Nissan’s full-size SUV has been updated with fresh tech, but does that make it good enough?

The Nissan Armada started life back in 2004 riding on Nissan Titan underpinnings and was built in Canton Mississippi. All that changed when the second-generation was launched for the 2017 model year, with production shifting to Yakuhashi, Kyushu, Japan as Nissan based the second-gen on Nissan Patrol underpinnings that feature some very specific modifications to make it suitable for the North American market. As of 2021, the Nissan Armada has been updated to feature a prettier face, a new center console inside, and some updated technology. As is the case with all refreshed models, we’ve been wondering if Nissan did enough to keep the Armada relevant in such a brutally competitive market. Does it hold its own against the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition? Well, let’s find out.

2021 Nissan Armada – Powertrain, Performance, and Capability

The Nissan Armada, like most large SUVs on todays market is a body-on-frame SUV and can be had with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. It’s powered by a 5.6-liter V-8 with power being distributed to the wheels via a very competent seven-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy isn’t great, as you’d expect, but its capability on the other hand is pretty impressive.

How Much Power Does the Nissan Armada Have?

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Drivetrain
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The Nissan Armada’s 5.6-liter V-8 delivers 400 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 413 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 RPM. In comparison, the Chevy Tahoe’s 5.3-liter V-8 is good for 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque while the Ford Expedition, the Armada’s other main competitor on the U.S. market, is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers and admirable 400 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. Yes – Ford’s 3.5-liter V-6 offers the same amount of horsepower and more torque than the Nissan Armada’s V-8. How’s that for a twist?

How Much Can The Nissan Armada Tow?

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Exterior
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When properly equipped with the towing package, the Nissan Armada can lug around a total of 8,500 pounds. This beats out the Chevy Tahoe by 400 pounds (it can pull up to 8,100 pounds) but falls shy of the Ford Expedition, which can pull as much as 9,200 pounds – again, with a V-6 engine of all things.

Nissan Armada Fuel Economy

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Exterior
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The Nissan Armada actually falls short in the fuel economy category, offering up 14 mpg in the city, 19 mpg on the highway, and 16 mpg combined when equipped with RWD. 4WD versions of the Armada deliver 13 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway, and 15 mpg combined. These low fuel economy figures are expected for a big, boxy SUV, but if you want to get a little more, you can look to the Chevy Tahoe, which manages to attain 15 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg combined in RWD form. With 4WD those figures drop a bit to 15 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg combined, still beating the Armada even in RWD form. Meanwhile, the Ford Expedition takes the No. 1 spot getting 17 mpg in the city regardless of drive configuration. Highway figures are 24 mpg for RWD or 22 for 4WD while its combined rating comes in at 20 mpg with RWD or 19 mpg with 4WD.

Why is the Ford Expedition More Efficient than the Nissan Armada?

2020 Ford Expedition - Driven Exterior
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Despite having a smaller engine, the Ford Expedition delivers better fuel economy thanks to, in part, its 10-speed automatic transmission that allows for better fuel savings at cruising speeds.

Does the Nissan Armada Have a Reliable Transmission?

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Interior
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The Nissan Armada’s transmission isn’t known to have a high rate of failure and, in fact, is even said to deliver silky smooth and predictable shifts. So, as long as you follow the normal maintenance schedule the transmission should never become a weak link.

Exterior Design and Capability

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Exterior
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The exterior design of the Nissan Armada isn’t for everyone. The update for 2021 did make the front end look better, but the Armada is unreasonably boxy in the rear and, despite going through the refresh, it still feels a bit old design-wise. Then again, it also feels like Nissan is trying to maintain some kind of boxy heritage like Mercedes does with the G-Class, but it really isn’t working here. It’s body-on-frame design is awesome, of course, but the appearance itself could be a little more modern.

How Big Is the Nissan Armada?

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Exterior
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Being based originally on the Nissan Titan and now the Nissan Patrol for its second generation, the Armada sits firmly in the full-size SUV bracket. It measures 208.9 inches long, 79.9 inches wide, and 75.8 inches tall. It also rides on a 121.1-inch wheelbase. In terms of garaging, don’t even think about a single car garage, and you’ll need to make sure that any other garage is both deep enough and tall enough to comfortable hold this large of a vehicle. In comparison, the Armada is generally larger than the Chevy Tahoe, but is quite a bit smaller than the Expedition, the latter of which is actually more than a foot longer for what that’s worth. Check out the table below to see a full comparison of dimensions:

Nissan Armada vs competition exterior dimensions
Nissan Armada Chevrolet Tahoe Ford Expedition
Length 208.9 204 221.9
Width 79.9 80.5 79.9
Height 75.8 74.4 76.2
Wheelbase 121.1 116 131.6
Front Track 67.5 68.7 67.6
Rear Track 67.9 68.7 67.5

Is The Nissan Armada Capable of Off-Roading?

