Full 2009 Nissan Armada Review
What's New for 2009
After significant changes last year, the 2009 Nissan Armada gains only minor feature updates. Heated front seats, Bluetooth and power-folding/auto-dimming outside mirrors are now standard on the LE trim levels.
The most famous armada of all time was sent by King Phillip II of Spain to invade England and usurp the heretic Queen Elizabeth. This armada was enormous, formidable and a force to be feared. In the end, though, it vanished into the North Atlantic, a victim of smaller British ships, some unfortunate westerly gales and the scraggly Irish coast. Nissan hopes that its enormous, formidable 2009 Armada doesn't suffer a similar fate, although there are a few westerly gales brewing in the automotive marketplace as well.
Based on the Titan pickup, the Nissan Armada full-size SUV was introduced for 2004, a year that seemed to signal the tail end of the "to heck with fuel economy, big trucks for all!" period. It featured (and still does) several avant-garde styling elements, like its curved roof line, designed to set the Armada apart from its competitors. A refresh conducted last year gave the Armada a more pleasant cabin with smarter ergonomics and much nicer materials. In the top-level LE trim, the Nissan Armada is actually none too different from its Infiniti counterpart, the QX56.
Unlike most of its competitors, the 2009 Nissan Armada is only available with one engine, a 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 when properly equipped. We've driven the Armada with and without a trailer and were very impressed by its stamina when hitched up.
Of course, that type of power and the Armada's heavy, boxy body translate into poor fuel economy -- which is subpar even by full-size truck standards. In today's climate of high gas prices, an unstable economy and global warming concerns, Nissan's Armada is entering uncharted choppy waters. And like the Spanish Armada, the full-size Nissan has smaller models conquering its sales as buyers move away from thirsty, large SUVs.
Mind you, such vehicles will always be preferred for serious off-road and towing duties. Although a large crossover like GMC's Acadia is superior for simple people-hauling, it just can't handle the rigors of lugging a Bayliner. However, the Armada's newer rivals from Chevrolet/GMC and Toyota have similar heavy-duty capability and are superior offerings to boot, with a wider choice of engines and a more refined ride.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Nissan Armada is a large SUV offered in SE and LE trim levels with standard eight-person seating capacity. The base level SE comes well-equipped with 18-inch wheels, side step rails, rear parking assist, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear climate controls, an eight-way power driver seat and power-adjustable pedals. Also standard is an eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack. The LE features standard 20-inch wheels, foglamps, a power tailgate, a rearview camera, front parking sensors, auto-dimming mirrors, power-folding side mirrors, a four-way power passenger seat, keyless entry/ignition, driver memory functions, leather upholstery in the first and second rows, heated front seats, Bluetooth and an upgraded 12-speaker stereo with satellite radio.
Many of the LE's luxury upgrades are also available on the SE through a pair of options packages. Optional on all Armadas is the Technology Package that adds a navigation system with real-time traffic, a 9GB server for digital music storage, a heated steering wheel, a power-folding third-row seat and 20-inch chrome wheels. Second-row captain's chairs, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a sunroof are also optional.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Nissan Armada is available with rear-wheel and four-wheel drive. All models feature a 5.6-liter V8 that produces 317 hp and 386 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to a five-speed automatic transmission. With either drive setup, fuel economy is below average for a large SUV. EPA estimates are 12 mpg city, 17 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined for the four-wheel-drive Armada. Nissan's big SUV does provide plenty of towing capacity. When equipped with the optional Tow Package, the Armada can haul 9,100 pounds.
The Armada comes standard with antilock disc brakes and brake assist, stability control, front seat active head restraints and full-length side curtain airbags. 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 2009 Nissan Armada scored a perfect five stars for driver protection and four stars for passenger protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Last year's substantial interior overhaul brought a redesigned dash and door panels that feature more soft-touch materials and a more pleasing design. The result is a cabin that exudes a slightly higher quality than most other models in this class. The LE in particular boasts Infiniti-like levels of luxury, although there are still a few cheap plastic bits here and there. The Armada's smart blend of high-mounted physical buttons and touchscreen controls also fall more readily at hand than those in Toyota's Sequoia.
All Armadas come standard with seating for eight, although the second-row 40/20/40 bench can be replaced by captain's chairs and a center console. All rearward seats are easy to fold flat (the LE has a power third row), allowing a number of different configurations for people and cargo hauling. With all seats dropped, the Armada offers a maximum cargo capacity of 97 cubic feet, which is about 10 cubes fewer than its rivals. There are plenty of storage cubbies all about, even overhead, making life easier on long trips with the kiddies.
While the powerful V8 makes the 2009 Nissan Armada feel light on its feet when accelerating off the line and on the highway, the massive weight 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. Newer truck-based SUVs like the Tahoe and Sequoia provide a much friendlier on-road ride than the Armada does. For those who like their steering to be well-weighted, the Armada will please at higher speeds, but it can be an inconvenience in parking lots. Speaking of which, like other full-sizers, the Armada can be a hassle to maneuver on tight city streets and in parking lots. For the latter, the optional rearview camera and parking sensors are must-haves.