Big Family Approved: 2008 Nissan Armada Review

Nov. 26, 2007 By Katrina Ramser

Formerly titled the Pathfinder Armada, the full-size Nissan SUV stood on its own name a year after its introduction in 2004.

The 2008 Nissan Armada offers a lot of new features. In just the exterior alone, we're talking a new front and rear fascia, headlamp and fog lamp designs, one-piece roof rack design, a 20-inch wheel and tire package and two new exterior colors, Desert Stone and Timberline.

The 2008 Nissan Armada LE


Inside, there is a new third-row power folding 60/40 seat, interior colors and fabrics, gated shifter, wood grain accents, heated steering wheel, a lockable glove compartment, and revised steering wheel and combination meter illumination. New technology includes an Intelligent Key, Bose® sound system, Bluetooth® Hands-Free Phone System, and the Nissan Navigation with a XM® NavTraffic™ system. There is also a larger 8.0-inch screen for the optional DVD Entertainment Package.

I drove a three-row, 8-passenger 2008 Nissan Armada LE with the standard 317-horsepower 5.6-liter Nissan Endurance V8 and Flexible Fuel Vehicle technology (FFV). With 385 lb-ft of torque and a towing capacity of 9,100 pounds, a 5-speed automatic transmission and 4-wheel independent suspension, the total vehicle package is $46,715.    


That new exterior shape caught (or maybe distracted) my eye. It has a lovely wide stance, long wheelbase, short front, but it's heightened, curved roof flows into a tighter, boxed rear end. I see two designs battling for prominence. But for as big as full-size SUVs are expected to be, I feel the Armada makes good use of space and doesn't have a wasteful approach. Those huge 20-inch wheels also really set the look off.

The Armada has an interesting design that makes good use of big space.


With the new interior wood grain accents, I suspect Nissan got their styling cues from Ford. It might be in the same class as the Toyota Sequoia or the GMC Yukon, but if you're studying from the inside out, its most obvious competitor is the Ford Expedition.
Gas mileage is a tough one to swallow, but typical: 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway driving, for an average of 15 mpg. It has Flexible Fuel Vehicle technology (FFV), allowing drivers to use traditional gasoline or an alternative fuel such as E85, a mix containing 85 percent renewable ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

The lift gate opens at the touch of a button, as all lift gates should. Very helpful, especially when you have kids – even if for only one day. But the Xterra-style back door handles are not kid-friendly, as you have to be able to reach up five-plus feet to open them. Did I mention kids?


For such a large SUV designed for a large family, I equipped myself with a mom and dad and two little ones – I even threw in a cousin.  Casting myself as the role of aunt, into the Armada we climbed and clamored, and off to where else? The Wine Country; and on a rainy day with slick and muddy roads. Would the Armada stand its occupants climbing in and out all day long? Be comfortable in crowded parking situations? Have enough technological capability to entertain kids for an adult destination?

family car
The family gets situated in the Armada to begin testing.


After all six of us were comfortably situated, first on the agenda was getting the 8" color display DVD Entertainment Package ($1,600) with Remote Control and Wireless Headphones working for the 4 and 2 year olds. We also wanted to figure out if the adults could listen to the Bose® sound system satellite XM radio at the same time. The cousin, a self-proclaimed computer illiterate, was able to figure out the revised Navigation System with a few pointers from the backseat drivers, no manual required. We had the movie and radio going, and everyone was happy. What a plus to have dual media capability and have it be so easy.

All Armadas feature the 5.6-liter Nissan Endurance V8 with 4-wheel independent suspension. It's a smooth and fast ride with responsive four-wheel disc brakes, featuring a Bosch Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist.

kid suv test drive
The Nissan Armada was tested by a tough bunch of kids!


Smaller winery roads are made of dirt and gravel, and you're likely to come across rocks and ruts. I heard no complaints as the Armada took on the imperfections. Saturdays are busy days in Sonoma County, even on rainy ones, and the parking lots were very full and tight. The Engine-speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering on the Armada was pleasing, with a turning diameter of 40.8 feet. I got in and out of spaces with no issues. The Rear proximity sensor system (back-up obstacle warning) and the RearView Monitor helped. But really, it’s about how awesome the turning flexibility on the big Armada was.


For 2008, Armada is offered in SE and LE models, with 2-wheel or advanced 4-wheel drive systems.

The Armada LE does have a feeling of luxury. My ride had the Moonroof  Package ($1,000); DVD Entertainment Package ($1,600); the Preferred Technology Package, which includes the Nissan Navigation system with a XM NavTraffic system with real-time traffic information (XM contract required) and Bluetooth® hands-free phone system ($1,000); and the Tow Package ($350). Additional standout attributes on the LE trim include 20-inch alloy wheels, Intelligent Key, the wood trim, flip-our rear quarter windows, the rear sonar system and monitor, metallic-finish grille; and the power liftgate.

Probably the nicest attribute, especially considering the crowd I had and all the in-and-outing we did, is how easy the second row bench seat folded flat with one push. It would have been a huge inconvenience and damper on the day if this option weren't so versatile.

back seat
The second seat folded flat in one push and saved the day.


Because the Nissan chose a boxy ending to its shape, third row passengers over 5' 8" are going to feel smashed. Such compromises are typical for third row seating. These are cars after all, not yachts.


If you can look past the gas mileage and just focus on the high-end attributes my model came with, it’s the ultimate large SUV for the whole family.

The Armada has 17 horsepower and 20 more lb-ft of torque over the Ford Expedition's 300-horsepower, 5.4-liter SOHC Triton V8 with 365 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 rpm. Nissan might not offer as many trims as Ford does, but Nissan gets the large, luxury SUV right in its few tries. Your choice is going to be made in what exterior look pleases you, a Nissan or Ford, as the Ford Expedition with roughly the same attributes is priced out at $47,975 (not much difference).

Staying true to Nissan's traditional ruggedness is the only thing that keeps this particular high-end large SUV from being compared to the other small luxury yacht-mobiles. That's a compliment to the Armada. Vehicle makers need to remember many off-road enthusiasts have to keep their adventures real – diapers and tantrums included. Newsletter
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