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Exterior
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The Nissan Armada might not get quite as much love from the off-roading croud as some of its competitors, but it is beyond capable. Outside of its power output, the Aramda features an approach angle of 21 degrees, a departure angle of 22.4 degrees, and 9.2-inches of ground clearance – more than enough for some intermediate off-roading or more, if you’re really up for it. All told, The Armada has a better departure angle than both he Tahoe and the Expedtiion, and it even sits more than an inch higher than the Tahoe. The Ford Expedition does have a better approach angle, though, and does sit half an inch higher

Nissan Armada vs competition - off-road specs
Nissan Armada Chevrolet Tahoe Ford Expedition
Approach Angle 21 15.5 23.7
Departure Angle 22.4 23.2 21.3
Ground Clearance 9.2 7.9 9.7

Nissan Armada Interior Design

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Interior
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The refresh for the 2021 Nissan Armada included some interior updates that helps to bring the Armada inline with what you’d expect from a modern SUV today. The biggest change inside was is the new center console. While that looks a lot better than before, it still feels like it was added as an afterthought as it’s not really integrated with the dashboard’s center stack and protrudes into it, allowing the center stacks two pillars to overlap it. The same can be said for the infotainment system that was updated, but sits atop the dash like early-2000s German systems, which lends a somewhat dated look. The curvy nature of the dashboard is pleasing, however, but the glossy fake-wood trim kind of makes it seem like Nissan was trying to overlap a little too much with the Infiniti QX80 – the luxury version of the Armada. There is plenty of leather that’s soft to the touch, though, and the leather upholstery on the seats seem think enough to handle long-term use without problem.

Does the Nissan Armada have Plenty Of Interior Space?

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Interior
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As a large SUV, the Nissan Armada is very spacious on the inside, but it’s not quite as spacious as either the Chevy Tahoe or the Ford Expedition. In fact, the front passenger area falls shy of both, which can also be said for the third row. Overall, you won’t be hurting for row and any of the three rows of seating, but if you want as much space as possible, you’ll probably find the Expedition more to your liking. To see how the Armada compares to the Tahoe and Expedition in terms of interior space, check out this table:

Nissan Armada vs competition interior dimensions
Nissan Armada Chevrolet Tahoe Ford Expedition
1st Row Headroom 40.9 42.8 42
1st Row Leg Room 41.9 45.3 43.9
1st Row Shoulder Room 63.8 64.8 64.9
1st Row Hip Room 59.2 60.8 62.2
2nd Row Headroom 40 38.7 40
2nd Row Leg Room 41 39 41.5
2nd Row Shoulder Room 63.4 65.1 64.8
2nd Row Hip Room 58.4 60.3 62.6
3rd Row Headroom 36.4 38.1 37.3
3rd Row Legroom 28.4 24.8 36.1
3rd Row Shoulder Room 60.5 62.6 64.2
3rd Row Hip Room 48.8 49.3 51.4

Does The Nissan Armada Have a Good Infotainment System?

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Interior
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Prior to 2021, the Armada had an infotainment system that belonged a decade in the past, but for 2021, that has been rectified to some extent. The older infotainment system suffered from bad graphics but the new system is both larger and more responsive with crisper graphics. This 12.3-inch system finally features wi-fi, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. However, if you don’t go with an upper trim level or option the larger system, you’ll get a 7.0-inch system that is also improved drastically but not quite as good. Menu options and pages are easy to navigate and what was once the Armada’s weakest link has become one of its strongest features.

Nissan Armada Driver Assistance Features

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Interior
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The Nissan Armada does come standard with a pretty nice suite of assistance features, however, it’s not quite as comprehensive as what you’ll find in the competition. Full-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear automatic braking, and lane departure prevention all come standard across the lineup, however, there is no type of lane-centering technology included. It will actually take a little bit of time to get used to the lane departure warning system, which vibrates the steering wheel while at the same time inducing a mild case of anxiety that something is wrong or death wobble is setting in.

How Much Cargo Room Does the Nissan Armada Have?

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Interior
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The Nissan Armada offers up 16.5 cubic-feet of cargo room behind the third row, 49.9 cubic-feet behind the second row, or as much as 95.4 cubic-feet with both rows laid flat. These numbers sound impressive at first, but it gets beat out in every row by both the Tahoe and the Expedition. The Tahoe offers up 25.5 -122.9 cubic-feet while the Expedition offers up between 19.3 and 104.6 cubic-feet. If you’re someone that hauls A LOT of cargo, you might want to look beyond the Armada.

2021 Nissan Armada Pricing

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Exterior
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The Nissan Armada essentially sits at the top of Nissan’s lineup if you count out vehicles like the Nissan 370Z and GT-R, of course. The Armada, with RWD starts out at $52,600 but claimds to as much as $68,000 for the range-topping Platinum trim with 4WD. The RWD version of the Platinum trim commands $65,000 so 4WD is, essentially, a $3,000 option. In comparison, the Chevy Tahoe stats out at $50,295 and climbs to as high as $70,895 in 2WD form. If you’re looking for 4WD, the Tahoe starts out at $53,295 and tops out at $73,895 for the range-topping High Country trim with the 6.2-liter V-8. Meanwhile, stopping by your Ford dealership will have you looking at the entry-level Expedition XL STX with a starting price of $49,995 while the range-topping Platinum trim starts at $73,775. Needless to say, you’re not going to get off “cheap” when looking at any full-size SUV.

