The 2013 Nissan Armada Platinum 4x4
It's all about comfort and ease of use
By Kathy Chin Leong

NewProdSum13-2.jpgSo let me tell you that I'm not a long distance driver. Usually, I feel tired after one hour of driving.  But on this long weekend where I would be leading a women's service retreat at Whisper Canyon campground near King City, the three-plus hours on the road didn't bother me, and let me tell you why - I was at the helm of the majestic Nissan Armada, a mammoth eight-passenger, four-door SUV so comfortable with its leather seats and back support that I had plenty of energy to enjoy the rest of the day after we arrived.  

I wanted a car to test drive that would be sturdy enough to go over gravel and rocks at the campground. And even going up and down the hills and over uneven surfaces, the entire ride was smooth. It had to be roomy to fit as many women as possible, plus their overnight gear during our three-day weekend.  Here's one thing that amazed me: the Armada was so luxurious and comfortable even the back seat passengers oohed and aahed the entire way.  

And the price also matches this top-of-the-line prize. At $56,180, plus another $2,090 for the Platinum Reserve Package with leather interior and a two-tone chocolate/almond paint job and matching chocolate carpeting, the ticket jumps to $59,265.  

Performance-wise, it sports a V8 engine with 317 horsepower. Built tough, it comes with five-speed automatic transmission and a tow-haul mode. There is four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock braking. A full-size steel spare is also up to the task when there is an emergency. 

In terms of ergonomics, this one has it nailed right. The steering wheel is at a comfortable width, very similar to my four-door sedan.  Why have a giant steering wheel that makes you feel like you are driving a Mack truck?  It also comes with a heating option so that if it is too cold, it will warm up so your hands don't get too cold.

You turn on the car in a very interesting way. Instead of using a key to turn on the ignition, you press your foot on the brake, and turn the dial on the dashboard to the right.  Once you get used to this, it is intuitive.

I had to get used to the height. It is so tall that when I disembark, I have to jump out of the car.  And when grandma got out, she needed someone there to hold her hand so she would not fall.  For folks over 5-foot-six, this is not an issue. However, those like me who barely scale 5 feet, it takes a lot of leaping out of and climbing into back and forth. Not really a problem, but I wanted to give you a full picture.

I feel like I am handling a mere sedan when I drive this car. All is smooth on the road, and the pickup is not too fast, not too slow. Just right.  I do not feel like the car is too scary or intimidating to drive, although to look at it, you first think it would be something a gangster would use for his getaway vehicle.  Brakes are not too touchy and sensitive. I was able to brake with the appropriate and anticipated amount of touch. 

The eight-way power driver seat has an automatic memory. When you open the door, the seat automatically scoots back.  And when you return to your seat, it moves forward to the precise adjustment you had earlier.  The passenger seat on this car is also blessed with a four-way power control. And usually when the first row of seats have heated seat warmers, the second row passengers now get equal status with that luxury as well. 

Back seats, traditionally, are a real pain when you have three rows, and the people in the back want to exit. If you are in Row Three, you usually have to raise the seat in front of you with a lever, pull a tab, or go through several frustrating motions so the seat will manually tumble forward.  Well folks, I have good news for you.  The Armada features a built-in lever at the shoulder height near the head rest. When you tilt it up, the second row seat near the door automatically moves forward and folds on itself, giving the Row Three passengers plenty of room to get out of the door. 

For me, one of my favorite features is the automatic hatchback. Being able to press a button from the front seat to fully open the back and to close it made moving food and sleeping bags a breeze. Further, the car's remote control FOB also has an icon that you can depress to open and close the hatch as well.  I am giddy with this feature that spares me from hitting myself on the head and saves me arm strength. The hatch also features a rear window opening so you can put a few things inside without having to open the entire back.  

When we buckled in my nephew in his car seat, he was happy to see the video screen in front of him.  The option on the Armada is to have two independent video screens on the headrests, so second row passengers can watch movies until they fall asleep. With headphones and a remote control, it is definitely a bonus. When my daughter experimented with the video feature, she mentioned that the sound clips on and off in various places, and it was not because we were going over bumps or making turns. The clipping appeared to be absolutely random. 

When listening to the Sirius XM satellite radio, we were pleasantly surprised to hear such crisp, clean sounds. Then I realized that this car comes equipped with the Bose Audio system with 11-speakers and a subwoofer and support for MPE players and comes bundled with a CD-player. Other technology features include a GPS, 12-volt power outlets, Bluetooth handsfree phone system on the driver's steering wheel, and more.

In the back, we were happy to be able to carry everything to camp. There were four women in the car on this journey, and so we flattened the third row, and had plenty of room to stash sleeping bags, suitcases, two ice chests, and bags of food. Nothing obstructed my rear view as a driver, so that shows you how roomy everything was. 

The doors have plenty of long wells for water in the molding itself. The second row of seats has an armrest that comes down with a compartment to stash snacks. In the back, on the ceiling is yet another long compartment to hold videos or music CDs.

Handling a car this long and wide and tall may seem daunting. However, I felt so much more secure with the automatic rear and front sonar system that makes a beeping sound when you are 3 feet away from an object in front and over five feet away in the back. The rear camera that automatically comes on is an extra set of eyes I truly appreciate.

In addition, the 28-gallon gas tank that relies on unleaded regular gas is especially handy when you are driving on one of those long, lonely roads without a gas station in sight.  

The exterior and interior design is very handsome.  Inside, the SUV features an automatic tilt open (of course) tinted moon roof. On the exterior, the upgraded Armada I drove had chrome trim and wood trim and premium grade two-tone chocolate-almond hues. To be up so high on the car made me feel extra confident on the road because I could see everything going on around me. 

All in all, a terrific ride both coming and going to Whisper Canyon with no glitches that we could complain about.  Everyone was so comfortable that they fell asleep like babies while I was able to enjoy cruising on the lone highway with enough back support and cool tunes to keep me company.

Nissan Armada SUV
Price: $56,180

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