2008 Nissan Armada Review – Living Large the American Way

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By Alex Kramer

2008 Nissan Armada


  • Powerful V8 engine
  • Spacious, luxurious interior
  • Commanding road presence


  • Too many rattles and buzzes
  • Unrefined ride quality
  • Guzzles gas

What a difference a few years makes. Not long ago Detroit couldn’t make enough truck based SUV’s, with Explorers, Expeditions, and Suburbans flying off of dealer lots and into driveways all over America. Now, with gas prices hovering over $3 a gallon and global warming on everyone’s mind, the tide seems to be turning against large truck based SUVs. For Japanese manufacturers this must be especially bittersweet, since they have only recently tried to compete in the large SUV market segment. Introduced in 2004, the Armada is Nissan’s answer to the American desire to live large and look good while doing it. Although a bit late to the party, the Armada has plenty of swagger and should draw some eyes away from the usual contenders.

2008 Nissan Armada

Driving Impressions
The Armada is based on the same platform as the Nissan Titan pickup truck and shares the same engine and transmission. The Armada comes standard with a 5.6 liter V8 that produces 317 horsepower and 385 lb-ft torque. This is a sweet engine, with gobs of low-end torque and an eagerness to rev to its 6,000 RPM redline. Jam the throttle and the Armada launches its 5,600 lbs down the road with impressive ease. The 5-speed automatic transmission does an excellent job of managing all this power and features a tow mode should you choose to take advantage of the Armada’s impressive 9,100 lb towing capacity.

2008 Nissan Armada - 5.7L 317 hp V8 engine 2008 Nissan Armada w/Tow Package 2008 Nissan Armada

Unlike the Titan pickup, the Armada features an independent rear suspension that makes the ride a bit more civilized and less truck-like. The suspension is nice and firm, with only moderate body roll, but when the road starts to undulate the shocks get a bit bouncy and they also have a tendency to clomp over potholes and other surface irregularities. Some more suspension tuning would really help the Armada shed its pickup truck background. The brakes are solid, although the pedal feels somewhat soft and mushy, which was initially a bit discomforting, especially given the Armada’s size and mass.

Although the Armada’s fit and finish looked pretty good at first, when driving on uneven road surfaces there were quite a few rattles and vibrations emanating from the various plastic materials. Wind noise was also a bit excessive on the highway, and certain road surface and wind combinations triggered an alarming vibration in the body of the car, enough to make the roof mounted LCD screen move up and down almost an inch. Nissan will have a hard time winning over drivers used to the solid, clamped down build of a good luxury sedan or other modern passenger car. Like most vehicles sold today, the Armada is equipped with a host of safety features, including Nissan’s advanced air bag system, with front and side curtain airbags, as well as vehicle dynamic stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes.

2008 Nissan Armada

As its name suggests, the Armada commands respect. With 20” alloy wheels, a chrome grill, and a striking majestic blue paint job, the Armada projects the fact that it is one of the largest vehicles on the road. Fortunately, the Armada features a rear view camera and a proximity alarm that beeps loudly whenever you get within a few feet of another object. Even with these features, navigating parking lots can be a bit daunting and the Armada definitely feels more at home on the open highway than on narrow city streets.

2008 Nissan Armada new front fascia 2008 Nissan Armada

Like other traditional truck based SUVs, the Armada doesn’t hide its pickup truck roots, with slightly flared fenders and a roofline that accentuates the size of the front cab. The Armada sits high off of the ground and fortunately features side runners to help with entry and exit, although this could still be a bit tricky for shorter individuals. Additional exterior features include a power rear liftgate and power folding auto-dimming sideview mirrors with turn signals.

2008 Nissan Armada - 5-speed automatic For a car with such a rugged, commanding exterior, the Armada has a surprisingly plush and pampering interior. All three rows of seating are upholstered in soft black leather and the front seats offer power adjustment and seat warmers. Dual zone automatic temperature controls come standard, and there is separate rear audio and climate controls so that everyone stays comfortable. There is also a power moonroof for late night drives under the stars and a Bluetooth hands free phone system for those important conference calls. Driving tunes are provided by a punchy Bose sound system with satellite radio, and for the kids in the back there is a DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones. Despite what the exterior might suggest, this is definitely not just a pickup with a clamshell thrown on the back!

Unlike some other SUVs that claim to seat seven, the Armada has plenty of room to seat seven full sized adults. The middle row features two chairs that are separated by a storage console, each of which easily swings out of the way to provide access to the back row of seats, which fold down for increased storage. Even with the back row up the Armada has a decent amount of cargo space, enough for at least a few suitcases or camping bags.

Nissan Armada interior 2008 Nissan Armada - 3rd row seating 2008 Nissan Armada - rear seat DVD entertainment

Value/Who Should Buy It
Whether there will be many folks looking for such large SUVs in the future remains to be seen, especially with the increased popularity of large crossovers that also seat seven but drive much more like a conventional car. With an MSRP of $46,715, the Armada doesn’t come cheap, but does offer a lot of car for the money, both in terms of overall size and available features. Fuel efficiency was somewhat respectable for a vehicle this size, averaging almost 15 mpg, but that was with the car mostly empty. For those in the market for a car to commute with every day and only occasionally take out on the weekends, the Armada is almost definitely a poor choice. But for those who require a vehicle to frequently transport the whole family while also towing a large boat or trailer, the Nissan Armada should be given a second look.
















2008 Nissan Armada

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>> See all of the Nissan Armada photos in our photo gallery

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>> Check out the Specs

>> Overview page for the Nissan Armada – reviews, specs, and photos

>> www.nissanusa.comofficial website for Nissan cars and SUVs

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