On Sale: Fall 2003
Expected Pricing: $28,500-$35,000
Nissan is introducing a full-size sport-utility vehicle this fall called the Pathfinder Armada. The 2004 Nissan Pathfinder Armada is big. It's longer than a Ford Expedition, longer than a Toyota Sequoia, and much longer than a Chevy Tahoe.
Don't let the "Pathfinder" part of the name fool you. Nissan's full-size Pathfinder Armada has nothing to do with its mid-size Pathfinder. Pathfinder Armada is two feet longer and more than half a foot wider than Pathfinder. Nissan added the "Pathfinder" part simply because many people have heard of the Pathfinder. We think this is confusing. "Armada" is the key part of the name and we'll use it for shorthand.
An armada is a large moving force, and that description certainly fits the Pathfinder Armada. This big Nissan rides on a 123.2-inch wheelbase, significantly longer than that of Sequoia, Expedition, and Tahoe, though not quite as long as the Suburban.
Armada is based on Nissan's upcoming full-size pickup called the Titan. Nissan makes no bones about the size of this truck, calling it "a full-size SUV for a full-size life." Nissan's design team emphasized Armada's bulk by duplicating the Titan forward of the A-pillar. Armada has Titan's pontoon fender flares, bulging powerdome hood, and Buck Rogers multifaceted headlamps. It mirrors the Titan's chromed bumper center section, but the brawny grille will be body-colored rather than chrome on some models.
Armada's roofline differs from the Titan's, and not just because it doesn't stop for a pickup bed. The SUV's greenhouse has a definite car-like arch over the doors, tapering slightly before leveling off. Old-timers will remember Rambler station wagons from the Fifties doing the same thing. It's something of an optical illusion with the Armada, however, as the rear section of roof is convex, so that in the center, the roof is the same height for its full length.
Like a true truck, the Armada body rides on a separate frame, fully boxed for strength. However, Nissan opted for a smooth-riding double-wishbone rear suspension for the Armada in place of the Titan's leaf-spring rear suspension designed for heavy pickup-truck loads. Many SUVs use live rear axles, which ride harder than an independent rear suspension like the Armada's. Armada comes standard with 18-inch wheels. Shorter, firmer sidewalls on larger diameter wheels like these typically provide better cornering feel.
Armada and Titan are powered by Nissan's new 5.6-liter double overhead cam 32-valve V8. The exact numbers aren't in yet, but Nissan assures us that the engine will be rated at more than 300 horsepower at about 4900 rpm, with torque in excess of 375 pounds-feet at about 3200 rpm.
The standard transmission will be a five-speed automatic, which is preferable to a traditional four-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available. Four-wheel-drive models have a two-speed transfer case that includes an Auto 4x4 mode. Armada boasts a 9,100-pound tow rating; a special low first-gear crawl ratio comes with the Big Tow and Off-Road SE packages.
Inside, look for three rows of seats with some of the best legroom you'll find in a full-size SUV. As usual, third-row seating, with safety belts for three, is best left for kids because there's minimal legroom and it's a clamber to get in. Don't worry, the kids will love it, and the Armada does come standard with side curtain airbags for all three rows of seats. Side curtain airbags have been proven to provide significant protection in side-impact collisions and rollovers. The second row is contoured for two passengers. Second-row captain's chairs are also available. Regardless, all seating positions have three-point belts for all rows.
The best seats in the house, wide comfy chairs, belong to the driver and front passenger. Adjustable pedals allow drivers of all statures to have a customized driving position. The front passenger seat folds flat allowing long cargo, up to 11 feet, to be carried inside.
Armada's interior has a masculine, hard-edged look, with large knobs and buttons. The dash will look familiar to anyone who's seen a Titan. The Armada gets it virtually intact, from the raised center stack topped by the navigation screen to the instrument panel. Even the three-spoke steering wheel is the same.
Pathfinder Armada will be offered in three versions: the well-equipped base version, the SE, and the LE. The SE Off-Road comes in two-wheel or four-wheel drive, with special shock absorbers, all-terrain tires on special 17-inch wheels, skid plates, and fog lights. LE comes with a chrome grille, second-row bucket seats and leather-trimmed seats. Options include Bose audio, sunroof and a ceiling-mounted DVD system for passengers in the rear cabin.
The Nissan Pathfinder Armada will turn a lot of heads when it sails into dealerships this fall. There will be no cheapie versions, every one loaded for bear with a powerful engine, strong and comfortable chassis, and lots of accoutrements even in the standard version. The Armada reckons to be one of the big guns in the big SUV field.
Despite the trend to smaller SUVs, car platform SUVs and crossover sorta-SUVs, sometimes nothing less than a full-size sport-utility will do. After all, Chevrolet hasn't been building the Suburban all these years for nothing. There are boat trailers and horse trailers to be towed and eight-up cargo-on-the-rooftop journeys to be taken. Nissan's entry into this competitive but lucrative market with a full-size SUV is big news.
The pricing on these is looking really attractive, especially when you consider the price of the Murano and the new Quest. I may have to try and get one of these for the Wife when it is time to replace the van. My only concern would be the fuel economy. I know that 5.6L is going to suck down the gas.
The Armada does look great and should provide an excellent alternative in the full size SUV market.
Big, but still a sexy truck. Love that interior and radio/climate console.
Also love the "tough" look of it. Beefy but still supple in all the right areas. Should be a hit with the full-size crowd when it debuts. I know I'll at least test drive one, just to play around with it
Depends on where you live for me live in san diego
and when you have a boat and you want to goto the
colorado river or lake powell ill take my 350 powerstroke
diesel any day and tow at 70+ w/ac blastin all the way
shure its a ford but its plenty big enough for me the wife
and 3 kids and it will pull ANYTHING ANYWHERE and that
I think you hit the nail on the head talking about towing, kids, etc., because for cruising around, MO is perfect for me. If I had a boat... If I had a lot of passengers... If I ran construction sites, I'd be looking at Armada.
I think those that are interested in it are already in the 4Runner and better class of vehicle needs.
Person at work wants one: he has 4 kids, cottage, probably a boat, money to burn...
I have to try to get him to visit "my" Nissan dealer.
Nissan's Pathfinder Armada drives good but looks bad
YOUNTVILLE, Calif. — First is important. First dance, first car, first marriage. Will I trip? Will I crash? Will it last?
So figure how jumpy Nissan must be as it approaches the launch of the company's first full-size U.S. sport-utility vehicle, the 2004 Pathfinder Armada.
On sale Monday, it's meant to make Nissan a full-line brand — the "something-for-everyone" approach Detroit makers use to rake in millions of customers and billions of dollars a year.
Nissan, well on the mend just three years after Renault bought control and sent Carlos Ghosn to run the company, nonetheless bemoans losing tens of thousands of buyers a year for lack of a big SUV.
The answer, Nissan fervently hopes, is a big SUV that has enough styling differences to make it more than "a box on wheels" and thorough-going off-road credentials. Armada is supposed to be for the adventuresome family that not only drives to the Grand Canyon for the vacation view, but also rafts down the Colorado River once there.
Nissan insists, by the way, that the proper name is Pathfinder Armada, but the new truck has zero connection to the smaller Pathfinder, other than the name. Pathfinder's been popular even in its old age, and Nissan wants that to rub off on the new truck.
After a couple of hundred miles on Napa Valley two-lanes around here in pre-production versions of the truck, plus a couple of weeks in normal duty back home in Virginia, Armada proved itself a truck that drives good, looks bad and has some dumb moments.
•Drives good. Armada uses the same powertrain — engine and transmission — that Nissan's also using for the full-size Titan pickup, on sale Dec. 1. In Armada, the engine has the same 305 horsepower as in the Titan but is rated 385 pounds-feet of torque instead of 379 in Titan due to slight differences in exhaust and intake hardware, Nissan says.
The power is sufficient to haul the mail in dandy fashion, even in a 5,300-pound machine. The five-speed automatic seems to shift just right to keep the engine — and the driver — happy. Armada lacks Titan's throaty exhaust, though. Nissan figured SUV buyers prefer less of that. The result is a somewhat coarse engine sound when accelerating hard. Not bad, just not as pleasant as Titan's aural signature.
Independent rear suspension (IRS), instead of a solid rear axle, improves the handling and steering, but the ride remains somewhat stiff and jiggly.
Nissan's also succeeded — as in Titan — in its quest to make a big truck drive small. The relatively tight turning circle is a big help — 41.3 feet, curb to curb, smaller than that of some family cars. You don't cower in tight parking lots or fear skinny clearances because Armada's steering response and low-speed dynamics emphasize agility and minimize feelings of cumbersome size and weight. General Motors does that well, too, and Nissan acknowledges studying GM's techniques. The laws of physics remain in effect, of course. Armada's some 17 feet long and more than 2.5 tons, so it won't fit everywhere you'd like to put it.
•Looks bad. Granted, reasonable people often disagree on matters of taste. Even so, Armada's front looks big and clunky, not unlike other Nissan trucks. Forgivable on Titan, a toughie by intent, it seems an affectation on what is, after all, a family wagon.
An artificial arc in the roofline is supposed to eliminate the boxy look. Instead, it seems more like the roof mistakenly droops over the back door's awkward, reverse-slant pillar. The backward slant of that pillar and the way the roof arcs into it constitute a visual anchor, as if the back is trying to dig in and stop the truck while the front is all for charging ahead.
The backward slant is reminiscent of the 1963 Mercury Breezeway roof. Ugly then, ugly now.
•Dumb moments. Rear door handles are vertical, not the normal horizontal, and high on the back door pillar. The alignment is a signature on Nissan's smaller Pathfinder but is awkward to use and too high for kids to reach on the taller Armada.
The DVD player for the rear-seat video system is in the front console. The people in back have to depend on front-seat occupants to swap discs.
Second-row seat lacks a Ford-style sliding center section to keep a child close to parents in front.
The climate control can't find a happy spot. Almost magically, it manages to be too hot or too cool. And the fan is unusually noisy, even on the lowest speed.
