Sometimes you need a full-size, body-on-frame, eight-cylinder, four-wheel-drive SUV to pull the family through the winter and the motorboat through the summer. A pre-owned Nissan Armada is well worth a look.

The Armada has essentially been one continuous generation from its 2004 launch, so this piece covers a 6-year window that takes in a slight face-lift for the 2008 model year. It's a full-size truck that can seat up to eight occupants and their luggage and tow up to 9100 pounds. Every body-on-frame sport/ute has a pickup in its provenance, and in the Armada's case, it's the Nissan Titan. Both come from the same Canton, Mississippi, factory.

No one could call the driving experience "carlike." But it still feels pretty much buttoned-down on decent surfaces, and the thrust of 385 lb-ft of torque with 317 hp from a 5.6-liter V-8 is always a hoot. Until we reach the gas station, which needs to happen soon. Rear-drive models are EPA-rated at 12 mpg city, 18 mpg highway. Four-wheel-drive versions achieve the same in-town figure, but are thirstier on the highway at 17 mpg.

Let's assume, though, that anyone thinking of buying a full-size SUV has already reconciled to spending a lot of time standing next to gas pumps. It will be during those moments that one can reflect on the Armada's many stowage spaces (14 cupholders, for example), the way the elevated third-row seating can fold flat into the cargo floor (fold down the second row and load space expands to 97.1 cubic feet), full-length side curtain airbags, optional second-row captain's chairs, and huge glass area for excellent visibility. Plus power-folding mirrors and 20-inch wheels in the higher LE trim.

Trim levels are SE and LE, although SE became SV, SL was introduced as a mid-level trim, and LE morphed into Titanium and Platinum for the 2011 model year. At the same time, front side airbags became standard in the lowest level.

Off-road adventure is a distinct possibility, especially if the front spoiler and side steps are removed. This results in an approach angle of 31.1 degrees, a departure angle of 27.7 degrees, and ground clearance of 10.7 inches. The 4WD system allows for off-road exploration, but it's also set up for all-season driving. In addition to the 2WD, 4HI, and 4LO selections, there's an all-wheel-drive option that can send up to half the torque to the front wheels.

Fuel consumption and the challenges of negotiating parking lots in such a large vehicle appear in the Armada's debit column. Plus several recalls covering things from suspension links, seating, and fuel gauges. The biggest issues, though, centered on the braking system and a disintegrating overhead storage unit. These appear to have afflicted the 2008 models more than any other years. Easily fixed, but worth bearing in mind if considering a purchase, even if only as ammunition on price negotiations.

On the subject of pricing, a 2009 LE in good condition with four-wheel drive (plus a Bose stereo as standard), towing package, and 50,000 miles on the odometer is valued at $26,715. A similar Chevy Suburban rings in at $27,814, while an equivalent Ford Expedition could fetch $25,936.


2007-2012 Nissan Armada
Body type 4-door SUV
Drivetrain Front engine, RWD/4WD
Airbags Dual front, side curtain (2008 on)
Engines 5.6L/317-hp DOHC V-8
Brakes, f/r Disc/disc, ABS
Price range, whlsl/retail (KBB) $11,475/$13,730 (2007 RWD SE); $30,925/$33,770 (2012 4WD Platinum)
Recalls Too many to list; see motortrend.com
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/fr pass 4 stars/5 stars (2007), 5 stars/4 stars (2008 on)