We covered news earlier this week that the Nissan Armada, now gratuitously on borrowed time, would be revitalized for 2017 and making a comeback as a rebadged Nissan Patrol. Nissan confirmed those earlier rumors on Wednesday night at the Chicago Auto Show, and unveiled a new-for-the-U.S. Armada that many will likely immediately recognize as a Nissan-badged Infiniti QX80, at least from the back.
The American Armada — until now — has been largely left in the dust as corporate neglect took its toll and buyers flocked to seemingly every other model. Its single-digit city fuel economy didn’t help its case (landing it a spot on Consumer Reports’s list of cars to avoid), and largely, there have just been better values for a body-on-frame SUV.
But Nissan’s fortunes in the segment might be about to turn, because the Patrol isn’t just some also-ran on the world stage. It’s the culmination of a Willys Jeep-like history, and stands to make the Armada competitive again for the first time in over a decade.
As we said in our earlier article:
The Patrol isn’t some “me-too” model; it’s a genuine 4×4 pioneer. Introduced in 1951 – the same year as the Land Cruiser – it was a formidable foil to the higher-profile Toyota. While that brand famously based its iconic utility vehicle on the British Range Rover, Nissan opted to go to the source and start with the Jeep as a template. As a result, early Patrols bear more than a passing resemblance to early Jeep CJ models In 1960, the second-generation 60-Series Patrol was incredibly popular in Australia and in less-than hospitable climates, remaining in production for a full 20 years. From 1962 to ’69, the Patrol was sold in the U.S. through Datsun dealers as a Nissan, making it the first Nissan-badged vehicle sold in America.
In the 1980s and ’90s, the Patrol followed the Land Cruiser’s trajectory, evolving into a more civilized four-door model while still retaining its go-anywhere reputation. Today, it’s incredibly popular in the Middle East and Asia, where its unexpected popularity with tuners has led Nissan to release a high-performance Nismo model. No matter what we get it badged as, it isn’t likely we’ll be getting the Nismo.
“The look of the new Armada is instantly recognizable as a Nissan, with its wide V-motion grille and distinctive boomerang-style LED Daytime Running lights,” said Michael Bunce, the vice president of Product Planning for Nissan North America. “In addition, the dark painted overfenders give it an added upscale, two-tone appearance.”
In addition to cribbing the Patrol’s good looks, the new Armada will get a new 390 horsepower, 5.6-liter Endurance V8 and 7-speed automatic transmission as standard. Buyers can choose from SV, SL, or Platinum trim levels, and Nissan’s suite of safety tech is optional.
Like the outgoing model, it’s full body-on-frame, so it’ll handle like a truck — not like a truck pretending to be a car.
“While most SUVs and crossovers have moved to a sedan-like unibody construction, when you want to tackle big adventures with big groups of family and friends, there’s no substitute for a sturdy steel frame,” explained Bunce. “We’ve found that families enter the full-size SUV segment before they fully need one. As their needs grow, Armada has more than enough room and strength to meet both current and future family demands.”
It can tow up to 8,500 pounds, and it sports a 20% increase in twisted body stiffness, helping enhance handling and ride comfort, Nissan said. Platinum models get a standard DVD Family Entertainment System with dual 7.0-inch head restraint DVD monitors, USB ports (two), VTR jacks (two), two wireless headphones, and a remote controller. There’s also a Bose stereo system.
The engine sports 401 pound-feet or torque, up from 385, and its 390 horsepower handily trump the outgoing’s 317. The Endurance V8 will be the unit fitted into Nissan’s new Titan as well, alongside the Cummins 5.0 liter diesel V8.
It’s not the rough-and-tumble Patrol of decades past, but it’s a much better shot at what Americans look for in a large SUV. And for Nissan, it couldn’t have come a day too soon.