2021 Nissan Armada First Drive Review: Single-Purpose Greatness (2024)


7.2 / 10

Critics of the Nissan Armada have abundant arrows in their quiver – it’s thirsty, it doesn’t handle well, its styling is somewhat ungainly, and it’s based on a platform that dates back a full decade. Armoring the company against those blows is the facelifted 2021 Nissan Armada, but unfortunately, a suite of updates does little to deflect shots away from the big SUV – the Armada is still much the same as it’s always been.

However, there are circ*mstances where the Armada’s weaknesses turn into strengths, and while the refreshed styling won’t keep pundits from hurling their stones, it also preserves the three-row Nissan’s best attributes. For example, the 2021 Armada is one of the cushiest, smoothest, and quietest vehicles on the market, and since it’s (still) based on the overseas-only Nissan Patrol, it features a robust chassis and four-wheel-drive system, with lots of suspension travel to traverse rocks, ruts, and rivulets. And there’s absolutely something to be said for a vehicle that excels in one or two areas, even if it neglects others.

Verdict updated in June 2021, following one-week loan. A vehicle's verdict is relative only to its own segment and not the new-vehicle market as a whole. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.

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Styling Overload

One of my personal criticisms against the old Armada was its styling. A sloping front grille and dopey, downturned headlights gave it a pug-like appearance – charming in its own way, but ultimately kinda ugly. The 2021 Armada is different, at least, but I don’t think it’s any better. I like the higher, flatter hood and the E-shaped headlights a lot, recalling the updated 2020 Titan and establishing a strong corporate truck face. But the squared-off front end and crisp fenders are wholly at odds with the carryover vents aft of the front wheels. Ditching that body jewelry altogether would have yielded a more cohesive design.

Updates to the rear are a bit more successful. I’m not a huge fan of the chunky rear bumper, but the taillights feature a notched LED accent that cleverly recalls the headlight shape, and a new liftgate does away with the outgoing model’s bulbous heinie. Both ends of the Armada are sharper and more techno-modern, although that creates some design conflict with the still-bubbly doors and quarter panels. Also, does anyone beside me miss the two-tone fender accents?

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Inside, there’s not much to complain about – which is a huge win for the Armada in and of itself. The 2017-era SUV featured thoroughly outdated electronics inside, with a comparatively tiny 8.0-inch touchscreen displaying an old infotainment system that featured neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto. However, the 2021 Armada ditches that old setup in favor of a standard 12.3-inch display with Wi-Fi, wireless CarPlay, and wired Android Auto. A newly standard 7.0-inch information screen in the instrument cluster is a nice addition as well.

The horizontal screen appears at the tippy-top of a redesigned center stack, beneath which are relocated volume and tuning knobs, as well as a few redundant audio controls. HVAC vents and a much more intuitive climate control panel appear below the infotainment system, placing the most commonly used secondary controls much higher than before. Down a bit lower are a wireless charging pad, trailer brake controller, and USB-A and USB-C ports. Otherwise, the interior looks similar, though I’m not mad. I like the twin-cowl design, and the admittedly flat front seats are still incredibly cushy for long drives.

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On The Road Again

Most of the updates to the 2021 Armada are skin-deep, so it’s not surprising how familiar it feels after thumbing the push-button starter. Underhood is a direct-injected 5.6-liter V8, pumping out 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet – its base towing capacity of 8,500 pounds is best-in-class towing (though some competitors offer more with optional equipment). A carryover seven-speed automatic delivers smooth-shifting power to either the rear wheels or a full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case that splits torque front and rear via clutch packs (not a more traditional lockable center differential). Four-wheel drive models get low-range gearing as well.

That buttery powertrain is a preview of the entire on-road experience in the Armada. The engine is whisper-quiet, and it might be mounted on gimbals for how little vibration enters the cabin at idle or on full throttle. Likewise, the Armada’s double-wishbone front and rear suspenders iron out just about every pavement imperfection, even on bad roads. The softly sprung SUV does bounce around a bit on undulating pavement, but putting some starch into the suspension would degrade ride quality everywhere else. It’s an acceptable compromise in most situations.

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Of course, that pillowy softness turns ugly – and possibly dangerous – when introducing the Armada to a curvy road or a quick lane change. Body motions are poorly controlled, with plenty of roll leading to unfortunate transitional responses. In spite of a four-corner independent suspension, athleticism isn’t the Nissan SUV’s forte. Then again, the same could be said of the Toyota Land Cruiser (and don’t scoff at that comparison before giving it some thought).

In other markets, both the current 200-Series Land Cruiser and the Y62 Nissan Patrol are sold in more austere forms, giving farmers, government agencies, and off-road enthusiasts a robust vehicle to work and play with. Both vehicles also play to the same strengths in the US, with smooth and comfortable interiors hiding rough-and-ready off-road components. In my brief time in the dirt, the Armada did everything I wanted it to without any complaint, and the same excellent ride quality persists even when traversing small obstacles.

