2017 Nissan Armada Driving Impressions

The Armada’s big horsepower increase is tempered to some degree by a substantial increase at the scales, about 300 pounds model to model.

A weight increase of that magnitude can’t be taken lightly, but the increase in engine output from the 5.6-liter V8 is more than sufficient to give the new Armada a significant edge in power-to-weight compared to its predecessor. This shows up as right-now throttle response, brisk acceleration when red lights go green, and impressive passing power on two-lane highways, accompanied by a subdued but melodious baritone exhaust note.

Any vehicle weighing close to three tons isn’t likely to be particularly handy in quick maneuvers, and the Armada is no exception. On the other hand, in the course of a half-day drive the Armada established itself as more willing than most of its contemporaries to make rapid maneuvers, with modest body motions and prompt recovery in hurried transitions from extreme left to extreme right.

The chassis engineers have done a commendable job of tuning the Armada’s all-independent suspension (double wishbones and coil springs front and rear) to strike a nice balance between respectable dynamic responses and supple ride quality. Also, interior noise levels are exceptionally low at all speeds.

Also worth noting: the Armada seems to be surprisingly capable in rugged off-road situations. This observation is based on a very brief demo with a four-wheel-drive Armada on a simulated course with extreme off-camber banking, steep ups and downs, and marginal traction. The long wheelbase that goes with a big SUV is the wrong prescription for roadless work, but the Armada’s 9.1 inches of ground clearance makes it more useful than most full-size utes for driving in the rough.

Braking performance is difficult to assess without a test track and instrumented data, but the Armada’s system is scaled to its task (13.8-inch vented discs all around), and the pedal responds well to modulation by the driver.

If there’s a soft suit in the Armada’s dynamic resume it’s a power steering system that’s a little slow (3.5 turns lock to lock) and a little numb on-center. However, tactility improves with speed, as system effort increases.

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