Rumors about the 2017 Armada sharing its body-on-frame platform with the global Nissan Patrol are entirely true, and the new SUV makes its debut this week at the Chicago Auto Show before hitting dealerships this summer.
The updated, fully boxed ladder frame now boasts nearly four-inch-wide side rails, versus 2.4 inches on the current Armada. Nissan claims the change improves torsional stiffness by 20 percent and results in improved handling and better ride comfort. The latest Armada also grows 1.2 inches in length, but the wheelbase is 2.1 inches shorter. The width increases just 0.6 inches, and the SUV sits 2.2 inches lower.
The redesigned exterior has a strong resemblance to the Patrol and the Infiniti QX80, which shares the same platform. Compared to the current Armada, the new styling features a more chiseled body that makes the eight-passenger SUV look tougher. It also comes with standard LEDs for the low beams and running lights.
The 2017 Armada packs a 5.6-liter V8 with 390 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, and a seven-speed automatic transmission replaces the current five-speed. The engine has the same displacement as before, but upgrades like direct injection and new pistons boost the output from the present Armada's 317 hp and 385 lb-ft. Customers can choose between rear- or four-wheel drive for all trims, and Nissan will announce the model's fuel economy later. Regardless of layout, the SUV will have an 8,500-pound towing capacity.
Nissan will offer the 2017 Armada in three trims: SV, SL, and Platinum. Standard features across the lineup include an 8.0-inch navigation system, heated front seats, and a 13-speaker stereo. The SL adds remote engine start, a power third-row seat, Around View Monitor, and power liftgate. The Platinum includes even more luxury like a suite of safety tech, moonroof, and a DVD system to entertain rear passengers. The Platinum is also available in seven-passenger configuration with second-row captain's chairs replacing the eight-passenger setup with the bench seat.
In all, Nissan says that this is just the global Patrol "enhanced for the US market." And it's a wise decision. Now, the company can funnel development dollars into one global vehicle instead of splitting up the Patrol/QX80 and the Armada separately on the Titan platform. What's more, the Infiniti QX80 is really good to drive, so we expect a lot of that character to make its way over to the Armada, which was sort of big and dumpy before. We're looking forward to our first test later this year.
Nissan just redesigned its massive Titan pickup for 2016, and so logic would have it that anything based on the Titan—e.g., the Armada SUV—might also get redesigned, adopting the Titan’s new underpinnings, powertrains, and so forth. In this case, logic would be half right: The 12-year-old Armada did just get redesigned. But this time around, it’s not based on the Titan—it’s gone on Patrol, literally. The Armada is now based on the global Patrol SUV, which we get as the current Infiniti QX80 but have never been offered with Nissan badges. That said, we’ve always loved driving a Patrol when we got the chance, say, while tackling sand dunes in the Middle East or slogging through African rainforests.
Basing the new Armada on the Patrol means its wheelbase has shrunk by 2.1 inches to 121.1, while length actually grows by 1.2 to 208.9. Width is up 0.6 inch, and the new Armada is 2.2 inches lower than before. The chassis is considerably different, too, with the frame-rail width increased from 2.4 to 3.9 inches in certain areas and the whole thing riding on a four-corner control-arm suspension. The new body boasts a 20-percent increase in torsional rigidity, according to Nissan, as well as acoustic glass on the windshield and front side windows. As before, the Armada will seat eight as standard, with a 60/40-split third-row seat that folds flat into the floor.
With porky curb weights ranging from 5600 to 6000 pounds, according to Nissan (up about 125 to 300 pounds from the current model), the 2017 Armada will need all the power it can get, so it’s good news that it will share its 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 with the upcoming half-ton Titan. The new direct-injected engine produces an impressive 390 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, up from a comparatively wimpy 317 hp and 385 lb-ft. Thanks in part to a new seven-speed automatic transmission that replaces the old rig’s five-speed unit, the engine is said to provide acceleration that is “among the best in the full-size SUV segment.” As you’d expect, Nissan claims efficiency is up, and maximum towing capacity is cited as 8500 pounds. The optional 4WD system can send up to 50 percent of available torque to the front wheels, and it also features a low range with a 3.35:1 crawl ratio.
The new Armada’s styling is predictably bold, with Toyota Land Cruiser–like proportions and a plus-size application of Nissan’s form vocabulary, including boomerang-shaped headlamps (with LED low beams and halogen high beams), LED taillamps, Nissan’s signature “V-Motion” grille, and two-tone effect paint with dark-painted fender trim and running boards. There is no shortage of gleaming chrome, of course, from the mirrors to the door handles and from the windows to the grille trim.
The 2017 Armada will be offered in three different grades, starting with the cloth-upholstered SV model, which gets standard navigation, a 13-speaker Bose audio system, heated front seats, a second-row “curtain” vent for rapid heating/cooling of the rear accommodations, push-button engine starting, a rearview camera, and 18-inch wheels. The SL trim level adds leather seats, fog lamps, remote starting, a power liftgate, a power-folding 60/40-split rear bench seat, and 20-inch painted wheels. Platinum-grade models get heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row outboard seats, 7.0-inch rear entertainment screens, a moonroof, and machined 20-inch wheels. Also standard on the Platinum model and optional on SL models are a slew of safety technology features, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and intervention, backup-collision assist, predictive forward-collision assist, and emergency auto-braking. Platinum models also can be ordered with second-row captain’s chairs that reduce seating capacity to seven but feature a removable second-row center console.
Prices for the 2017 Nissan Armada will be announced sometime closer to launch, which is expected to be this summer. That gives the caretakers of our country’s many off-road recreation areas a few months to widen the trails.