2011 Nissan Armada Driving Impressions

The Nissan Armada is a sizable piece of equipment in which you feel the heft, yet it doesn't become an impediment. It drives like a big car, a notable feat considering it has a truck frame underneath, more than 10 inches of ground clearance and a 4WD system that will get you off the road and not just through the snow. With tight steering and defined corners, it's more maneuverable than you'd expect, on the trail or street, but pay attention to garage clearance signs.

Armada SL and Platinum models come with 20-inch wheels and Michelin lower-profile, road-biased tires. Typically a setup such as this exacts a penalty in ride comfort, road noise, isolation and so forth with nary a worthwhile gain in grip, but Nissan has paid impressive attention to noise and vibration issues. What we did notice with the 20-inch wheels is a slightly crisper response to the steering wheel.

Hundred-mile driving legs were dispatched in short order, stress-free to the point the six-foot passenger in back dozed off mid-day. Since off-road trucks are the only racing vehicles of this size and weight the Armada is a better cruiser than a sports car, though the independent rear end keeps it more stable and less influenced by bumps mid-corner than most competitors. Stability control is standard and barring driver inattention will never be felt without an outside influence.

A 5.6-liter V8 engine powers the Armada. The 32-valve, double overhead cam V8 generates 317 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque. Armada gets an EPA-estimated 12/18 mpg City/Highway.

We found the V8 perfectly matched to the 5-speed automatic, making it very quick for its bulk and adept at hauling a crew of wakeboarders and towing their 6,000-pound boat. Max towing ranges from 6,500 pounds on the base SL to an impressive 9,000 pounds on the Platinum 4WD model. Even so, we'd prefer a large, longer-wheelbase pickup for routine towing of anything heavier than 6,000 pounds. The Armada wheelbase measures 123.2 inches, about the same as that of the Toyota Sequoia and four inches longer than that of the Ford Expedition.

The brakes on all models feature the full complement of electronic assists. Two-wheel-drive models use traction control, and 4WD models offer a 4Auto setting designed for daily use regardless of weather or road conditions. With good winter tires, you could follow the National Guard through a blizzard.

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