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Driven: 2021 Nissan Armada Platinum

Elegant styling and best-in-class features turn the refreshed armada up to 11.

Mar 17, 2021

Shortly after the introduction of the refreshed 2021 Nissan Armada, we were given the opportunity to jump behind the wheel. As these things typically go, our first chance to experience the new model lasted about 36 hours. Being the big fans of Nissan's largest SUV that we are, that just wasn't going to cut it. Thankfully, an opportunity to spend eight days with the luxe family hauler arose, and we quickly jumped on it.

To really test the 2021 Nissan Armada right, we loaded it up with a whole family of fun. This included two adults, two kids with child seats, a monster double stroller, and enough luggage for a week abroad. Afterall, the Armada is less about the single-occupant daily commute and more geared toward big outings with family and friends. Our tester came to us in Platinum trim with the deep Hermosa Blue Pearl exterior paint and quilted Espresso Brown leather interior. At first glance, it was quite a gorgeous vehicle.

Photo 2/20   |   004 2021 Nissan Armada Platinum Driven

We'll spare a lot of the gritty details about what went into the midcycle refresh, but it largely focused on updating the front and rear facia styling, updates to the interior, and a few extra ponies under the hood. Simply put, we love everything that was done. The new exterior styling is bold, while still being classy. And it's not so radical that the vehicle isn't still instantly recognizable as an Armada. The interior updates were thoughtful, with a completely reimagined center stack. And more power is always appreciated.

Right out of the gate, we were reminded of just how comfortable the Armada is. The Zero Gravity seats and quilted leather of the Platinum trim are out of this world. After getting off of a five-hour airplane journey followed by a clapped-out shuttle bus ride, getting to melt into the driver's seat was pure heaven. And it's not just the driver and front passenger; the middle row of captain's chairs is just as wonderful. Even the third row is comfortable for those who choose to sit there, though they don't get the Zero Gravity treatment like those up front. Still, we found every row to be comfortable and got no complaints from the peanut gallery.

Back up front, we really enjoyed the new 12.3-inch color touchscreen infotainment system. The colors were bright, the system was quick and responsive, and it was packed with useful features, including wireless Apple CarPlay. That said, the one issue that we had with the Armada during our time with it involved the infotainment system and CarPlay. At first, we had no issues pairing our phone and using CarPlay. However, on day two, the issues started. The vehicle frequently would not connect to CarPlay (despite pairing with the phone reliably on every startup), and on a few occasions produced no audio whatsoever, regardless of source. And resetting the car (key cycle, doors open, etc.) wouldn't help. The morning after, without explanation, the audio would return. We also eventually figured out how to manually enable CarPlay, which was required about 75 percent of the time. We also had issues with the Armada's wireless charging pad not charging our phone, but we're hesitant to fault the vehicle as it may have just as well been our device that was at fault on this one.

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We put nearly 400 miles on the Armada during our time with it, covering everything from major freeways and toll roads to backcountry two-lanes. No matter the pavement type, the Armada's ride was buttery-smooth, even with the low-profile tires and 22-inch wheels. And the cabin is incredibly quiet and refined, perfect for stress-free highway slogs. That said, we really do wish that Nissan would equip Armada with ProPilot Assist, like so many other vehicles in the lineup offer. New 2021 Armadas all come standard with Intelligent Cruise Control, but we struggled to get it to activate during our test. Maybe it was us, maybe it was the vehicle, but one of us wasn't being intelligent.

Speaking of highway driving, we really enjoyed the 5.6L V-8 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission. The small bump to 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque is appreciated when there's slower traffic that needs passing. It does come at a cost, however; to make this power, the engine requires premium fuel. If you're not in the mood to pay for premium, it'll still make 390 hp on regular. And, speaking of fuel, the 2021 Armada enjoys a lot of it. The Armada's EPA rating of 13/18/15 mpg city/highway/combined is definitely on the low side for its class these days, and over the course of 363.9 miles we averaged a combined 12.64 mpg. Mind you, this was in Central Florida where the closest thing to a hill is the freeway onramp. With our time being almost entirely highway driving, this came as a bit of a shock.

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If we could air two more grievances we don't understand why Armada isn't available with a panoramic sunroom yet, as this has become almost standard across the fullsize SUV class. And, while we appreciate all of the standard safety features that come with Nissan's Safety Shield 360, we struggled to get the Armada into a single-car garage as the vehicle kept automatically braking as it thought we were going to hit something.

Unfortunately, we didn't get the opportunity to tow with the Armada on this outing, but with its load-leveling rear suspension and 8,500-pound (J2807-certified) tow rating, we're confident the Armada has what it takes to get the job done. We also didn't get off-road, despite our Platinum Armada coming equipped with four-wheel drive. It's not that we didn't want to, as we know from past experience that Armadas are extremely capable off-road, we just feared for the expensive sidewalls of the low-profile tires and 22-inch wheels. We're still holding onto hope for a Pro4X model Armada at some point hint, hint.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the new 2021 Nissan Armada. It is beyond comfortable, has space for passengers and cargo for days, and is gorgeous to look at. We found the updates for 2021 to all be very thoughtful and well implemented. Despite our few minor complaints, the Armada remains among our favorite in the class, and we look forward to the next time we get to spend time together.

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2021 Nissan Armada Platinum

Base price: $68,000
Price as tested: $70,465
Engine: 5.6L Endurance V-8
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Horsepower: 400 @ 5,800 RPM
Torque: 413 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM
Towing capacity: 8,500 pounds
EPA fuel economy rating: 13 city / 18 hwy / 15 comb
Actual calculated economy, 363.9-mile trip: 12.64 mpg