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Aside from the Land Cruiser’s peerless, hand-built reputation as a premium product, the only philosophical difference between the two is price – a loaded 2021 Armada Platinum Reserve 4x4 should be $20,000 cheaper than the $85,515 Cruiser, though Nissan has yet to reveal official pricing. In that vein, I think it’s fair to think of the Armada as less of a mainstream three-row SUV and more of a budget-priced Land Cruiser.

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Comfort And Convenience

Helping matters further is a well-constructed interior. The SL tested here comes standard with leather and heated front seats, though even the SV model gets Prima-Tex upholstery that does a decent impression of genuine hides. The top-rung Platinum Reserve ups the comfort ante further with quilted leather, heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated second row. Across the board, the Armada has premium-feeling interior materials throughout, with hard plastics showing up only occasionally. The glossy, glittery faux-wood trim has got to go, though.

The first two rows of seats are mounted high and upright, and this tester benefits from optional second-row captain’s chairs separated by a center console storage armrest. Heated front seats are standard on the SL, as is leather upholstery. The Platinum Reserve, which we didn’t get to drive, ups the ante with lovely quilted leather with heated and ventilated front and heated rear seats. Cargo space is a bit lacking with all seats in place, but fold the cramped third row flat and there’s plenty of room for a family of four (or five, if you opt for the standard rear bench).

A suite of driver-assist features comes standard on the Armada, though it’s not as comprehensive as one might find in competitors. Full-speed adaptive cruise control is standard, as is automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Lane departure prevention, blind spot monitoring, rear automatic braking, and front and rear parking sensors come on every Armada as well. However, there isn’t any sort of lane-centering feature, and since placing the big SUV is a bit of a trick sometimes, the driver should become accustomed to feeling the lane departure warning’s steering wheel vibration often.

2021 Nissan Armada First Drive Review: Single-Purpose Greatness (10)
2021 Nissan Armada First Drive Review: Single-Purpose Greatness (11)
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The Bottom Line

Alongside the already-announced SV, SL, and Platinum Reserve models, Nissan will add a base 2021 Armada S to the lineup. Details on the new base trim are sparse, but it will likely start at about $45,000 in two-wheel-drive form or $48,000 for a four-wheeler. It will probably jettison some premium features, like the wireless charging pad, adaptive cruise control, faux leather upholstery, and trailer brake controller, and it might ride on 17-inch wheels instead of the SV’s 18-inch alloys.

Moving higher in the lineup, we doubt pricing will change much between 2020 and 2021. Currently, an SV model starts at $47,500, while the leather-lined SL demands $52,300 and the premium Platinum Reserve is $60,930 – add $3,000 if you want all-wheel drive. With a few modern additions, it might be fair to see the Armada SV start at just under $50,000 and the Platinum Reserve to top out at $65,000 or so. That roughly matches the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe, which starts at $49,000 and maxes out at $72,600. Meanwhile, the Ford Expedition asks between $52,810 and $77,085 of its new owner, while the Toyota Sequoia ranges between $50,100 and $69,375.

Prepare The Armada:

⠀ 2017 Nissan Armada | Why Buy?

Price is just one element of the Armada’s ownership experience, and as with other on-road dynamic attributes, fuel economy is rather poor in the Nissan. The company claims 14 miles per gallon city, 19 highway, and 16 combined with two-wheel drive or 13 city, 18 highway, and 15 combined with four-wheel drive. Among its key competition, only the Toyota Sequoia is thirstier. The Armada is also a bit smaller outside than its three rivals, with less interior and cargo space as well – blame those global Patrol bones for the slightly tight interior and credit them for the better trail maneuverability.

Overall, the Armada’s vastly improved infotainment package and different (if not necessarily better) styling set it apart from its immediate predecessor in a few key ways. Newly standard smartphone integration makes living with the SUV on a daily basis much more pleasant, but it’s still the same hulking beast it was before. That means somewhat archaic on-road manners, offset by charming off-road capability and cushy NVH characteristics that turn just about every road surface into marzipan. Those are two Armada traits that not even the most militant critic can attack.

Armada Competitor Reviews:

  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Ford Expedition
  • GMC Yukon
  • Toyota Sequoia
2021 Nissan Armada First Drive Review: Single-Purpose Greatness (2024)


What is the crash rating for the 2021 Nissan Armada? ›

It gets three stars for overall frontal crash safety, with two stars in the front driver side test. It also gets three stars in rollover safety, and five stars in the side crash test. Nissan includes a host of driver assist features as standard on the Armada.

Does 2021 Nissan Armada require premium gas? ›

Despite being luxury vehicles, it is worth noting that the Armada has the advantage of running on regular unleaded fuel, whereas the QX80 requires premium fuel, which can cost upwards of more than $0.55 per gallon.

