2012 Nissan Armada Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 1, 2010

Like this Review

2012 Nissan Armada Buying Advice

The 2012 Nissan Armada is the best SUV for you if size matters and you need a truly large and powerful truck to tote a big family, haul a sizeable load, or tow a heavy trailer.

The 2012 Nissan Armada should continue with only modest changes as the automaker’s largest and boldest-looking SUV. As before, the 2012 Armada will offer seven- or eight-passenger seating, be mechanically based on the Nissan Titan full-size pickup truck, and come in a posher and more gracefully styled version from the automaker’s luxury division as the Infiniti QX56. Armada was last redesigned for model-year 2008, but in light of reduced demand for full-size SUVs in general -- and Armada in particular -- it won’t see a major update for some time as Nissan allots design resources to more-profitable model lines.

Should you wait for the 2012 Nissan Armada or buy a 2011 Nissan Armada? Buy the 2011 version. Little of substance is expected to change for the 2012 Armada and cash rebates on 2011 models should remain generous. If Armada sales happen to rise along with the rest of the industry, or production gets cut significantly, incentives could be curbed.

2012 Nissan Armada Changes back to top

Styling: Aside from perhaps some added exterior colors or trim, the 2012 Nissan Armada is expected to carry over unchanged. It’ll likely repeat in base SV, better-equipped SL, and top-of-the-line Titanium trim levels.

“Armada” is a nautical term meaning “a large fleet of ships.” While not a fleet onto itself, Nissan’s Armada is certainly as large as a boat, with a 123-inch wheelbase and an overall length just over 17 feet. It received a redesign for 2008, though this was more evolutionary than revolutionary, highlighted by a few nominal styling updates and assorted added features. It has thus continued as same basic truck that debuted for model-year 2004 as the Pathfinder Armada.

This means the 2012 Nissan Armada will almost certainly carry over a wide chrome grille up front and a generally blocky exterior that’s accentuated by muscular fender flares. A roundish roofline over the front and rear doors abruptly turns horizontal for the back third of the vehicle, leading to a tall, wide liftgate. Two-piece body-color side moldings with chrome insert strips will likely continue on all but base models.

The 2012 Nissan Armada’s interior will continue with few changes. Armada will retain its roomy and comfortable cabin, with a burly looking gated floor shifter for the standard automatic transmission and as many as 14 cupholders and four 12-volt power outlets. The front passenger seat back folds to provide a large, flat surface for those who do office-type work out of their vehicles. Nissan probably will keep the eight-passenger configuration standard; it uses second- and third-row split-fold bench seats. Second-row passenger room is particularly generous and the third-row is elevated a bit to afford better outward visibility for rearmost riders. That third row is actually roomy enough to accommodate all but the tallest adults. A seven-passenger configuration that comes with second-row captain’s chairs and a removable console will likely continue as an option exclusive to the 2012 Armada Platinum version.

As before, the second- and third-row seats will fold flat into the floor to expand the Armada’s cargo carrying abilities. There’s 20 cubic feet of space with all rows in place, 56.7 with the third row folded, and a cavernous 97.1 cubic feet with the second and third rows down. Nissan will probably again make the convenience of a power-folding third-row seat standard on every 2012 Armada except the entry-level two-wheel-drive SV model.

There’s little Nissan can do about this truck’s tall step-in height that: even with the standard running boards, it can be a challenge for shorter passengers to climb aboard. The liftgate is heavy and the height-challenged tend to find it difficult to reach when it’s full open. Only the top-line a Platinum model has come with the convenience of a power liftgate; Nissan would be kind to  expand that for the 2012 Armada.

Mechanical: The 2012 Nissan Armada’s basic structure and powertrain won’t change. The very definition of a traditional body-on-frame SUV, this big SUV’s body will continue to be bolted and bonded to a fully boxed frame based on that used for the 2012 Nissan Titan pickup. This construction is in contrast to the car-type “unibody” design used by crossover SUVs, such as the Toyota Highlander in which body and frame are a single unit. Crossovers save weight to benefit handling and fuel economy, but aren’t as suited as body-on-frame SUVs to heavy-duty towing, hauling, and off-road abuse.

The 2012 Armada will also continue to share with the Titan Nissan’s 5.6-liter “Endurance” V-8 engine rated at 317 horsepower and a healthy 385 pound-feet of torque. Torque is the key ingredient in acceleration, and is especially important for towing. Armada gets away from a stop with authority and can pull a trailer weighing 9,000 pounds with the optional towing equipment package. This V-8 has flex-fuel capability, which means it can run on either straight gasoline or any mix of E85 ethanol, which is a blend of 85 percent alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. However, gas stations with E85 are still rare in many areas, and flex-fuel engines get about 35 percent less fuel economy running on the gas/ethanol blend. The 2012 Nissan Armada will continue with a five-speed automatic as its only transmission; it includes a tow/haul mode to adjust its shift patterns when carrying or pulling heavy loads.

The 2012 Nissan Armada will remain equipped with speed-sensitive power steering. And in a departure from the old-school rigid rear axle and leaf springs of the Titan, it’s among the relatively body-on-frame SUVs with an independent rear suspension. However, there’s no disguising its bulk as you round sharp curves or navigate tight urban areas. The 2012 Armada SL and Platinum models will continue with a standard automatic self-leveling rear air suspension that helps the truck maintain a level ride while towing or when carrying a full load of passengers and/or cargo. Standard four-wheel disc brakes with antilock control, electronic brakeforce distribution, and brake assist will continue to stop the Armada rather quickly and efficiently. Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control antiskid system will remain standard and is designed to help prevent this model’s massive rear end from fishtailing during extreme or emergency handling maneuvers.

Two-wheel drive (2wd) will remain standard across the 2012 Armada model line with four-wheel drive (4wd) optional. In this case, 2wd means rear-wheel drive and 4wd means a system the driver can switch via a dashboard dial from 2wd into a 4wd Auto mode that can be left engaged on dry pavement. The system also includes 4wd-low-range gearing for off roading. In 4wd Auto, the system automatically distributes power to all four wheels when conditions warrant, with a maximum 50/50 front-to-rear split. Nissan says this adds slippery, snowy, or off-road traction and improves on-road cornering.

Wheel and tire sizes are unlikely to change. The 2012 Nissan Armada SV and SL should again ride on 18-inch alloys with 20-inch alloys optional on the SL and chrome 20s standard on the 2012 Armada Platinum version.

Features: The 2012 Nissan Armada will continue to come decently equipped, though it won’t be as plush as its luxury-oriented equivalent, the Infiniti QX56. Equipment levels aren’t expected to change, which means all the expected features will come standard, including power windows with front auto-up/down, power locks with remote keyless entry, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel.

Also included on the 2012 Armada will be side-curtain bags for all three seating rows that protect outboard riders’ heads in side collisions; they’ll also deploy if sensors detect an impending rollover. The 2012 Armada SL will again substitute leather upholstery for the SV’s cloth, and also include a keyless entry/push-button start system, rear backup monitor for safer and easier parking, a Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone interface, an upgraded 11-speaker audio system, and the aforementioned power folding third row seat.

The 2012 Nissan Armada Platinum model will again expand the SL’s standard-equipment list to include such features as heated front seats and steering wheel, a power liftgate, moonroof, and rear DVD entertainment system. It’ll also come with a GPS navigation system that includes a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for digital music storage and the subscription-based XM NavTraffic system that provides real-time traffic information. Most factory options will continue to be included only in packages, depending on the trim level.

2012 Nissan Armada Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Nissan Armada had not been released in time for this review but should remain at or near 2011 levels.

Expect 2012 Nissan Armada SV prices to start around $39,000 with 2wd and $44,000 with 4wd. (Prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2011 Armada was $950.)

Estimated base price for the 2012 Armada SL is $44,000 with 2wd and $46,500 with 4wd. The 2012 Armada Platinum model should carry base prices of nearly $51,000 with 2wd and $54,000 with 4wd.

Option package prices should remain stable for the 2012 Nissan Armada. Expect to pay about $2,500 on the base SV model for a package that contains Bluetooth, fog lights, a backup monitor, Bose audio system with XM satellite radio, and a power-folding 3rd row seat. A power moonroof should cost around $1,600 on the SL, while a Captain’s Seat Package on the Platinum version should run about $450.

2012 Nissan Armada Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage estimates for 2012 models had not been released in time for this review but 2012 Nissan Armada fuel-economy ratings are expected to remain the same as 2011 figures. As expected for a vehicle of this size, weight, power, and capability, they’re not pretty.

