2021 Nissan Armada Review

Jeff Youngs, Independent Expert | Jul 29, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Nissan deals!

Last redesigned for the 2017 model year, the 2021 Nissan Armada gets a much-needed makeover to remain competitive with other recently redesigned full-size SUVs, including the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL. The Armada shares a platform with the Infiniti QX80, and both it and the Infiniti are based on a global model called the Patrol.

For the 2021 model year, Nissan gives the Armada a significant refresh that includes:

  • New exterior styling with a more rugged, chiseled look
  • New grille, hood, front fenders, front and rear bumpers, and LED headlights
  • New standard LED daytime running lights
  • Newly available Midnight Edition package with a range of exclusive "black-out" exterior and interior features
  • Redesigned interior with new materials and technologies
  • Standard, all-new 12.3-inch color touchscreen display
  • Standard Wi-Fi hotspot and available wireless smartphone charging pad
  • Newly available trailer brake controller and trailer sway control

The 2021 Nissan Armada is available in four trim levels: S, SV, SL, and Platinum. Rear-wheel drive (2WD) is standard; 4-wheel drive (4WD) is a $3,000 option available on every trim level. Prices range from $48,600 for an Armada S 2WD to $68,000 for a Platinum 4WD. These prices do not include a $1,495 destination charge.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the all-new 2017 Nissan Armada. This review focuses on the Armada's updates for 2021 and how they potentially impact its overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Nissan Armada - Find the best Nissan deals!

2021 Nissan Armada SL Midnight Edition White Front Quarter View

Photo: Jeff Youngs

The Nissan Armada competes in the Large SUV segment. According to data collected from verified buyers for the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 51 percent of new Nissan Armada buyers are female (vs. 41 percent for the segment), and the median age of an Armada buyer is 52 years (vs. 55).

Owners say their favorite things about the Armada are (in descending order) the:

  • Driving feel
  • Exterior styling
  • Powertrain
  • Driving comfort
  • Feeling of safety

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Armada are (in descending order) the:

  • Setting up and starting
  • Interior design
  • Getting in and out
  • Infotainment system
  • Fuel economy

In the 2020 APEAL Study, the Armada ranked highest out of six large SUVs.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Nissan Armada - Find the best Nissan deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a 2021 Armada SL 2WD equipped with the following options:

  • Midnight Edition package (black grille, black exterior mirrors, black roof rails, black front and rear lower fascias, black exterior logos, rear LED lamps with a black finisher, black leather seats, black headliner, black interior trim, Midnight Edition floor mats and cargo mat, and 20-inch alloy wheels)
  • Captain's Chairs package (second-row captain's chairs with center console and padded armrest)
  • Premium paint
  • Illuminated kick plates

The price of the test vehicle came to $60,920, including the $1,495 destination charge.

Revised, Rugged Exterior Styling

2021 Nissan Armada SL Midnight Edition White Front View

Photo: Jeff Youngs

The most significant update to the Armada for the 2021 model year is revised exterior styling that brings it in line with Nissan's other SUVs. While the changes aren't nearly as drastic as when the Armada was redesigned for 2017, the change for the 2021 model year comes none too soon and should help keep it relevant against stout competition.

The Armada's new exterior styling features a contemporary, modern look with a more square, chiseled appearance. In addition to the revised, more rugged front-end styling, the new grille debuts Nissan's updated brand logo. The hood, front fenders, and front and rear bumpers are new as well. New LED daytime running lights, headlights, and taillights round out the Armada's exterior updates, and LED fog lights are also newly available.

Clearly, Nissan designers intended to give the 2021 Armada a tougher, beefier look, but it's still not as brawny and chiseled as the original Titan-based Armada design that debuted in 2004.

New Midnight Edition Appearance Package

A current industry trend, many automakers are now offering "black-out" packages on their new cars, trucks, and SUVs. Essentially a collection of black-colored exterior and interior bits, these special editions typically have a black grille, bumpers, exterior mirrors, badges, and wheels, among other items. Nissan is certainly no stranger to this trend, offering "Midnight Edition" packages on many of its new models, now including the Armada.

Debuting on the SUV for 2021 and only available on SL trim, the Armada Midnight Edition package features a black-painted grille, black side mirrors, black front and rear lower fascias, black roof rails, black painted front and rear skid plates, black exterior logos, and rear LED lamps with a black exterior paint finisher. Unique 20-inch alloy wheels complete the special blacked-out exterior appearance. It's a sharp look, especially in tandem with the Aspen White TriCoat paint modeled by the test vehicle.

On the inside, the Armada Midnight Edition is decked out in black leather seats, a black headliner, and black interior trim. There's also a Midnight Edition cargo mat and floor mats.

