Under the hood is the best engine/transmission duo in the full-size segment. The published 305 horsepower of the Armada's all-aluminum DOHC 5.6-liter V-8 feels more like 350. Much credit goes to the standard five-speed automatic that serves up buttery-smooth shifts and gives the Armada a lower first gear and smaller steps between gears than the four-speed boxes in most of the other rigs. The well-placed cogs mean the Armada is less likely to get caught flat-footed. Throttle response is awesome, with mountains of torque and a great-sounding exhaust rumble just a toe-tap away. It's as if the Armada came straight from the factory with an aftermarket- tuner's touch and a big bag of whoopass. In our testing, the Nissan charged from rest to 60 mph nearly a full second quicker than the next fastest competitor, the Dodge Durango. Even in towing capacity, the Armada is tops at 9100 pounds.

But the Armada feels rough around the edges. As a staffer notes, "The ride quality is jouncy and impact harshness sharp." While some editors like the directness of the steering, others bemoan the "numb and mushy brakes." Though the Armada proved second best in overall stopping ability in our tests, the binders' nonlinear feel was an issue in real-world driving. Chassis quake was another bugaboo; on uneven road surfaces, chassis noise was significant. Over rougher sections of road, the doors actually banged against their strikers. Excessive wind noise around the door glass was yet another negative as the weather stripping lost its seal at speed. Did we mention ergonomic flaws or the squeaks, rattles, and buzzes emanating from the acres of hard-plastic trim?

The noise, vibration, and harshness shortfalls are unfortunate, because the Armada offers a lot of value for the dollar. Our SE-trim 4x4 came standard with such items as 18-inch alloy wheels, rear-proximity sensors (the only SUV in this group to make them standard), dynamic stability control, tire-pressure monitoring, three-row seating, an overhead console for all three rows, adjustable pedals, front-seat side-impact airbags, full-length head-curtain airbags, gated shifter, runningboards, six-disc in-dash CD player, and lots more. Yet it costs thousands of dollars less than many of its comparably equipped competitors. And it's the only full-size SUV available with a choice of XM or Sirius Satellite Radio.

We love that the Armada is going straight for the sudden-death overtime three-pointer with power, attitude, and serious chutzpah. But until Nissan finesses some of the NVH issues, we're staying on the sidelines.