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that reviewers find up to the task, and as is common in this segment, the Armada can be ordered with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.
Handling is one of the Nissan Armada's strong suits, and a few reviewers go as far as to use words like agile to describe it. In a Motor Trend comparison test, one editor raves that the Armada "offers the best balance of the pack, with great grip and no drama when cornering." Edmunds.com says that "the ride quality is generally comfortable, though bad pavement can make the ride seem a little harsh, something that's not an issue with newer designs like the Toyota Sequoia."
In any combination, fuel economy is poor even by large SUV standards. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Nissan Armada at 13 mpg city/15 mpg combined/19 mpg highway, which is lower than other large SUVs. The poor fuel economy is noted in multiple reviews as well. In a comparison test, Motor Trend observed 11.9 mpg overall for the Nissan Armada, and ConsumerGuide.com deemed fuel economy dismal.
The Nissan Armada has a ground clearance height of 9.8 inches, and 4x4 models have an even higher 10.4 inches. This is certainly good for clearing obstacles and tackling rougher-than-usual roads, but the Armada's sheer size ultimately prevents it from being a true off-roader. TheTruthAboutCars.com found that when taking the Armada off-road, the running boards had the tendency to "snag everything taller than forest squirrels." Other large SUVs aren't likely to be much better off-road, for largely the same reasons.
Things perk up when reviewers go inside the Armada. Edmunds.com summarizes it neatly saying "you'll find a handsome space done up in generally high quality materials." The interior also has plenty of storage areas for odds and ends, which reviewers appreciate. The SV base model includes standard equipment like rear air-conditioning controls, keyless entry and power-adjustable pedals. Higher trim levels add amenities such as power third-row seating storage, heated second-row seats and a 12-speaker audio system with backseat DVD entertainment.
The Armada can accommodate eight passengers in its default configuration. Overall, seating is comfortable, but legroom for the third-row seats is smaller than that in many rivals, and as a result, the rearmost seats are less comfortable than those in some competitors. As with other large SUVs that offer the feature, critics find that the optional third-row power folding option is very convenient.
With the second- and third-row seats folded, the 2012 Nissan Armada can carry up to 97.1 cubic feet of cargo space. This is less than several other large SUVs, as well as being inferior to many larger midsize crossovers and minivans.
Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Administration has fully tested the 2012 Nissan Armada's crashworthiness, though NHTSA gives the Armada a rating of 3 stars out of 5 for rollover resistance, which is calculated based on the vehicle's dimensions and center of gravity. The 2012 Armada comes with the typical standard safety features such as front airbags, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, traction control, electronic stability control and antilock brakes.
The Armada's basic warranty is for three years/36,000 miles. A leading consumer publication predicts that reliability will be average.
The major drawbacks of less polished ride quality, terrible fuel economy, a cramped third-row, a lack of optional engines and average maximum cargo capacity ultimately hold back the Nissan Armada compared to the competition. Unless heavy towing is essential, the best midsize crossover SUVs are a far better choice. Edmunds.com states that the best crossovers "deliver more appealing ride and handling characteristics and better fuel economy while still providing plenty of interior room."
Edmunds.com editors like the Armada's V8, but note that it produces less power than the top competition. The interior is another bright spot. Otherwise, they point out that the top-rated large SUVs have better ride quality and more cargo space.
Review: 2012 Nissan Armada SUV, Editors of Edmunds.com, Dec. 15, 2011
Across all of the categories on which they rate a vehicle, the Armada's average score is at the bottom of the large SUV segment. Editors note the high points of the Armada but conclude that it "doesn't lead the large-SUV class in any area."
Review: 2012 Nissan Armada: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com, Not Dated
The 2012 Nissan Armada guzzles gas even more than other large SUVs. Both two- and four-wheel drive models get 15 mpg ratings in combined driving.
Review: 2012 Nissan Armada, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, Not Dated
4. Kelley Blue Book
Kelley Blue Book editors consider the Nissan Armada a strong choice, though like other reviewers, they note that there are better options available for some tasks. Kelley Blue Book does note that fuel economy is poor, even for the large SUV class.
Review: 2012 Nissan Armada Review, Editors of Kelley Blue Book, Not Dated
Editors of ConsumerReports.org buy dozens of cars annually and comprehensively test them. You'll find a summary of the 2009 model (largely the same as the current one) and predicted reliability data. To access this information, you must be a subscriber to ConsumerReports.org.
Review: Overview: 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
TheTruthAboutCars.com gives highly opinionated and often insightful reviews on vehicles. This somewhat snarky review of the 2008 Nissan Armada is still valid, as there haven't been any significant design changes since then. The reviewer doesn't find much positive to say about the styling, but he does find the handling to be surprisingly good.
Review: 2008 Nissan Armada LE 4x4 Review, Mike Solowiow, March 28, 2008
This review is older, as are many large SUV reviews since most models haven't had significant updates in several years. The reviewer generally likes the Nissan Armada, applauding the powerful engine and smooth ride. The reviewer also says that it's a good choice for hauling families, but there are clearly much better and more fuel efficient options in the midsize SUV category.
Review: 2008 Nissan Armada: Expert Reviews, G. Chambers Williams III, Jan. 12, 2008
8. Motor Trend
There have been no significant comparison tests of large SUVs in recent years, primarily due to the fact that most models have received only minor changes since their introductions. This Motor Trend comparison from 2008 compares the most popular large SUVs, including the 2008 Nissan Armada. The Armada places second in this comparison behind the Toyota Sequoia. The Chevrolet Tahoe, which comes in last, does have a more powerful engine these days.
Review: Comparison: 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe vs. 2008 Ford Expedition vs. 2008 Nissan Armada vs. 2008 Toyota Sequoia, Ron Kiino, April 2008
The 2012 Nissan Armada has not been fully tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but it does give the Armada a 3-star rollover resistance rating. Read more on SaferCar.gov to learn about testing procedures. NHTSA adopted stricter testing rules in 2011, so results from prior model years can't be compared to results after 2011.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration