By Andy Stonehouse
What might be considered the “regular” version of its luxurious, mechanically-similar cousin, the Infiniti QX80, the all-new 2021 Nissan Armada is anything but. In many ways, it’s a more practical and more enjoyable rendition of the shared, 400-horsepower, eight-passenger package.
Admittedly, the 4×4 Platinum trim level of the Armada I drove did check in at a total price of $71,250—considerably higher than the $48,600 base model that’s out there—making it a little more Infiniti-esque than initially planned.
But I still liked it more than a QX80 I drove just a few months earlier. Maybe that’s because with just a little less gloss—or, maybe just a whole lot of its own kind of gloss—the Armada Platinum was a lot more fun and stable to drive, even with gargantuan 22-inch wheels as its standard issue.
Redesigned for 2021, the Armada now features a moderately overwhelming central stack of infotainment and other controls, but it’s still more manageable and user-friendly than Infiniti. I even had a pair of behind-the-front-headrests video screens as part of this model’s seven-passenger layout: two large captain’s chairs with a massive console between them, each of them flipping and flopping out of the way to gain access to what was a reasonably sizeable third row that slides up and out of the floor when needed. Those third-row seats actually move back quite a bit in the process, revealing decent foot room.
The biggest news is a largely redesigned exterior. The new ultra-bright LED headlamps and tail lights and a standard 12.3-inch color infotainment display way up on top of that center stack were most impressive. The vehicle’s hood still came up to my neck, i.e. small it is not, in any way. The Armada is 208.9 inches overall, 79.9 inches wide and 75.8 inches high, maybe even taller on those big 22s.
The 5.6-liter V-8 and a seven-speed transmission help cart around the 6,037 pounds of metal my top-end model weighed; that power, plus 413 lb.–ft. of torque, means it’s good to haul up to 8,500 pounds of trailer, with trailer brake controls built into the bottom of the console.
You will not find that power insufficient, or the engine particularly meek in its exhaust note. This is old-school muscle at work, and I got a passable 16.9 combined MPG during high-altitude drives in the mountains. It’s rated at 14 MPG city and 19 highway, which is about as old-school as they come, nowadays.
Armada’s raw bigness certainly presents itself when parking and maneuvering, like a piece of industrial equipment. I had to remember to turn the wheel an extra crank to center myself in lane when taking corners in town. But parking was actually better than in other fuller-than-full-sized SUVs, with backing cameras and some very noisy proximity alarms that made it pretty simple.
Armada’s rendition of an Infiniti-worthy leathery, glossy interior is quite tasteful, with large, quilted leather seating, draped leather on the doors and some nice glossy wood highlights, including bits that curve from the doors into the dash.
Sí: With the exception of its glossiest models, the Armada represents an affordable option to the tony Infiniti QX80, with all of the size, power and stance. Think Yukon Denali vs. Escalade.
No: The bigness is just plain old big, making parking an issue and resulting in 1990s-styled gas mileage. Get a stepladder if you want to load anything onto the roof.
Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Golden, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested.