Nissan offers early look at ’21 Armada

Even the grille is blacked out on the 2021 Nissan Armada Midnight Edition. (Bud Wells photo)

Nissan unveiled the 2021 version of its full-sized SUV, the Armada, in a 12-minute virtual presentation one morning in December 2020, a month before it was to go on sale.

Twenty minutes after the online showing, a noise in my driveway caught my attention – being parked there was one of the new Armadas brought to me for review.

A wider grille and new logo separate classy LED headlamps, though most prominent on the prototype 4X4 brought my way is a big, strong look from a Midnight Edition black finish. The grille is painted black, there are black exterior logos, black-painted roof rails and black front and rear skid plates.

A 12.3-inch infotainment screen is an interior highlight. (Nissan)

Brightening the interior, which has black leather seats and headliner, is a redesigned center stack with 12.3-inch touchscreen color display featuring Wi-Fi, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and wireless smartphone charging. A 13-speaker Bose audio sound system, around-view monitor and moonroof are among other features.

In the second row are optional captain’s chairs with center console; behind the third row of seats is 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

The 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 engine has been boosted to 400 horsepower and 413 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. The SUV is of body-on-frame structure and carries a tow rating of 8,500 pounds, with four-wheel-drive offroad capability, plus smooth highway performance. It rides on Bridgestone Dueler P235/60R20 tires.

With Jan, Dale and Sandy Wells as passengers, I drove it up north to the Terry Bison Ranch near the Colorado/Wyoming border.

The easy drive along I25 and back paid off with a fuel-mileage reading of 18.5 miles per gallon, best I’ve ever posted with an Armada. The last two I reviewed averaged 16.9 in 2018 and 15.7 in ’17. Still, the ’21 doesn’t yet measure up to mpg claims of Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon.

Among standard safety technologies are lane intervention, intelligent forward collision warning and blind-spot intervention.

It retains its large presence on a wheelbase of 121 inches, overall length of 209 and curb weight barely beneath 6,000 pounds. It stands almost 80 inches in height.

The new model is to be offered in SV, SL and Platinum trims. Nissan officials declined to estimate price levels for the three. Based on the previous-model pricing, the SV with 4X4 might fall in the $50,000 range, the SL 4X4 around $55,000 and the Platinum $60,000 and more. The Midnight Edition package on the Armada SL review trim could range toward $60,000.

Nissan introduced the Armada to the U.S. in 2003 as an ’04 model to compete against the Toyota Sequoia, which had reached our shores three years earlier. The two full-sizers battle for market share with the GMC Yukon, Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition. All five boast strong engines and offroad capability.