While it's a cool look on the outside, the same can't be said for the inside. It's simply too much of a good thing for a vehicle interior that already has many dark-colored elements to begin with. With the Midnight Edition treatment, the Armada's cabin is quite dark inside, and there's not much definition between the different components. It all just kind of blurs together in a veritable sea of darkness.

Redesigned Center Stack and Console Highlight Revised Interior

2021 Nissan Armada SL Midnight Edition Interior Dashboard

Photo: Jeff Youngs

In addition to revised exterior styling, the 2021 Armada's interior also sees significant improvements, though not quite to the same degree. First and foremost is a redesigned center stack that features a new, high-resolution 12.3-inch color infotainment display, complete with large and easy-to-use volume and tuning knobs for the stereo.

Immediately below the infotainment display resides user-friendly climate controls with equally simple-to-use knobs for adjusting the temperature for both the driver and front passenger. A small storage compartment with an available wireless phone charging pad resides below the climate controls and above the optional trailer brake controls and standard USB ports (one Type-A, one Type-C).

The redesigned center console has improved storage, which is now more accessible to both front and second-row passengers as it can open and close from the front and rear. The new, deep-well storage area can hold large items such as an iPad (or three).

In addition to the center stack and console, the Armada's soft-touch materials are also updated for 2021. The SV trim gets new simulated leather Prima-Tex seat upholstery, the SL's leather material is upgraded, and Platinum models get quilted, stitched leather seats.

Overall, the Armada's interior is a quiet, serene, comfortable place to be. Acoustic windshield glass helps limit wind noise, and visibility is excellent through the large windshield and side windows.

Updated Technology and Connectivity

The 2021 Armada sees several technology and connectivity upgrades to bring it up to speed with modern times.

As mentioned earlier, the SUV features a new infotainment system with a standard 12.3-inch touchscreen display. It's a significant improvement both in terms of size and clarity over the previous version. It includes a standard Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, navigation, NissanConnect connected services with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, as well as apps for your smartphone and smartwatch. Pairing a phone with the system was fast and easy, and the wireless CarPlay worked without a hitch.

In addition to the new infotainment system, the 2021 Armada gets a new high-resolution 7-inch driver information display located between the two primary gauges in the instrument display. Drivers can customize the information displayed through controls on the steering wheel. I was able to quickly toggle through information screens pertaining to vehicle direction, fuel economy, radio settings, tire pressure, as well as view advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) settings.

In addition to improved connectivity and infotainment, the refreshed Armada also features new technology designed to make towing safer and easier. Although I did not do any towing during my time with the Armada, many owners likely will, as one of the main reasons for purchasing a full-size SUV is so you can pull a trailer.

Starting in 2021, the Armada now offers an optional new trailer brake controller with a tow hitch receiver (standard on SV and above) and trailer sway control (standard on SL and Platinum). The trailer brake controller adds additional braking pressure when the driver presses the brake, while trailer sway control automatically applies the brakes when the system senses a swaying trailer.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Nissan deals!

2021 Nissan Armada SL Midnight Edition White Rear Quarter View

Photo: Jeff Youngs

Competing against more firmly established full-size SUV models from ChevroletFordGMC, and Toyota, the Nissan Armada has always had to try a little harder to gain buyers' attention. When it first debuted in 2004, brawny exterior styling was its calling card, along with a powerful standard V8 engine and a spacious cabin.

Fast forward to 2017, when it was redesigned for the first time, and the Armada lost some of its mojo. It seems to me that the exterior design changes for the 2021 model year are Nissan's attempt to regain a little of the toughness lost during the last redesign.

The Armada's cabin is quite comfortable in the first and second rows but not quite as good in the third row, where legroom is tight. The second-row captain's chairs provide plenty of hip and shoulder room, and the console between the seats offers convenient storage for electronic devices and other items.

Looks aside, the Armada is a powerful, capable, comfortable full-size SUV. The 400-horsepower, 5.6-liter V8 engine is particularly notable, providing effortless power for any occasion. There's a nice, burbly exhaust note, especially during full-throttle acceleration. And while you can't necessarily say the Armada is fast compared to the average vehicle, it provides stout acceleration for a big, heavy SUV. Handling and ride quality are decent, thanks to the SUV's independent rear suspension, but there is a bit of body roll due to its high center of gravity and weight.

As is the case with nearly all full-size SUVs, don't expect great fuel economy if you purchase an Armada. During my week with the vehicle, I averaged 16.4 mpg, which is in line with EPA estimates but still tough to swallow in an era of $3/gallon gasoline.

Jeff Youngs has more than 25 years of experience in the auto industry, including 19 years with J.D. Power in both marketing and editorial management roles. He also spent nearly six years with General Motors as a media relations pro.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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