Expect the 2012 Nissan Armada to rate 13/19 mpg city/highway with 2wd and 12/18 with 4wd. These ratings are below par even by big-SUV standards. Low fuel economy and high gas costs are among the reasons buyers have steadily deserted the full-size SUV segment since its glory days back when gasoline was under $2.00 a gallon. Those buyers have since switched to seven-passenger crossovers for better fuel economy and more car-like road manners, albeit with smaller engines and reduced towing capacities.

2012 Nissan Armada Release Date back to top

The 2012 Nissan Armada will likely go on sale in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Nissan Armada back to top

Discussion has circulated since the big-SUV market began its precipitous decline whether or not Nissan would bring back the Armada for another generation or just let it run its course and fade away, especially in the wake of stricter fuel economy regulations that in place for model-year 2016. There was talk that the next generation Nissan Titan truck that forms the basis for the Armada would share its architecture with the Dodge Ram, though those plans have since been scuttled. Nissan will reportedly redesign the Titan pickup on its own, likely in early 2014 as a model-year 2015 entry. Assuming a redesigned Armada also is part of Nissan’s future product plan the big SUV likely would continue on the corporate truck platform and should follow the Titan’s makeover, perhaps for a model-year 2015 debut. Interestingly, the third Nissan product to share this body-on-frame design, the Pathfinder midsize SUV, will be redesigned as a car-based crossover for model-year 2013.

Given the constraints of the coming fuel economy regulations, the next-generation Armada could become a slightly smaller and considerably lighter vehicle, though it will probably continue to come with three rows of seats.

We could see a new V-6 engine become standard and leverage technology such as variable valve timing and direct fuel injection to maximize horsepower and fuel economy, albeit with a lower base tow rating. A turbocharged V-6 is within the range of possibility. Assuming a V-8 is still offered for heavy-duty applications, it could be limited to a top model to help Nissan limit and manage its allocation for corporate average fuel economy purposes. A six-speed automatic transmission will no doubt become standard across the line for both smoother and more fuel-efficient operation.

The next-generation Armada would continue with rear- and four-wheel-drive and the line will likely see many high-tech gizmos migrate over from other Nissan models, including lane departure and blind-spot warning systems, multi-angle exterior video monitoring, voice-activated electronics, and more fully integrated portable media connectivity.

2012 Nissan Armada Competition back to top

Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban: Chevy’s full-size SUV duo delivers refined ride and handling, comfortable interiors, and strong V-8 power. Both have three seating rows but the Suburban is essentially a longer version of the Tahoe with additional passenger and cargo room. Most buyers should be satisfied by the standard 320-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 that gets 15/21 mpg. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard across both lines. The Tahoe also comes in a fuel-saving hybrid model, based on a 6.0-liter V-8, that’s rated at a respectable 20/23 mpg. The Tahoe and Suburban’s equivalents at GMC are the Yukon and Yukon XL. The next redesign for these models is set for model-year 2014. Base prices range roughly $38,000-$62,000.

Ford Expedition: Ford’s big SUV is the size of, and drives like, a tank. As is the case with most full-size models, it’s built to withstand the rigors of a large family (or sports team) with three rows of seats, and fulfill the largest towing needs with a 5.4-liter V-8 engine that’s rated at 14/20 mpg. The Expedition EL model is a slightly longer version that adds space for the third-row seat and cargo hold. The Expedition can be fitted with myriad conveniences, including the Sync multimedia hands-free control system. The EL version could be dropped in 2012 or 2013, with a full redesign of the Expedition not likely to happen before model-year 2015. Base prices range from around $36,000-$52,500.

Toyota Sequoia: The only other full-size SUV from a Japanese manufacturer, Sequoia is based on the Toyota Tundra pickup truck. It’s well mannered for such a large vehicle and includes three rows of seating. It offers a choice of a 310-hp 4.7-liter V-8 that’s rated at 14/20 mpg or a 381-horsepower version that affords a 10,000-pound towing capacity, but at only 12/17 mpg. As with the other big SUVs the Sequoia can be loaded up with luxury features. The Tundra upon which it’s based is scheduled for its next update for model-year 2014; assuming the Sequoia continues it will get a makeover shortly thereafter. Base prices range from around $40,000-$60,000.

2012 Nissan Armada Next Steps