2012 Nissan Armada SUV - FROM $39,870
Though the 2012 Nissan Armada is a capable full-size SUV, it's outclassed by newer rivals as well as the latest crop of crossover SUVs.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Nissan Armada is back with just a few changes, including the addition of a power liftgate to the standard equipment list of SL models and the SV's Driver options package. Heated front seats are also now standard on the SL, as are heated second-row seats on the top-of-the-line Platinum models.
Built on the same underpinnings as the automaker's burly Titan pickup, the full-size 2012 Nissan Armada certainly has the goods if it's towing and hauling you're looking for. While no longer class-leading, the Armada's standard 317-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 still produces strong acceleration. The combination of this burly mill and traditional body-on-frame construction also gives Nissan's flagship SUV the ability to tow trailers up to a hefty 9,100 pounds when properly equipped.
Unfortunately, there aren't many other bright spots for this aging SUV. Compared to its full-size rivals, the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia, the Armada typically comes up short in terms of third-row legroom, cargo capacity, ride quality and feature content.
We'd also suggest that folks who don't really need the Armada's impressive towing capabilities have a look at the latest generation of large car-based crossovers, particularly the GMC Acadia, Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-9; all deliver more appealing ride and handling characteristics and better fuel economy while still providing plenty of interior room.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Nissan Armada is a full-size SUV offered in three trim levels, including the entry-level SV, midrange SL and top-of-the-line Platinum.
Base SV models come well equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, side-step rails, rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear climate controls, an eight-way power driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals. Also standard is an eight-speaker sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack. Opting for the Driver package adds foglights, a power liftgate, an auto-dimming mirror, Bluetooth, a rearview camera and an 11-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio and rear audio controls. SVs with four-wheel drive come standard with this package.
The Armada SL includes the above equipment plus 20-inch alloy wheels, an auto-leveling rear air suspension, a roof rack, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power-folding third-row seat.
Moving up to the Platinum model gets you 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, front parking sensors, a sunroof, dual power-folding mirrors, heated second-row seats and steering wheel, driver seat memory functions, a navigation system with real-time traffic, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a Bose audio system with digital music storage.
Second-row captain's chairs are available on the Platinum model as a replacement for the standard bench. The DVD entertainment system is a stand-alone option on lower trims.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Nissan Armada is powered by a 5.6-liter V8 that produces 317 hp and 385 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic is the only available transmission, but buyers do have a choice of rear-wheel or four-wheel drive (with dual-range gearing).
With either drivetrain, fuel economy is disappointing even for a large SUV. EPA fuel economy estimates are 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined for two-wheel-drive models and 1 mpg less in each driving cycle for four-wheel-drive versions. Properly equipped, the Armada can tow as much as 9,100 pounds.
The 2012 Nissan Armada comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat active head restraints, front-seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
Climb inside the passenger cabin of the 2012 Nissan Armada and you'll find a handsome space done up in generally high-quality materials. Though there are a lot of buttons on the dash (especially in upper trim levels equipped with the navigation system), everything is arranged in an uncomplicated manner that's relatively intuitive.
As with most full-size SUVs, the Armada's front seats are large and supportive, with good head- and legroom. The eight-passenger interior that's standard on SV and SL models features perfectly serviceable 40/20/40-split second-row seats, but the comfy twin captain's chairs separated by a center console on the Platinum trim level are the way to go, even though this setup limits passenger capacity to seven. Good-sized storage cubbies and cupholders scattered throughout the interior make sure there's a place for everything.
The 60/40 manually split-folding third-row bench folds down into the floor with little effort, but the available power-folding version is especially useful. Primed for cargo, the Armada can carry up to 97 cubic feet, about 10 cubic feet fewer than many of its full-size SUV competitors.
It doesn't take a lot of time in the 2012 Nissan Armada's driver seat to understand its strengths and weaknesses. On the upside, the powerful 5.6-liter engine gives this massive truck much better acceleration than you'd expect from a vehicle that weighs nearly 3 tons. The ride quality is generally comfortable, though bad pavement can make the ride seem a little harsh, something that's not an issue with newer designs like the Toyota Sequoia. The Armada's steering has a weighty feel to it, but some will find it a little too heavy in slow-speed parking lot maneuvers. At the same time, this is very much a truck, and it lacks the refinement of the larger car-based crossovers.