Pathfinder Armada

February 29, 2004
Filed under Trailer Reviews

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The market for full-size SUVs just became a bit more crowded with the introduction of
Nissan’s all-new Pathfinder Armada. With a maximum 9,100-pound tow rating, the Pathfinder
Armada will hold its own from a capacity standpoint. How it stands up in other areas
remains to be seen, but Nissan has made a mighty effort. Nissan reminded us that the
Pathfinder part of the name was important, although somewhat confusing since the new
vehicle bears virtually no resemblance to the original Pathfinder; for brevity’s sake,
we’ll just call it the Armada. The new Nissan is based on the same platform as the Titan
full-size pickup featured in the October 2003 issue. That means it shares much of the same
chassis, running gear and powertrain as the Titan, but from there up, the Armada is
all-new. The vehicle is manufactured by Nissan North America Manufacturing in Canton,
Mississippi. Visual Appeal, Interior Details It would be hard to claim the
Armada uses derivative styling. While body details and cues bring to mind other vehicles in
the Nissan family line, it doesn’t look anything like any other full-size SUV on the road.
There’s just one four-door, rear-liftgate body configuration available, but two-wheel-drive
(2WD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) versions are available. Base-model SE and upscale LE trim
levels are standard, but describing the SE as “base” doesn’t do it justice because it, too,
is loaded. Interior seating arrangements allow as many as eight passengers in the SE
configuration with dual buckets up front and second- and third-row bench seats. Optional
second-row buckets are also available, standard in LE models. All rear seats fold down for
cargo hauling, as usual, but the front passenger seat also collapses flat forward to allow
carrying really long objects, such as stepladders. The dash and front-seat area is totally
contemporary and stylish and includes all the top-end features you’d expect in a full-pop
SUV. A full-length overhead console can be fitted with an optional fold-down DVD player,
and an optional satellite-based navigation system with a 7-inch LCD screen is part of the
dash array. The standard entertainment center includes a Bose 10-speaker audio system with
dual-media capability that allows use of the CD player and the radio at the same time, with
headphones used to hear the second audio source. Of course, the cupholder-quantity
challenge continues, and Nissan’s total stands at as many as 14 holders in the Armada,
depending on the particular seating arrangement. Safety Occupant safety is
high on the Armada’s feature list, starting with zone body construction with front and rear
shock-absorbing crushable areas. Dual-stage front air bags include seat-belt sensors and a
front-seat occupant sensor for adjusting the air-bag pressure to accommodate the person’s
weight. All seating rows have standard side-curtain supplemental air bags for side-impact
and rollover protection, and for front-seat occupants, there’s also an optional
seat-mounted side-impact air bag. In addition, the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) works with
the anti-lock braking system (ABS) to avoid wheel slip, and a tire-pressure monitoring
system (TPMS) has a warning lamp and a warning display. Powertrain
Although based on the same chassis platform as the Titan pickup, the Armada has slightly
different engine ratings. Its Endurance 5.6-liter V-8, the only available power plant, is
rated for 305 hp at 4,900 rpm and 385 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm – figures that should
catch the fancy of trailer-towing individuals. Backing the engine is the sole transmission
offering, a five-speed automatic with a modest 0.83:1 overdrive fifth gear. A tow/haul mode
switch is standard, and alters the shift points for better towing performance and improved
fuel efficiency. The electronically shifted transfer case in the 4WD models features high
and low ranges and full-time 4WD capability when shifted to 4WD, in addition to a 2WD
setting for dry-pavement operation. Independent front-and-rear suspension with coil springs
is standard, as are four-wheel disc brakes with Bosch ABS, Electronic Brake Force
Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). Power rack-and-pinion steering is standard, and
there’s an optional rear air-ride leveling system. The frame is fully boxed steel with
enhanced crash performance, greater durability and stiffness. As of the time of this
writng, the Armada pricing starts at $33,300 for a 2WD SE, $36,450 for a 2WD SE Off-Road
model, and $37,800 for the more luxurious 2WD LE. For the 4WD equivalents, add $2,000.
On the Road Our first drive in the Armada was brief and involved no
towing, but we were duly impressed with its performance. A quiet ride, tight handling, a
firm suspension that absorbed the bumps and generally comfortable seating were highlights.
The engine responds well to the throttle, and the transmission shifts with a silky-smooth
effect, yet it feels solid and substantial. We look forward to lashing it to a trailer to
see how it performs when it really matters. Stay tuned.

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