Full 2011 Nissan Armada Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Nissan Armada returns largely unchanged, with the exception of new names for two of last year's three trim levels.
It's pretty common to hear large vehicles referred to using nautical euphemisms like "boats" or "barges." Well, the folks at Nissan took that notion one step further by naming their full-size SUV after an entire fleet of ships.
Pleasingly, the 2011 Nissan Armada actually does a respectable job of living up to the power and capability its name calls to mind. While the once class-leading 317-horsepower V8 under the hood no longer outguns its competitors, it still provides more than enough acceleration to leave slower traffic in its wake. It also gives Nissan's SUV flagship an impressive towing capacity of 9,100 pounds. Inside, the Armada offers abundant room and comfortable accommodations for eight passengers.
Even with these strengths, though, the Armada isn't our top pick for a traditional full-size SUV. Other heavies in the segment, including the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia, best the big Nissan in both third-row legroom and total cargo capacity. And if you're not regularly going to be using the Armada for towing heavy loads, a large crossover such as the Ford Flex, GMC Acadia or Mazda CX-9 is going to be a better choice thanks to superior carlike dynamics and better fuel economy. An Armada it might be, but this big Nissan has its better days behind it.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Nissan Armada is a full-size SUV offered in three trim levels, including the entry-level SV, midrange SL and top-of-the-line Platinum.
Base SV models come well equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, side-step rails, rear parking assist, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear climate controls, an eight-way power driver seat, a tilt steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals. Also standard is an eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SL adds 20-inch alloy wheels, foglights, an auto-leveling rear air suspension, a roof rack, tow package (optional on SV), keyless entry/ignition, leather upholstery, a power-folding third-row seat, a back-up camera, Bluetooth and an 11-speaker Bose audio system with satellite-radio capability. The Platinum model adds 20-inch chrome wheels, front parking sensors, a sunroof, dual power-folding mirrors, a power rear liftgate, heated front seats and steering wheel, driver memory functions, a navigation system with real-time traffic display, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and Bose audio system with a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for media storage.
Options on the SV include a power-folding third-row seat and a Driver package that adds many of the SL's extra features. Second-row captain's chairs are available on the Platinum model as a replacement for the standard bench. The DVD entertainment system is a stand-alone option on lower trims.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Nissan Armada is available with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Both feature a 5.6-liter V8 that produces 317 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic is the only available transmission.
With either drivetrain, fuel economy is disappointing even for a large SUV. EPA fuel economy estimates are 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined for two-wheel-drive models and 1 mpg less for 4WD versions. Properly equipped, the Armada can tow as much as 9,100 pounds.
The 2011 Nissan Armada comes standard with antilock disc brakes and brake assist, stability control, front-seat active head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
While it hasn't been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures, the Armada's 2010 frontal crash-test scores (which aren't necessarily comparable) were five stars (out of five) for driver protection and four stars for passenger protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Nissan Armada features an attractive, comfortable interior. The overall design is pleasing and the quality of most materials is above average. Controls are well placed and simple to operate.
While the standard eight-passenger setup inside SV and SL models uses a 40/20/40-split bench in the second-row, Platinum models can be had with an available pair of captain's chairs (separated by a center console) that drops seating capacity to just seven. Whichever way you go, you'll find a number of handy storage cubbies scattered throughout the interior.
In back, the 60/40 split-folding third-row bench drops down into the floor easily, even without the available power-folding option. While this may not seem like a big deal, remember that the Tahoe's heavy third-row seats must be removed and stowed outside the vehicle to take advantage of its full cargo capacity. Speaking of which, the Armada offers 20 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row, and 97.1 cubic feet with all the rear seats folded -- a number that's roughly 10 cubic feet less than its full-size SUV competitors.
The 2011 Nissan Armada's robust V8 feels stronger than its numbers suggest, though the massive weight of this truck is obvious when cornering or coming to an abrupt stop. The ride is usually comfortable, but some ruts can send considerable impact harshness through the steering wheel and seats. Newer truck-based SUVs like the Tahoe and Sequoia provide a smoother on-road ride.
The Armada's steering is notably weighty -- nice at higher speeds, but potentially off-putting to some when maneuvering in parking lots. 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.