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Armada does battle in large SUV category

April 09, 2004|by JASON STEIN/Wheelbase Communications

What's in a name? If you're Nissan in search of an "army of one" to tackle the full-size sport-utility vehicle market, perhaps the name means more than you think.

In a world where Tahoes, Sequoias and Expeditions rule the open seas, the 2004 Pathfinder Armada is a one-truck wrecking ball looking to punch a hole in a segment, all by its lonesome, fearless self.

At least the name fits.

Webster's Dictionary says an Armada is a "fleet of warships," or a "large force of moving things." As a grandiose extension of its popular mid-sized Pathfinder, Nissan wanted a name that would grab attention. The outcome is a seriously big and seriously powerful truck that grabs its share of space on the road and, Nissan hopes, its share of space in an ever-expanding XXL-sized sport-ute field.

It has the genes to do it. Just look at the impact Nissan's other offerings have had on the marketplace. Have you seen the waiting list for Maximas? And who doesn't want a 350Z parked right beside it in the driveway? It has been a year (or two) of ground-breaking firsts for this company.

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In fact, the brand-new four-door, body-on-frame Armada is based on Nissan's equally new Titan truck platform and shares that vehicle's engine and drive systems. The Armada cruises (pun intended) with a 305-horsepower, 5.6-liter DOHC V-8 and a five-speed automatic transmission.

Where the Titan rides on a solid rear axle, however, the Armada gets its own independent rear suspension with coil springs.

Right off the bat, it's easy to tell the Armada has a purpose. It's 17 feet long and it weighs a ton (5,330 pounds, actually). The styling is in-your-face brutish (or handsome, take your pick). The interior is cavernous, offering three rows of seats for up to eight passengers and enough cargo capacity to satisfy everyone on board. With the rear seats folded flat, the Armada can transport a 10-foot stepladder . . . with the rear liftgate closed.

The Armada also arrives with anti-lock brakes, optional side-impact air bags and standard side-curtain air bags along with rollover protection for passengers in all three rows of seats.

Each of the three trim levels - SE; SE Off-Road; and LE - can be specified with two-wheel drive, or a four-wheel-drive system that automatically splits the torque between the front and rear axles.

The 4x4 model also features a full-time mode and a low-range option for serious towing or climbing.

No matter the path travelled, the Armada is just as serious about creature comforts. All models come with air conditioning, cruise control, power locks, windows and doors as well as adjustable brake and accelerator pedals.

Move up to the SE Off-Road and items such as skid plates, fog lights and bigger tires are there for your use. LE versions get leather seats, chrome grille and side-impact air bags, while a power liftgate, DVD player and navigation system are available as options.

Time will tell just what kind of home the Pathfinder Armada will make for itself. If you just look at the exceptional machinery Nissan has pumped out in the last couple of years - Altima, Murano, Maxima, Quest, Titan and 350Z - you should get some kind of idea.

If Nissan wanted to enter the full-size sport-ute market with a splash, the Armada is just the vehicle to take the segment by storm.

All hands on deck.

Let the battle begin.

© 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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