Still, Armada feels good to drive, and that's a key attribute. It's also roomy, and access to the third-row seat is pretty good — no scrambling over part-folded second-row seats. And that third row folds flat forward, out of the way for boosting cargo space.
As well, Armada appears to have adequate off-road clearance and equipment for bold SUV users.
At heart, it seems a good package, but there are many such. And Armada's oddball styling, goofball placement of things and some lack of refinement keep it from being a knockout.
2004 Nissan Pathfinder Armada
•What is it? Full-size sport-utility vehicle, Nissan's first. Traditional body-on-frame construction; built at Canton, Miss., and available with rear-wheel (4x2) or four-wheel (4x4) drive. Three rows of seats configured for seven or eight passengers.
•How soon? On sale Monday.
•How much? Base SE 4x2 starts at $33,950 including $650 destination charge. SE 4x4 starts at $36,750. High-end LE 4x2 starts at $38,450; LE 4x4 at $40,600. Edmunds.com predicts they'll sell at full sticker price the first two months or so, then be discounted as dealer inventories rise.
•What's the powertrain? 5.6-liter V-8 engine rated 305 horsepower at 4,900 rpm, 385 pounds-feet of torque at 3,600; with five-speed automatic transmission and anti-skid control.
Four-wheel-drive system has part-time and full-time settings, plus 4x4 low-range and 4x2.
•What's the safety gear? Normal bags and belts, plus ceiling-mounted head- and rollover-protection air bags for all three rows of seats; anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution; and tire-pressure monitor.
•What's the rest? SE model includes these standard features: automatic climate control; AM/FM/6-CD stereo; power steering, brakes, windows, locks, mirrors; cruise control; remote-control locks; auto-dimming inside rearview mirror; power-adjustable pedals; auto on/off headlights; P265/70R-18 tires on alloy wheels, full-size spare.
LE adds or substitutes leather upholstery; heated front seats; front-seat, side-impact air bags; memory settings for power-adjustable accessories; second-row captain's chairs; Bose audio system; fog lights; transmission temperature gauge; and compass and thermometer display on rearview mirror.
•Who'll buy? Family men (often as not encouraged by their wives to make the purchase), late-30s to early-40s with annual household incomes $80,000 to $110,000.
•How many? Nissan plans 40,000 a year, hopes for 50,000.
•How big? About even with a Ford Expedition outside, generally a bit smaller inside. Armada is 206.9 inches long, 78.8 inches wide, 76.7 inches tall (including roof rack), on a 123.2-inch wheelbase. Cargo space is listed as 20 cubic feet behind the third-row seat, 56.7 with third row folded, 97.1 with second and third rows folded.
Weight is listed as 5,013 to 5,328 pounds, depending on model. Rated to carry 1,263 to 1,393 pounds of people, cargo, accessories, depending on model. Rated to tow up to 9,100 pounds.
•How thirsty? Two-wheel drive is rated 13 miles per gallon in town, 19 on the highway. Four-wheel drive is rated 13/18 mpg. Regular fuel is specified.
•Overall: A strong effort hurt by peculiar styling and some curious decisions about where things are placed.
(08:30 Sep. 29, 2003)
2004 Nissan Pathfinder Armada
By THE EDITORS OF AUTOWEEK
DATE IN FLEET: July 22-Aug. 1
AS-TESTED PRICE: $35,000 (est.)
POWERTRAIN: 5.6-liter V8; 4wd, five-speed automatic HP: 305 @ 4900 rpm TORQUE: 385 @ 3600 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 5328 pounds
FLOYD: If this is priced anywhere near the Big Three offerings, then the domestics are in trouble. This is the best seven-passenger SUV I’ve driven, inside and out. It strikes a mighty pose; the front end looks as though a winch should be attached. Entering the cockpit, you’re immediately struck by the excellent design work in the dash; the center console looks modern but not too far out, and there is copious storage above and between the seats. The third row may actually fit adults. On the road, it handles as well as any vehicle this size. It is balanced and has that planted-to-the-road feel, with good brakes and strong acceleration. But if you hit a rut, the front end slams pretty hard. I also noticed weird wind buffeting. That aside, it’s one solid SUV with enough hip attitude to make a dent in the seven-passenger market.
MANDEL: This is a bigmuthatruck, and you’ve got to hand it to the Nissan people: They’ve continued on their merry product way, building vehicles that are polarizing visually and that are functionally tremendous. You either love or hate the looks of the Armada, but it does get the looks. A guy in a local shopping center parking lot came over to the parked truck. He was a big man—bigger than me physically—maybe six-foot-six and easily 300 pounds. Says he has an S500 and likes it for the rear legroom. Doesn’t want a Suburban, but it looks like that’s going to be his next ride. He climbed in the Armada and smiled at the seating position. I told him that without pulling the front seat forward that he could get in the rear. Dang! If he didn’t just go ahead and climb in and find all kinds of space around him. That impressed him. I told him about the power—the 5.6-liter V8 and that it was strong, but not as smooth as the Toyota. He said something funny and appropriate: Sometimes you don’t want it smooth. You want the grunt. You want to feel as though you’ve got the power. Even I couldn’t argue with that. And I certainly wasn’t going to argue with him.