Concept Drive: 2018 Nissan Armada “Mountain Patrol”
Concept Trail Ride
We’ve all seen them before: the flashy concept vehicles that manufacturers bolt the latest and greatest onto and parade around on the show circuit like a champion show pony. The sad truth is most of these vehicles don’t actually work. The crazy modifications are horribly impractical and render the subject that they are affixed to utterly useless. Thankfully, the folks at Nissan have taken a different approach with their more off-road–oriented concepts: They actually work.
Like the Project Basecamp Titan XD that came before it, the Armada Mountain Patrol concept is built as a functional display of what can be accomplished with a properly outfitted rig. Making its debut at Overland Expo West, the Mountain Patrol is built on the ’18 Armada’s rugged and capable platform (which is shared globally with the Nissan Patrol—get it?—Mountain Patrol) with parts that were chosen by Nissan’s vast social media following. Modifications were made to the suspension, exhaust, lighting, storage, protection, and recovery systems.
The suspension was lifted 6 inches with a kit from Calmini, and the company also supplied bumpers and rock sliders. Front coilover shocks from ICON keep the ride under control, and 35-inch Nitto Trail Grappler tires provide traction and are wrapped around ICON’s Rebound wheels. A Rhino Rack Backbone system is affixed to the roof, with a CVT rooftop tent and Batwing sunshade. The rack also houses a shovel, Hi-Lift jack, and a slew of XL80 LED lights from Baja Designs. On the front bumper is a Warn Zeon Platinum 12S recovery winch and a pair of Baja Designs LP9 lights. Inside, the seats are covered by Katzkin leather, and an ARB fridge keeps beverages frosty. A drawer system from ARB stores recovery gear, navigation is from League, and communications by Rugged Radios. The crew behind Mountain Patrol was thoughtful in all their modifications, as each one serves a specific purpose with nothing done in vain.
To prove its trail-worthiness Nissan invited us out to the beautiful trails of Sedona, Arizona, in advance of the Overland Expo to take the Mountain Patrol out for a quick trail ride. And by “quick,” they meant all day, because this concept is more than just a pretty face. We traversed graded dirt roads, rutted two-track, loose shale rock, steep climbs, and just about everything else short of actual boulder crawling.
With a tall stance and front sway bar disconnected, the Armada had a fair amount of lean coming in hot on sharp corners, but it quickly took a set and powered through like it was on rails. Once we got used to the feeling and its unique mannerisms, we were able to really push it hard. On flat trails and over small undulations, the ICON coilovers soaked up the bumps nicely, while the rear factory air suspension was very compliant as well. Crawling up ledges, the portly SUV flexed about as well as can be expected from a vehicle with independent suspensions front and rear and never met a challenge it couldn’t conquer. We noticed no tire rubbing, and even suspect with a bit of trimming that a 37-inch tire would clear.
Armada’s 5.6L Endurance V-8 churns out 390 hp, which was more than enough to rocket the SUV around even without changing the axle gearing. By the end of the day, it had some new rattles, but we quickly found a loose Hi-Lift jack to be the main culprit, which anyone with experience with Hi-Lifts will know all too well. We wish we could have driven some trail at night to see the glory of the Baja Designs lighting, but alas our handlers were in a hurry to get the “Mountain Patrol and us” back in time for dinner.
Over the course of about 10 hours, we covered nearly 200 miles of dirt in a concept vehicle that was just finished days before. It was a testament to the hard-working crew the built it and the minds at Nissan that envisioned a concept vehicle that not only drives but also excels at its intention. We had a ton of fun and hated to hand the keys back over. Thankfully, much like Basecamp, we suspect this one will stick around for a while and that this won’t be our last experience basking in its opulence.