Nissan Adventure Drive : 2017 First Drive of Armada, Pathfinder & Titan
Nissan recently invited us to take an adventure drive featuring their new releases for 2017, which the company is calling “The Year of the Truck.” For two days in beautiful Carmel, California and surrounds, we drove the 2017 Armada, 2017 Titan XD (gasoline), and the 2017 Pathfinder. Because Nissan asked us to keep our opinions to ourselves for a while, we’ve had to resist the urge to share with you, until now.
Upon our arrival in Carmel at the Carmel Ranch, we were met by Nissan representatives and shown the grounds of this beautiful resort. Despite the unfortunate wildfires happening just over the mountain from our location, the area and scenery are breathtaking. We would later drive past ripening fields of produce and fruits, seeing the largest artichokes we’d ever seen and tasting berries that were literally right off the bush. It was an amazing time to be in central California.
But the resort and produce weren’t our purpose for being there. Nissan’s rugged new vehicles were. We were some of the first in the country to get our hands on the new Titan XD gasoline truck, Armada SUV, and Pathfinder crossover. We gave you a glimpse of the action on social media during the event, but now we share more detailed impressions after our Nissan Adventure Drive.
2017 Nissan Armada
First up for our Adventure Drive was the 2017 Nissan Armada. This is Nissan’s flagship sport utility and it’s seen a lot of changes for the new model year. Outside of its powertrain, it now shares nothing with the Titan pickup truck it used to be based upon. Instead, Nissan moved it to a more global audience by basing its chassis and underlying components on the new-generation Patrol platform. In many parts of the world, saying “Patrol” is akin to saying “Jeep” in off-road enthusiast circles. Yet this new Armada is extremely refined for such a capable SUV.
Nissan puts the Armada at the head of its “Family-oriented” roundup of utility vehicles. The Rogue is the smallest of that group, followed by the Pathfinder (which we’ll get to later) and then the Armada. The Murano fits within the non-family group as a more premium-level offering, explaining why it doesn’t have a third row option like the three family utilities do. As the large family SUV of the line, the Armada sees several changes to its exterior to match that segment goal.
Many hints from the new-generation Infiniti QX80 can be seen in the Aramada’s bodywork, including the straight-edged profile, European rear window swoop, and extended bumpers. The new Nissan “V-motion” grille is accentuated for a more rugged look, but the wheel wells and body lines are smoothed to add refinement. LED headlights and taillamps are standard equipment on the new Armada, as are LED daytime running lights. The appearance of the Armada is much more upscale than it was before, giving it a more premium feel.
Inside, Nissan went for expanded roominess and a more open feel to the cabin. Seating for eight is standard in the Armada, as are the front bucket seating with a center console. High materials quality is found throughout the cabin and seating is very comfortable at all trim levels. We noted that there is a lot more headroom and legroom in the second row, which now stand at 40 inches and 41 inches respectively. This makes adult seating not only comfortable, but roomy. The third row, of course, is mainly for children. Cargo space is excellent as well, with plenty of versatile options for split-fold seating to configure it for any number of passenger and cargo loads.
Also new is the powertrain, which the Armada shares with the new gasoline Titan XD model (see below). This starts with a new-generation 5.6-liter V8 dual overhead camshaft engine that uses advanced variable valve event and lift (VVEL) timing to produce a best-in-class 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. These come at 5,800 and 4,000 RPM respectively, making for a strong power curve. The engine is tuned for regular octane fuel rather than premium. A seven-speed automatic transmission is attached to that engine, making for plenty of gearing for both towing and daily driving. Compared to the previous-generation Armada’s five-speed transmission, this seven-speed has far more aggressive gearing with two low gears for pulling heavier loads and getting the big SUV moving quickly along with highway-tuned high gearing for a smoother ride and better fuel economy. Speaking of towing, the Armada is also best-in-class there at 8,500 pounds in both 2WD and 4WD configurations.
