While the Pathfinder Armada is a derivative of Nissan's full-size Titan pickup, the sport/utility will hit the streets first, packing heat in the performance, comfort, and utility arenas. Impressions of its grand aesthetics aside, the overall functionality is formidable.

The new Endurance 5.6-liter V-8 engine rocks. Nissan's 305-horsepower rating must be understated. Throttle tip-in is measured, yet response is decisive and delivered with a haughty V-8 exhaust rumble.

Backing up the all-aluminum V-8 is a new five-speed automatic gearbox with a gated floor shifter. Under most conditions, it shuffles through gears seamlessly. A tow/haul mode on the transmission delays upshifts and gains easier downshifts for hauling loads up to 9100 pounds.

The Armada's four-wheel double-wishbone suspension is taut yet compliant and balanced nicely to match the large SUV's power and weight. Whether nose to tail in urban crawl or blasting through mountain sweepers, the Armada responds with the agility and poise of smaller 'utes.

Visibility is excellent, with virtually no hood obstruction. A large, sloping windshield, deep beltline, and tall side glass assure clear sightlines for changing lanes. Comfortable fold-flat seating for eight quickly converts to 96.9 cubic feet of cargo space. The interior area is alive with various textures and shapes. The concave door panels and vast horizontal expanses throughout allow for plenty of breathing room. The electronic lock and window controls sit atop the door sill making them easier to feel but difficult to see.

American-designed and built, the Pathfinder Armada represents homework well-researched and executed.