Nissan Armada Competition

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Exterior
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There is a plethora of different models that we could compare the Nissan Armada to, but we’ve decided to stick to some homegrown mainstays from right here in our home market – the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition. Can the Japan-built Armada actually beat down the Americans in such a saturated market?

Is the Nissan Armada Better Than the Chevy Tahoe?

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Make no mistake – the Chevy Tahoe is a big, boxy SUV, but it somehow manages to integrate some decent curves in there too. The nice thing about the Tahoe is that it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. The interior can be had in decent leather, and you will find some wood trim, but it’s not overly glossy nor does it try to stand out and pretend to be something of luxury. The interior cabin is clearly inspired by the Silverado, especially when you look at the center consol. Like the Armada, however, the infotainment display sits atop that dash, so it, too, takes a page out of the early-2000s German playbook.

From a performance standpoint, the Armada wins out in a number of categories. The Tahoe’s 5.3-liter V-8, for example, falls shy in power output with just 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It also has a six-speed automatic transmission as opposed to the Armada’s seven-speed unit. It falls 400 pounds shy in terms of towing capacity with a max load rate of 8,100 pounds, but it wins back some respect that’s to garnering a couple extra mpgs in each driving category regardless of driveline configuration. It also straight up dominates the segment in terms of cargo room with the ability to swallow up 25.5 cubic-feet behind the third row, 72.7 cubic-feet with the third row laid down, or a whopping 122.9 cubic-feet with both rows laid flat. With pricing starting at just $49,000 the Tahoe can be the most economical for a tight budget without compromising on capability or fuel costs.

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Nissan Armada vs Chevrolet Tahoe
Nissan Armada Chevrolet Tahoe
Engine 5.6L V8 5.3-Liter V-8
Fuel Gasoline Gasoline
Horsepower 400 hp @ 5,800 RPM 355 HP
Torque 413 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM 383 LB-FT
Transmission 7-speed automatic 6AT
Drive RWD \ AWD RWD \ AWD
Towing Capacity 8,500 lbs 8,100 LBS
Fuel Economy 13/18/15 15/22/18(RWD) \ 15/21/17(4WD)
Curb Weight 5,792 5,602 LBS
Fuel Capacity 26.0 gallons 26.0 Gallons

Read our full review on the Chevy Tahoe

Is The Nissan Armada Better Than the Ford Expedition?[/q[

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Like the Chevy Tahoe, the Ford Expedition is based on its truck counterpart, in this case, the Ford F-150. In fact, the interior is nearly indistinguishable to the untrained eye. The high center console, oddly shaped HVAC vents, and overly design door panels are all present. The Expeditions semi-digital instrument cluster is downright amazing compared to what you get in the Armada, but the infotainment system actually feels a little dated in comparison. Not necessarily in function, but in design. The display is smaller, not as crisp, and – while I criticize Nissan for using an old German look – the Expedition is rocking out the recessed, center-stack mounting for the infotainment system and that makes it look even more dated.

Where the Ford Expedition really shines is in the drivetrain department. It might seem weird to come across that statement since we’re talking about a large SUV that’s powered by a small (at least compared to the competition) 3.5-liter V-6, but this “little” engine pumps out 400 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque, putting it ahead of both the Armada and the Tahoe. Even better yet, the Expedition can haul more weight with a capacity of 9,200 pounds and gets the best fuel economy out of the bunch with up to 17 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined. Pricing for the Expedition starts out at $49,995 while the range-topping Platinum trim starts at $73,775.

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Nissan Armada vs Ford Expedition
Nissan Armada Ford Expedition
Engine 5.6L V8 3.5-Liter V-6
Fuel Gasoline Gasoline
Horsepower 400 hp @ 5,800 RPM 400 HP
Torque 413 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM 480 LB-FT
Transmission 7-speed automatic 10AT
Drive RWD \ AWD RWD \ AWD
Towing Capacity 8,500 lbs 9,200 LBS
Fuel Economy 13/18/15
Curb Weight 5,792 5,794 LBS
Fuel Capacity 26.0 gallons 30.0 Gallons

Read our full review on the Ford Expedition

Final Thoughts

2021 Nissan Armada - Driven Exterior
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Is the Nissan Armada a strong competitor in such a demanding and saturated market? Well, it isn’t the worst model out there. The exterior design seems a bit dated in general, but the recent facelift for 2021 should keep the Armada interesting enough for it to stay alive until the third-gen model makes its debut. One would assume that it’s not as easy to bring a full-size body-on-frame SUV to the American market riding on top of Japanese underpinnings, but Nissan manages to pull it of fairly well. If Nissan can hone the next-gen’s exterior design to get rid of the old-style boxy design to make way for something a little more modern and up its tech game, the Armada could be a very strong competitor come 2024 or 2025. Until then, we’re sure the Armada will soldier on as it has as a solid alternative for anyone that doesn’t want a Ford or Chevy.

Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
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