Photo courtesy of Nissan
Beyond the yummy velour, the ‘80s assert themselves in acres of woodgrain on the dash, doors, and console
Photo courtesy of Nissan Beyond the yummy velour, the ‘80s assert themselves in acres of woodgrain on the dash, doors, and console
Those of us who grew up in the ‘80s remember a time when velour cloth seats were every bit as luxurious as leather. I still remember riding in my uncle’s 1987 Cadillac Fleetwood with soft velour. Lincoln, Mercury, Buick, and Oldsmobile all were dressed in velour. So, when I stepped inside the Nissan Armada SV with gray velour, I felt a warm hug. The rest of the Armada is pretty smooth too.
If the Armada looks a little too familiar, that’s because it is essentially the same big wagon as the Infiniti QX80 domestically and Nissan Patrol, that you usually see with white paint and UN logos, globally. If it seems large, it’s actually smaller than the previous Titan-based edition. Still, it’s a pretty solid platform and it looks especially tough with a big chrome grille, LED headlamps, and 18” wheels. Chrome window trim with upturned line at the rear adds class – as do a sculpted step bars that help move you inside.
Beyond the yummy velour, the ‘80s assert themselves in acres of woodgrain on the dash, doors, and console. It’s all fake, but looks legit unless you go tap-tap with your fingers. Keep tapping to find lots of stitched padded coverings for most of what’s not glossy plasti-wood. It all feels more Infiniti than Nissan. Heated front seats, dual-zone auto climate control, and serene Bose audio add luxury – as do air vents for the rear seats, power folding third row seats, and a power hatch. Navigation gets you there. Safety is enhanced by adaptive cruise and forward collision warning with auto brake.
A velour-laden truck deserves an equally smooth powertrain, and the Armada gets one: A 5.6-liter V8, delivering 390 horsepower and 394 lb.-ft. of torque, connected to a 7-speed automatic transmission and electronic all-wheel-drive system. It has a nice roar under full throttle and that’s plenty of muscle to get the big truck up and moving, or tow 8,500 lbs, But, you’ll pay for the privilege if you exercise the big pedal too much as fuel economy rates 13/18-MPG city/highway.
There’s no mistaking the Armada is a tough heavy truck when you drive it, but the independent rear suspension and thick tires doe their best to take the rough out of roads and to keep it from heaving its way through corners. For a fully framed SUV, it’s smooth enough, but it will still make you aware you’re driving a big truck if you go bounding over bumps. At the end of the day, it’s an off-road machine dressed for the symphony (or school shuttle duty).
You may prefer leather to velour and aluminum to woodgrain, but the big Armada is a pretty nice SUV for up to eight passengers. It may not have all of the latest safety gear, but you’ll hardly miss it when you settle into those comfy seats, caress the woodgrain, and enjoy memories of another era. A base price of $47,100 - $52,100 as tested – makes it substantial competition for the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Dodge Durango.

Casey Williams is automotive correspondent for WFYI and has reviewed cars and covered the auto industry for twenty five years. Reach out to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; view his auto reviews on YouTube at AutoCasey; and read them each week in The Times.