This gas guzzler is big and cumbersome, hard to move around, and of limited practical use

Ted LaturnusWhat’s in a name?

Well, if the name in question is taken from one of the greatest naval disasters in history, quite a lot.

But that seems to be the case with the Nissan Armada, which, for reasons only known to its maker, is evocative of the British-Spanish conflict of the 1500s, which saw the Spanish Armada annihilated in 1588 and scattered to the four winds on the Irish Sea. Of all the names available, why would Nissan choose this one?

Maybe because the vehicle in question is big and cumbersome, hard to move around, and of limited practical use.

Some specs.

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Based on the Nissan Titan (much better name) pickup truck platform, the Armada is a full-size SUV powered by a 5.6-litre V8 engine that features variable valve timing and is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with 4WD. This engine is good for some 400 horsepower and delivers a combined fuel economy of 15.4 L/100 km or 18 miles per gallon.

So, right off the top, the Armada is, by any measure, a thirsty piece of work, and if you hook it up to a trailer – which seems to be the general idea – it gets even thirstier. To give you a small sense of this behemoth’s fuel consumption, one of my regular runs is a 60-km return trip through Vancouver, involving freeway driving, city congestion, and lots of stop-and-start traffic. My test Armada went through over 10 litres of gas on this trip; with regular hovering around the $2.00/litre mark, this cost me over $20. So, filling up the 98-litre fuel tank would cost almost $200!

Elsewhere, the Nissan Armada comes with all the modern conveniences, including rear air conditioning, heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, wood trim, three-way heated seats, speed-sensitive volume control, auto-levelling rear suspension, and all the other electronic doodads and bells and whistles one would expect to find on an upscale luxury SUV. Safety equipment includes a full roster of blind spot warning, rear traffic alert, lane departure warning, hill-start assist, etc. Put it this way, any luxury or safety modern conveniences not found with the Armada are probably excessive.

It is also rated to pull up to 3,856 kilograms (8500 lb.) and seats up to eight adults, with an interior storage capacity of almost 1,700 litres. Maybe you can use that cargo capacity to carry extra gas.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a fan of this vehicle. It’s too big by half, consumes terrifying amounts of gasoline, takes up ‘way too much room, and has mediocre highway manners. Yes, the engine delivers plenty of grunt, smoothly delivered, but the ride is surprisingly harsh for a rig of this size, and the suspension has a kind of nervousness about it that isn’t at all reassuring. Not to mention, it’s virtually useless downtown. Forget about tight parking spaces or cramped parkades: the Armada is like a beached whale in city traffic. It’s like driving around in a comfy cube van.

Nor would it distinguish itself off-road. Yes, it has a variable 4WD system, but it’s too heavy and clumsy to be taken seriously as a bushwhacker and with a starting price of $75,000, who is going to scratch the paint, ploughing through the shrubbery or clambering over rocks and boulders with this rig? Maybe it’d be helpful in snow or gravel, but off-road, forget about it.

It’d be marginally acceptable out in the country on long stretches of empty highway, but this is not a city vehicle, period. Nor is it particularly suitable as a family rig: it’s not built with kids in mind and, despite its size, doesn’t feel that roomy behind the wheel.

I suppose it could see duty as a limo-type people carrier, much like the equally Brobdignagian Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia, Chev Suburban, Lincoln Navigator, etc., etc., but any buyers interested in the Armada need to have deep pockets …. and a big driveway.

Given the escalating cost of fuel these days and more and more urban congestion, I have a hard time seeing the point of the Armada and vehicles like it. Maybe it’s time for carmakers to re-think the full-size SUV market and focus more on efficient, useful modes of transport.

And I would suggest a name change in this case. How about Nissan Dinosaur?

Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). 

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