Test Drive: Nissan Armada lives up to name

Some car names make sense; some don't. The Nissan Armada is one example of a car whose name perfectly reflects its size, shape and purpose.

The Armada is a big, burly, rugged sport-utility vehicle. The numbers tell the tale of this car's capabilities. Weight? Almost three tons. Ground clearance? A little more than 9 inches. Maximum towing capacity? Eight thousand five hundred pounds. Fuel capacity? Twenty-six gallons. Cargo capacity? About 95 cubic feet, with the second- and third-row seats lowered. Horsepower? The Armada's V-8 engine is rated at 390 horsepower, with 394 pound-feet of torque. Passenger room? Seven or eight people, depending on whether the car is equipped with a bench seat in the second row or two captain's chairs, as our 2018 Armada Platinum was. The first and second rows have ample room for adults.

One set of numbers isn't very big: fuel economy. The Armada is rated at 13 mpg city, 18 highway. On the plus side, the gasoline it guzzles is regular unleaded.

Our Hermosa Blue Armada was priced at $63,545 with just two options — the captain's chairs in the second row, and carpeted floor mats. The base model, with rear-wheel drive (and slightly better fuel economy of 14/19), starts at about $47,000.

The Armada is a near-luxury SUV with a heaping helping of DNA from Nissan's premium SUV, the Infiniti QX80. In Platinum trim, its standard safety features include Intelligent Distance Control, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning with Intelligent Lane intervention, Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention, Intelligent Back-up Intervention, Intelligent Around View Monitor, Intelligent Cruise Control, and Intelligent Rearview Mirror. What does all that “intelligence” mean? Basically, it means the car's safety systems will do more than just warn the driver of a hazard; they'll intervene if need be. For example, the Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention actually will help steer the driver car back into his lane, rather than letting him ignore the warning lights and potentially side-swipe the car next to him.

Such systems make sense in such a large vehicle. However, the Armada's lines of sight generally are pretty good, providing an extra layer of accident avoidance.

While the Armada's climate-control, infotainment and navigation systems closely resemble those of lesser Nissans, the technology is of a high order. How's this for alphabet soup: AM/FM/SXM/CD/MP3, with five USB ports? In addition to a navigation system viewed on an 8-inch screen, the Armada Platinum features Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and text-messaging assistant; Nissan/Connect services; and even a Family Entertainment system with two 8-inch WVGA color displays.

With unexpectedly light steering-wheel touch and a smooth, quiet ride, the Armada delivers reassuring performance on the highway. But the car is too big for easy handling around town. Still, it's close to ideal for people who tow boats or horses, venture off-road occasionally, or live in places where ice and snow are common impediments. Alternatives include the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon, Toyota Sequoia and Ford Expedition.

2018 Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD

Price : $63,545

Engine: 5.6-liter V-8, 390 horsepower, 394 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 7-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: 4-wheel drive with selector switch

Ground clearance: 9.2 in.

Weight: 5,963 lb.

Suspension: 4-wheel independent

Wheels: 20-in. premium machine finished alloy

Tires: 275/60R20 all-season

Seating capacity: 7 (with optional second-row captain's chairs)

Luggage capacity: 16.5 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 95.4 cu. ft.

Maximum towing capacity: 8,500 lb.

Fuel capacity: 26 gal.

Fuel economy: 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.