Mountain Wheels: Nissan’s gigantic Armada offers full-sized comforts (column) | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Wheels: Nissan’s gigantic Armada offers full-sized comforts (column)

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels

One does not settle into the Nissan Armada. No, one energetically leaps and clambers into the Titan-sized, Suburbanesque Nissan SUV, a tall, grand and certainly accomplished machine of gargantuan proportions. I had to use a door, A-pillar and wheel combo to climb aboard each time, though you could also use the wide and deeply contoured running boards featured on my Platinum Reserve edition, which, all totaled, retailed for $62,090 and shipped at $67,145.

The Armada, the not-so-downscale version of the Infiniti QX80, is so big that I also had trouble reaching across to scrape or wipe the front windshield; reaching across the cabin to grab an object in the passenger seat is also a stretch. This is a big, big vehicle.

In that sense, Nissan's behemoth SUV does what its U.S. customers ask of it, with full-sized, three-row seating for as many as eight passengers, a huge, waist-height cargo deck (though suspiciously small with all three rows of seats up) and a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds.

Hauling all of that 208.9-inch-long, nearly 6,000-pound truck around is a 390-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 that's the Nissan's most American attribute — an engine built in one of the company's factories in Tennessee, and then mated with the Japanese-built Armada. At peak moments on a 500-mile trip to Aspen and back to the Front Range on the weekend, the Armada achieved both its 13 MPG city ratings and got as much as 19 MPG; thank goodness for nearly $2-a-gallon gas at spots down there. The 26-gallon tank also gets a little confused when near empty, with unpredictable remaining-range figures, so keep it topped up. You can effortlessly cruise at 80 miles per hour, with ominous in-cabin quiet, and also harness a noisy burst of power when passing at lower speeds.

My lengthy travels did indicate that the Armada is a comfortable, capable and relatively easy-to-use gigantosaur of a frame-on-body SUV, with 20-inch wheels and tires and the extra flash of the Platinum package to make it all a bit more pleasant.

My one caveat would be to strictly avoid what might constitute attempts at high-speed cornering, as mass, a high center of gravity and pure hugeness do not work in those circumstances. I also got some suspiciously soft braking when I had to come to a complete stop from highway speed dealing with CDOT's unannounced roadwork on Vail Pass, and the subsequent miles and miles of poking along on Saturday morning. That was also a little tricky.

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Armada's vast size and height and almost 80-inch width do make it difficult to see curbs, or Volkswagens, when parking, the much-ballyhooed Intelligent Around-View Monitor built into the rearview mirror (which I apparently did not turn on) will definitely help.

Looks are certainly very strong and impactful, from the flower box-sized front headlamps and the squarish, very Japanese tail lights to its machine gun barrel-styled grille and prominent side vents. In the back, the glass also literally wraps around and gives the Armada an odd pot-bellied-stove appearance, with a very pronounced rear bumper and its roof cap.

The Platinum Reserve level gets you sumptuous two-tone leather, with perforated patches in the middle of the seats, highlight stitching and swept arches of wood grain from door to dash, plus a glossy black console and a leather top on the huge center console bin.

Given the choice, I'd rather have a console-mounted navigation control of some kind than the gigantic but functionally limited chrome disc that allows you to switch 4×4 or snow/trailer modes; this vehicle is so big that it's a stretch to reach the flat-mounted controller atop the center stack.

Rear passengers in my Platinum got two 8-inch video displays in the back of the front headrests, plus a gigantic, removable console box and captain's chairs as a $450 option.