What is the difference between 2021 and 2022 Armada? ›

The Armada received a new front and rear end, and the standard equipment and options were expanded across the board. The changes for 2022 are more subtle but still notable, and we will explore them by comparing the 2022 Nissan Armada vs 2021 Nissan Armada.

How reliable are Nissan Armadas? ›

Overall Reliability Ratings: Is The Nissan Armada Reliable? Overall the Nissan Armada reliability is 71.85 and that makes it very reliable. The chart below illustrates exactly how this ranks compared to some other cars, but the average overall rating is 57 as some comparison.

What is the problem with Nissan Armada? ›

Nissan Armada Problem Counts by Year

Major problems include braking problems, sticky gear shifts, and interior accessory malfunctions.

Which is safer Toyota or Nissan? ›

When comparing Nissan vs Toyota's reliability, Toyota was ranked by Consumer Reports as the second most reliable out of all car brands for 2021. Nissan ranked a lot lower in sixteenth place. Toyota's are known to be very reliable, lasting their owners decades with few significant problems.

Is Armada better than QX80? ›

Nissan Armada vs INFINITI QX80: Power, Performance, and Extra Features. The performance and power of both of these premium vehicles are very similar. You'll enjoy the same kind of torque, towing capabilities, horsepower, and drivetrain.

Is an Infiniti QX80 bigger than an Armada? ›

The Nissan Armada vs. INFINITI QX80 dimensions are nearly identical, but the INFINITI QX80 is slightly longer. These two three-row body-on-frame SUVs share a platform, and both ride on a 121.1-inch wheelbase.

What happens if you put regular gas in premium vehicle? ›

However, remember this: when a premium fuel engine runs on regular fuel, there's a risk of combustion of the fuel mix before the spark plug even lights up. This causes a phenomenon called knocking, which is likely to damage the engine. Although Mazda recommends using premium fuel, they don't require it.

What SUV compares to the Armada? ›

Three of its main rivals are the 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe, 2021 Ford Expedition, and 2022 Toyota Sequoia.

What is the Lexus version of the Armada? ›

Whether you pick the Lexus GX 460 or the Nissan Armada, it's going to cost you about the same. Since the Lexus GX 460 is much slimmer than the Nissan Armada, it'll be much easier to find a wide enough space in a crowded parking lot.

What is the Toyota equivalent to the Nissan Armada? ›

The 2023 Nissan Armada and the 2023 Toyota Sequoia are two popular full-size SUVs that offer a balance of power, comfort, and space for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

Do Armadas hold their value? ›

A Nissan Armada will depreciate 36% after 5 years and have a 5 year resale value of $39,825. The chart below shows the expected depreciation for the next 10 years. These results are for vehicles in good condition, averaging 12,000 miles per year. It also assumes a selling price of $62,402 when new.

Which is better Nissan Sequoia or Armada? ›

The 2023 Nissan Armada is a great option for those looking for a full-size SUV. It has an impressive towing capacity of 8,500 lbs. and offers more interior space than the 2023 Toyota Sequoia. The Armada also features standard all-wheel drive, while the Sequoia only comes with rear-wheel drive as standard.

Which is better Armada or Sequoia? ›

Toyota Sequoia Quality Rating. The iSeeCars Overall Quality rating for the Nissan Armada is 7.8 out of 10 while the Toyota Sequoia's quality rating is 8.8 out of 10. This results in the Nissan Armada being ranked 8 out of 10 Best Large SUVs and the Toyota Sequoia being ranked 2 out of 10.

What is the safest car to buy in 2021? ›

  • Nissan Sentra.
  • Subaru Crosstrek (with optional front crash prevention)
  • Subaru Impreza sedan (with optional front crash prevention)
  • Subaru Impreza wagon (with optional front crash prevention)
  • Subaru WRX (with optional front crash prevention)
  • Toyota Corolla hatchback.
  • Toyota Corolla sedan.

What is the safest car in the US 2021? ›

Safest Cars for 2021:
  • Mazda 3.
  • Subaru Legacy.
  • Honda Insight.
  • Kia K5.
  • Nissan Altima.
  • Mazda 6.
  • Honda Accord.
  • Toyota Camry.
Mar 31, 2021

What is the safest Nissan car? ›

Like the Altima, the Maxima earns top marks across the IIHS's safety tests, with impressive scores in crashworthiness and advanced safety features. This makes it one of the safest cars of 2022. In particular, the Maxima fared well in all durability tests and obtained favorable scores.

What car has the safest safety rating? ›

Top Safety Pick+ Award Winners
  • Small Car. Acura Integra. Toyota Prius. ...
  • Midsized Cars. Honda Accord. ...
  • Midsized Luxury Cars. Mercedes-Benz C-Class (with optional front crash prevention)
  • Large Luxury Car. Genesis G90.
  • Small SUVs. Honda HR-V. ...
  • Small Luxury SUVs. Acura RDX. ...
  • Midsized SUVs. Genesis GV80. ...
  • Midsized Luxury SUVs. Acura MDX.
Sep 15, 2023

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