2021 Nissan Armada SL 2WD Review

New enough to make a difference


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Refresh takes the exterior to new heights, infotainment system is eons better than before, ample amounts of passenger space, super-cushy ride.
Negatives: Floaty steering, thirsty for fuel, dash and center console are still too bulky.
Bottom Line: The Nissan Armada's refresh is a significant one, and it certainly makes the brand's biggest SUV more competitive. Shy of a full redesign, it's an important step for the Armada. It needs a new powertrain that offers better efficiency, though.
The Nissan Armada is sister to the more luxurious Infiniti QX80, and both cars have been showing their age. The good thing is that they've now received refreshes that extend their aesthetic and functional life. The Armada's exterior gets new front and rear fascias, as well as improved tech and controls inside. It also gets 10 more horses and 19 additional lb-ft of torque for 2021. New standard equipment adds value, and the set includes new synthetic leather, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic emergency braking, a driver drowsiness monitoring, a 12.3-inch touch screen, Wi-Fi, wireless device charging, Android Auto, and wireless Apple CarPlay. We drove the near top trim SL in rear-wheel drive configuration for a week. Read our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

7

 

The Armada is appropriately named because it certainly rides like a big ship. Buyers who are searching for a cushy ride, serious V8 power and don't mind wallowy handling will be pleased.

Ride Quality: It rides just like its Infiniti QX80 sibling. It absorbs just about everything on the road and feels like it's on a cushion of air.

Acceleration: The Armada isn't just the quickest it's ever been with the added horses and torque, at a 5.9-second 0-60 sprint, it's the quickest in its class. Throttle response is good, as is the shifting from the dual-clutch automatic.

Braking: Braking distances for the Armada are very good, and that's impressive for a vehicle of this size. Pedal feel is good and travel is progressive.

Steering: Steering is on the light side, and it's not quite on-center at high speeds. It's also not as quick to respond as we would like.

Handling: There's definitely some body roll in the Armada due to its high center of gravity, but the fully independent suspension setup manages the size well.

Technology

8

 

The only thing that needed a change more than the exterior styling was the dated infotainment system from the last model. It was unattractive, difficult to use, and had poor controls. That's now been resolved by a much-improved system that helps make the cabin more competitive.

Infotainment System: The large color touchscreen jumps a couple of generations from the old one. It's larger and now sits on top of the dash rather than placed into it. The result is a much better user experience and interior design.

Controls: The awful, poorly laid out pushbutton controls from the old infotainment system are gone, but they do get replaced by on-screen controls, which isn't necessarily that much better. At least physical audio control are still present.

Styling

8.3

 

The refreshed Armada is definitely better looking than the 2020 thanks to heavily reworked front and rear fascias. It also benefits from some minor changes inside, and the overall result is a more attractive Armada that looks and feels more upscale than the vehicle it replaces.

Front: While the lower fascia remains largely unchanged, the V-Motion grille has been updated to look bolder, and the headlights now have notches at the outer edges, giving the Armada a more distinct look.

Rear: The taillights are more angular now, and they're joined by a black bar across the tailgate. It's a more unfied look that looks sharper than the old rear end.

Profile: From the side view, the Armada looks essentially unchanged from the 2020 model. That's not a bad thing since the proportions are good, and the distinct D-pillar remains.

Cabin: The center stack and infotainment system get the most significant style changes, and the rest of the cabin look mostly the same, with the exception of some some trim additions. The dash is still too bulky for our liking.

Comfort

8.3

 

The Armada is not as opulent as the Infiniti QX80, but it's a very nice place to spend time. The seat are big, legroom is more than sufficient, and visibility is also very good.

Front Seats: The seats are big and accommodating with great cushioning. It could use more bolstering and a tad more thigh length in the seat cushion.

Rear Seats: The Captain's Chairs are nice to sit in, and there's 41 inches of legroom, a tad less than the Hyundai Palisade. The third row has smaller 28.4 inches of legroom.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Armada has ample sound deadending, and the ride is quiet and composed. Build quality also seems to be very good with no errant noises in the cabin.

Visibility: Big windows and manageable pillar size results in good views all around.

Climate: The large rectangular vents move big volumes of cool air, and the climate control system responded well to inputs.

Safety

6

 

The Armada has yet to be crash tested by either body, but it does have good standard safety features that should be good news for buyers.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: Our SL trim tester came standard with High Beam Assist, Automatic Emergency Braking w/ Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Automatic Braking, Rear Cross Traffic Alert; Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention, and Driver Attention Alert

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

9

 

The Armada is plenty big in back, but it's cabin could use better storage options, especially in the front row.

Storage Space: Both the front row and second row have huge armrest compartments for keeping items out of sight. There is a retractable door compartment in the center stack and decent door pockets, but really only the front cupholders are good for quick-to-reach item storage.

Cargo Room: The Armada has a 16.5 cubic feet of space behind row three and 95.4 cubes with these seats folded flat. That's quite a bit of room, but it's a bit smaller than the Lincoln Navigator at 20.9 and 103.4 cubes, respectively.

Fuel Economy

5.5

 

There's no large three-row SUV with a V8 that gets great gas mileage. The Armada's poor fuel efficiency is slightly worse than the Chevy Tahoe's combined number (16 vs 17 mpg). If you're heavy with the throttle, expect that number to drop like ours did.

Observed: 13.5 mpg

Distance Driven: 148 miles

Audio

8.8

 

The Bose premium audio system that's standard on the SL is a very good one. There was no distortion even with the volume cranked up, and the bass and clarity were wonderful. It's a great system that's just right for this vehicle.



Final Thoughts

We liked the last Armada, but no one really noticed it in a sea of big three-row SUVs. With the refresh, it's not at the top of the heap (we love the Expedition, Palisade, and the Suburban), but it is significantly better than the last one. The potent V8 is wonderful (if not thirsty), and the transmission is a very good one that shifts quickly. The interior still shows some age, but it has leveled up with the new infotainment system and controls. If you're not especially concerned about fuel efficiency, the Armada is a great choice.
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