When Nissan created the original Nissan Armada, its first full-size sport-utility vehicle, it did so in the traditional way, using the platform of its full-size pickup. That pickup, the Titan, had been introduced in 2003, and Nissan’s big “ute”, the Pathfinder Armada, arrived that same year, as a 2004 model. The Pathfinder label was supposed to leverage the name recognition of the brand’s popular mid-size SUV, but eventually it was jettisoned, and the vehicle became simply the Armada.
“Real-truck” enthusiasts will be pleased to learn that all the go-everywhere kit is here: sturdy body-on-frame construction good for towing 8,500 pounds, a brawny 5.6-liter, direct-injected “Endurance” V-8 doling out 390 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque on regular gasoline (up 73 and 16 respectively from the outgoing non-DI 5.6 but down 10 and 12 from the Infiniti specification of this nearly identical engine, which is tuned for premium fuel), and a seven-speed automatic transmission bolted to a transfer case with a 2.70:1 low range. (It also includes high-range all-wheel-drive capability for no crabbing on pavement.) Sorry, purists. The live rear axle departed the Patrol with the Y62 generation starting in 2010, but the multilink rear setup still affords a reasonable 9.1 inches of ground clearance, and the bodywork affords a 20.9-degree approach and 22.3-degree departure angle (slightly less on the base SV model’s 18-inch footwear). Its off-road cred now includes the Patrol’s three Paris-Dakar rally class wins, and those trading in an old Armada should notice a slight uptick in performance and fuel efficiency.
Instead of being truckish, the Armada is as tame and composed as any large unibody crossover. For Armada buyers and Nissan engineers, that's a triumph and a high compliment – not an easy task. Our Patrol enthusiasts are probably disappointed slightly, if not surprised – they know as well as we do that a fraction of a fraction of Armada buyers would appreciate extra off-road capability. They are surely licking their chops, however, to head to the overland expedition forums and start making plans to swap overseas Patrol parts in order to build long-distance rigs of grace, majesty, and grit. For everyone else, if you've been drooling over a Land Cruiser but don't have most of $100,000 to spend, the Armada is the ticket.