Full 2008 Nissan Armada Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Nissan Armada gets a number of updates, including a new grille and headlights, a restyled cabin with a more luxurious ambiance, and a number of high-tech features. The latter include keyless starting, Bluetooth capability and a navigation system with a hard drive that allows 9GB of storage for music files.
Looking to capitalize on America's love of super-sized SUVs, Nissan introduced its burly Armada four years ago to battle the popular domestic stalwarts. With its powerful V8 engine, roomy cabin and generous towing capacity, the Armada won over plenty of fans. We were not, however, fans of its cabin décor, which consisted of too many square feet of hard plastic panels.
Thankfully, the 2008 Nissan Armada sees some improvement in this area. A newly sculpted dash features a 7-inch color display, while more soft-touch material and wood-tone accents (in the LE trim) add inviting warmth. These accoutrements are more in keeping with the Armada's emphasis on passenger comfort, as its first- and second-row legroom beats rivals such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia. Only the Ford has more third-row room thanks to its lower floor, but it falls behind the Armada in off-road capability.
Strong performance is afforded by the Armada's 5.6-liter, 317-horsepower V8. In addition to brisk acceleration around town and prodigious passing power, the 5.6 allows a 9,100-pound tow rating. We've driven the Armada with and without a trailer and were very impressed by its stamina when hitched up.
Certainly, the 2008 Nissan Armada is roomy and capable whether towing a heavy trailer or getting the whole family to a campsite, and it remains a good choice for those who plan on making the most of its capacities. But unless you regularly haul around trailers the size of a condo or chauffeur your kid's little league team, you may want to consider the Armada's competitors. Rivals such as the Chevrolet Tahoe are more manageable in tight spaces, offer more comfortable seats, have higher-grade cabin materials and provide a better overall ride quality.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Nissan Armada is a large SUV that's offered in SE and LE trim levels. The SE is the base trim and comes with seating for eight, 18-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, a power driver seat, dual-zone climate control (with controls for the front and rear), an eight-speaker sound system with a CD changer and an MP3 input jack, power-adjustable pedals and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Step up to the LE and you get 20-inch alloy wheels, keyless starting, a power liftgate, a rearview monitor, leather upholstery, heated front seats (with power adjustments for the front passenger and memory settings for the driver), second-row captain's chairs and an upgraded 265-watt, 10-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio.
Many of the LE's features are available as options on the SE. Other options, depending on the trim, include second-row captain's chairs (dropping seating capacity to seven), a power-fold feature for the third-row seat, Bluetooth connectivity, auto-dimming side mirrors, a new navigation system that can also store digital music on its 9.3GB hard drive, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, satellite radio and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering all 2008 Nissan Armadas is a 5.6-liter V8 that pumps out 317 hp and 385 pound-feet of torque, and a flexible-fuel version is available. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and both trims are available with two- or four-wheel drive. With either drive setup, fuel economy is below average for a large SUV. EPA estimates for 2008 4WD models are 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway. At least the Armada provides plenty of towing capacity; properly equipped, it can lug 9,100 pounds.
Antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability control, front-seat active head restraints, rear parking sensors and side curtain airbags that protect all three rows of passengers are standard on all Armadas. Front-seat side airbags are optional on the SE and standard on the LE. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal-impact crash tests, the 2008 Nissan Armada scored four stars for driver protection and a perfect five stars for passenger protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Responding to sharp criticism about the Armada's abundant plastic cabin trim, Nissan stepped up its efforts in this area for 2008. A redesigned dash and door panels feature more soft-touch material and wood-tone accents. Although it's much more inviting than before, the Armada's interior still lags behind the solidly executed examples set by General Motors in its Tahoe and Yukon utes. There are plenty of storage cubbies all about, even overhead, making life easier on long trips with the kiddies.
Thanks to three-passenger benches in both the second and third row, both trim levels of the Armada seat eight. If you check off the no-cost option for second-row captain's chairs in the LE, your Armada will seat seven. Those second and third rows are split and easy to fold flat, allowing one to optimize most any combination of people and cargo. Folks who frequently purchase 10-pound boxes of cereal and 100-roll packages of toilet paper should know that with both rows folded down, maximum cargo capacity stands at 97 cubic feet, which rates about 10 cubes less than the Armada's domestic rivals.
While the powerful V8 makes the 2008 Nissan Armada feel light on its feet when accelerating off the line and on the highway, the massive girth of this truck is obvious when cornering or coming to an abrupt stop. Ride quality is generally smooth and comfortable, though larger pavement imperfections can send quite a jolt through the steering wheel and cabin. Parking a vehicle this large in crowded city streets and parking lots can be a hassle, though opting for the rear camera somewhat eases the process.