The Nissan Armada is the largest sport utility in Nissan’s lineup. It has heritage from the legendary Nissan Patrol and shares a lot of capability and underpinnings with the luxurious Infiniti QX80 that competed in the 2020 Rebelle Rally. In short, the 2021 Armada isn’t just another pretty SUV. It’s got chops.
For the 2021 model year, the Armada gets a few updates to keep it relevant to the competition. These may or may not make it competitive against newly reminted options from Ford and Chevrolet, but they are welcomed nonetheless. The most obvious of these changes are grille, bumper, and lighting changes to the exterior. The grille and bumpers are less aggressive and more smoothly executed for a less knobby look while the headlights and tail lamps are reworked to match. Inside, the 2021 Armada has a less ominous dashboard and center console and a larger infotainment touchscreen instead. All good changes to the big Nissan.
On the safety front, Nissan added most of its technology-based safety and driver aid gadgets to the Armada with good effect. Forward collision warning and mitigation, a better rearview camera view, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control are now standard features, among other things.
The 2021 Nissan Armada comes in four trim levels, starting with the base line S, then the SV, SL, and Platinum. We drove the latter, finding it to be very luxurious in both equipment and appeal. Every Armada is powered by the same 5.6-liter V8 engine that outputs 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard and rear-wheel drive is the default. Four-wheel drive is optional and was present on our test vehicle.
Interestingly, even the base model Armada now has the upgraded infotainment system. The 12.3-inch screen resides on the center stack but doesn’t dominate thanks to the overall humongousness of the Armada’s interior. The screen doesn’t look small, of course, but it doesn’t look like it owns the whole dash either. Apple CarPlay with wireless connectivity and Android Auto are standard features. So is a terrible four-speaker stereo system. That one quickly upgrades with each trim level increase, though, hitting a 13-speaker Bose setup at the top level. Way better.
Most of the upgrades as we go from trim to trim in the 2021 Armada are about looks and convenience. Things like 22-inch alloy wheels, a working roof rack, a power liftgate, towing and trailer controls, automatic windshield wipers, heated seating for more than just the driver, and power-folding third row seats are some of those upgrades through the Armada’s ranks. We highly recommend the digital rearview mirror, 360-degree surround-view cameras, and beautiful leather upholstery found in the SL and Platinum trim levels.
Out on the road, the 2021 Nissan Armada is a beast of a truck-based SUV. It drives very large because it is very large. It’s capabilities are high, though, with 8,500 pounds of towing capacity (when equipped) and serious off-road chops. The third row is a little cramped and is mostly for kids, really, but there’s seating for up to 8 in this rig, depending on its configuration. Those not wanting a third row can have it dropped in the upper trim levels to opt for more (and more accessible) cargo space instead. The third row does lower to lay flat, but it raises the cargo floor slightly and adds time to the parking lot stuffing of large screen TVs and lumber into the Armada.
The other big downer to a rig like this is fuel economy. Back in the early 2000s, getting 19 mpg on the highway in a full-sized SUV was phenomenal. Even for one labeled as a “hybrid.” Now? That’s pretty low. Most of the Armada’s rivals are well ahead and into the 20s with their highway numbers. Then again, if you’re shopping for a body-on-frame SUV, you’re probably planning on towing and MPG returns aren’t high on your list of requirements.
As-is, the 2021 Nissan Armada is a nice progression forward for the now-venerable SUV. It’s big, bold, and extremely capable. And now it’s a lot prettier and less in your face as well.