Nissan Pathfinder Armada crowns the class as a full-size SUV
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
CANTON, Miss. -- At Nissan's new $1.43 billion manufacturing plant in Canton, Miss., factory workers and automated robots conspire along a lengthy assembly line to bring together a myriad of components that make a fresh Nissan vehicle.
A visitor, observing the assembly process from sidelines, notes the placement of a huge V8 engine -- it's mounted longitudinally up front on the ladder-type boxed chassis of a big truck fixed with independent double-wishbone suspension rigging in front and back plus big wheels and tires.
The superstructure comes down from overhead tracks of a conveyor belt and locks on the frame as bodyside panels, hood and roof and glass and doors are attached, along with the electrical system and cabin appointments with three tiers of seats.
Ultimately, a freshly forged vehicle rolls out of the plant bearing the nameplate of Pathfinder Armada.
The Pathfinder marque may be familiar, as it has applied to Nissan's mid-size sport-utility vehicle for several decades. Yet the Armada tag indicates something entirely new for an automaker headquartered in Japan -- a big SUV for the full-size class that packs a powerful V8 engine scoring class-leading towing capacity.
The big idea behind Armada -- the name signifies a naval fleet or flotilla -- is big-ness.
Designers at Nissan's North American design facility in La Jolla, Calif., obviously had to think big when developing the scheme for this five-door wagon that's large enough to haul a troop of scouts and all of their camping gear while towing the heftiest of trailer rigs.
Armada rises from the platform of Nissan's new full-size Titan truck with a 123-inch wheelbase and a tip-to-tail measure of 206.9 inches -- it's more than 17 feet long and well over six feet wide and six more to reach the roof.
Despite the big dimensions of this package and the big firepower tucked below the hood, Armada stocks user-friendly equipment and rather cushy cabin appointments -- and it's surprisingly easy to steer, acting agile on pavement as well as dirt or snow.
It also looks different from the usual two-box design for a slab-sided SUV.
For one thing, the boxy parameters of a behemoth wagon have been disguised by an edgy sculptural treatment with bulging flanks over wheelwells and an undulating line of the roof that appears to run up the windshield pillar and arch over both side doors before dipping across rear quarters.
Thick body-colored bumpers wrap around the face and tail, with a bold grille set in front between exaggerated headlamp clusters.
The horizontal line of a running board underscores side doors, and at the rear there's a large top-hinged gate for accessing the cargo bay.
Open a cabin door and you'll find a cavernous space with room for as many as eight passengers on the three rows of seats with twin buckets in front, a second row with bench or fold-flat buckets and a standard third-row bench that folds to the floor for expanding the cargo bay.
Armada also contains significant standard safety systems to protect the precious human cargo, including curtain-style air bags for all three tiers of seats, plus a proximity sensor system that warns about obstacles in the vehicle's rearward path, and electronic vehicle controls such as an anti-lock brake system (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and Nissan's vehicle dynamic control (VDC) with traction control system (TCS), even a tire pressure monitor system (TPMS).
But the heart of Armada is that big V8, which is assembled at Nissan's engine plant in Tennessee and shared with the Titan pickup.
Dubbed the Endurance V8, this all-aluminum engine displaces 5.6 liters with dual-overhead cam configuration and four valves for every cylinder.
It produces 305 hp at 4900 rpm and tall torque of 385 lb-ft at 3600 rpm -- but runs on regular unleaded fuel.
And almost 90 percent of the torque from the plant is available below 2500 rpm -- just where it's needed for towing tasks or off-road maneuvers at a slow speed.
Coupled to the engine is an electronically-controlled automatic transmission with five forward gears and a tow/haul mode, which reworks shift patterns when towing.
When properly equipped with a tow rig, Armada brings down the highest maximum towing capacity in the class of full-size SUVs -- to 9100 pounds.
It's also well-suited for off-road treks with a four-wheel-drive (4WD) version.
The 4WD equipment utilizes a sophisticated full-time automatic control system borrowed from Nissan's Skyline GT-R sports coupe. It instantly distributes the engine's torque between front or rear wheels, depending on pavement conditions and the potential of tires to slip, with as much as half the torque available at front wheels when needed.
A two-speed electronic transfer case lets the Armada driver switch between automatic all-wheel-drive (AWD), full-time 4WD in high range or 4WD in low range for crawling over rough terrain away from pavement, but the device runs in two-wheel-drive (2WD) mode with power sent to the rear wheels for normal driving on dry roads.
Nissan offers the new wagon with either 2WD or 4WD mode for all three trim variations -- Pathfinder Armada SE, SE Off-Road and the luxurious LE.
Standard equipment for all ranges from a floor-mounted shifter stick for the five-speed automatic transmission to adjustable brake and accelerator pedals and a broad floor console plus an overhead console with map lamps and ventilation ducts.
Exterior elements vary, with a body-color grille on SE trim but a chrome grille evident on the LE.
Optional packages are also offered, such as a sunroof package for SE Off-Road and a leather package for SE with leather upholstery, side air bags, a Bose premium audio system and power controls for the right front seat.
Still, Nissan whittles on price points for Armada to construct a competitive advantage.
The MSRP numbers begin at $33,300 for Pathfinder Armada SE 2WD, or $36,100 for Armada SE 4WD.
Armada LE 2WD lists for $37,800 and the LE 4WD comes to $40,600.
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 2004 NISSAN PATHFINDER ARMADA Specs
||Full-size sport-utility wagon
| Model Options:
||Full-size sport-utility wagon
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||DOHC 5.6-L V8
||SE: 2 (front)
+ opt. 2 (side)
+ 6 (side curtain)
LE: 2 (front)
+ 2 (side)
+ 6 (side curtain)
| Gross Weight:
||2WD: 6800 pounds
4WD: 7000 pounds
| Towing Capacity:
||2WD: 9100 pounds, 4WD: 9100 pounds
| Gas Mileage:
||2WD: 13/19 mpg
4WD: 13/18 mpg
||SE 2WD: $ 33,300, SE 4WD: $ 36,100, SE OR 2WD: $ 36,450, SE OR 4WD: $ 39,250, LE 2WD: $ 37,800, LE 4WD: $ 40,600