The fleet is in. The battleship-sized Nissan Armada is getting a complete makeover for 2017, and not a moment too soon, considering it’s been 13 years since the full-size SUV got its last big update.
The Japanese maker says it has touched on virtually every aspect of the Armada, down to the bolt holes in its frame. It gets a new platform, newly redesigned body, all-new suspension, a new 390 horsepower V-8 and a variety of new safety and convenience technologies that Nissan hopes will make it more competitive with rivals such as the Toyota Sequoia and Chevrolet Tahoe.
“While the new Armada is intended primarily for family adventures here in North America, Armada owners will benefit from its underpinnings as a strong, durable and authentic full-size SUV with ruggedness to spare,” said Nissan VP Michael Bunce, head of North American product planning.
During a backgrounder ahead of the 2017 Nissan Armada’s debut at the Chicago Auto Show, the Japanese maker offered some insight into the changes being made.
The outgoing version of the big SUV – which wrapped up production during an extended 2015 model-year run – was the oldest full-sized ute on the market. It made its original appearance alongside the first-generation Nissan Titan, that pickup also getting an unusually extended run. An all-new Titan came to market late last year but in an unexpected move, Nissan decided that the new versions of the pickup and SUV would no longer share platforms.
Instead, the 2017 Armada will share what is being called the Global Patrol platform, which is shared with the full-size Nissan Patrol ute sold in Japan and a number of other overseas market. Key reasons for the switch, Nissan officials explained, include the ability to provide a more comfortable ride and more stable handling, along with the levels of refinement a near-luxury buyer would expect from a large SUV.
Among other things, they’re boasting about the new Armada’s “library quiet” cabin, as well as the wood trim, leather seating and other upscale accoutrements.
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That said, the new Armada still can muster up the brute factor when needed. It is still designed to handle some serious off-roading with its more traditional, body-on-frame design. The box sections of the ladder frame have been beefed up, something that translates into both a more rugged design and an improved ride.
There’s also a new, 390-hp, 5.6-liter V-8 engine. Power is now channeled through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Despite offering improved performance, Nissan promises the 2017 Armada will deliver better fuel economy – once EPA ratings are released – than the old model.
The 2015 SUV managed just 317 horsepower out of its old V-8, and mustered up only 13 miles per gallon in the City, 19 on the Highway.
Visually, the new Armada has been significantly updated – no surprise after the old model’s 13-year run. Offered in both seven- and eight-passenger configurations, the 2017 remake is 1.2 inches longer, but rides on a wheelbase shortened 2.1 inches. It’s also 0.6 inches wider and sits 2.2 inches lower than before. The new Armada, by comparison, has about five extra inches over the Chevy Tahoe.
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The new dimensions give it a more aggressive and planted appearance. The 2017 Armada picks up the now-familiar Nissan V-Motion grille, with LED running lights and low beams, and halogen high beams. The front fenders feature functional air grilles. There are upscale touches, such as automatic puddle lights. And the liftgate has an optional power function.
There are the expected interior updates, including the new touchscreen infotainment system and optional high-end audio package. Navigation is standard, as is a 13-speaker Bose audio system.
Meanwhile, the new Armada is loaded with an array of new safety features, including not only Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning, but also more advanced Lane Keep Assist, which will actively pull you back into your lane, as well as Active Cruise Control and Autonomous Emergency Braking.
The maker doesn’t plan to discuss pricing for the 2017 Nissan Armada until closer to its late-summer launch, but officials suggest it will be “comparable” to the old model, which started around $38,000.
The new Armada will be built at Nissan’s Kyushi plant in Japan, freeing up space at the maker’s Canton, Mississippi assembly line. That will give it more room to produce the new Titan pickup, explained Nissan brand boss Phil O’Connor.
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Nissan sold an average of 13,000 to 14,000 of the big utes annually in the U.S., the segment itself generating sales of around 300,000 vehicles annually. The big dog in the full-size SUV market is the Chevrolet Tahoe, but Nissan expects buyers will likely cross-shop two Japanese alternatives, the Toyota Sequoia and even bigger Land Cruiser.