Out on the road, we noted that the 2017 Nissan Armada drives smaller than it is and feels much more relaxed than do many SUVs its size. The bulk of the vehicle is still felt in the parking lot during maneuvering, but on the road and highway, visibility is surprisingly good and the Armada is lighter on its feet than its size might indicate. Steering is a good balance with the mushiness inherent in four-wheel drive vehicles with a lot of suspension underneath, but is not so much so that you lose feel for the road while on the highway. The Armada is also one of the quietest highway rides you’ll find in this segment without moving into premium brands.
Off the road, the 2017 Armada is a beast. With more aggressive tires than the factory supplies, it’s a very capable off-pavement explorer in its own right. But even with the standard fare tires from the factory, it’s still going to get you to the lake with or without pavement. And it will carry the family and pull the boat to boot. We were very impressed with its capability on the short off-road course offered by Nissan for this event. We can’t wait to get one for a longer term loan and put it through more paces in that regard.
In all, the 2017 Nissan Armada is a strong goer and a very compelling entry into the large family SUV segment. Pricing starts at $44,400 and the new Armada is just entering showrooms now.
2017 Nissan Titan XD
Nissan took the opportunity of their Adventure Drive to showcase the Titan XD in its gasoline format and with the unveiling of the new single cab version of this truck. That single cab Titan XD officially launches Nissan into the commercial pickup truck sector and is accompanied by a “work truck” trim level aimed at that market. For us, though, the gasoline Titan XD in its consumer grades was the focus. Especially given the awesome off-road course Nissan had created for us to play around in.
Before we get to that, a look at the Titan XD gasoline is needed. Nissan is now calling the Titan a “family” of trucks rather than a model. This makes sense as the name “Titan” will be used on the big heavy-duty half-ton Titan XD models in both diesel and gasoline formats as well as the forthcoming Titan pickups in a standard half-ton configuration. That standard half-ton Titan will have a V6 and V8 gasoline engine option. The Titan XD’s gasoline option is the same V8 that powers the Armada.
Early this year, we were one of the first in the country to get a full press loan review of the Titan XD in its Cummins-powered diesel format. We were thoroughly impressed by this new entry into the pickup truck market. The gasoline variant we drove in California is also impressive. Body styling and interior fitment are almost identical to the diesel version of the XD with the exception of the badge plates on the front fenders, which read “V8 Endurance” instead of “Cummins.”
Under the hood, though, the Titan XD with the V8 gasoline engine is very different. The 5.6L V8 is the same 390 hp unit in the Armada, producing far more output than the previous-generation V8 that powered the Titan (317 hp). The Titan XD gasoline’s torque curve is also much more even than was its predecessor, producing more power in a wider band of RPM than did the 2015 V8-powered model. This despite displacement in the engines being the same and the fuel economy in the new Titan improving over the old. When the 2017 Titan half-ton enters the market, it will have an EPA rating of 18 mpg on the highway – 4 mpg more than its predecessor.
Some of that comes from the 7-speed automatic transmission, which has a strong gear ratio set ranging from an aggressive 4.887 in first to a highway-ready 0.775 in seventh. First, second, and third gears all have 2+ in their ratios, helping the Titan XD tow heavier loads. Maximum towing in the gasoline-powered Titan XD is 11,590 pounds, which is about a thousand pounds shy of the diesel option, but payload capacity is up about 500 pounds (to 2,910) thanks to the lighter weight of the engine versus its diesel counterpart. These numbers are for the single cab variant of the Titan XD. For comparison, the single cab standard half-ton Titan will be more market commensurate at 1,930 pounds payload and 9,730 pounds towing.
On the road, the Titan XD with its big gasoline-driven V8 is quieter than expected and has the same smooth highway presence that its diesel brother holds. It’s punchier on the uptake, though, with much better acceleration that results in a more powerful drive dynamic. Satisfying grumbles from the engine when pressed are also good signs of a strong V8 doing its magic.
Off the road, the Titan XD Pro-4X with the gas engine is about the same as its diesel counterpart. Which means it’s awesome. We had a lot of fun digging in the dirt, taking obscene angles, and bouncing up to raise wheels in the air. This is definitely a truck to love! We can’t wait to spend more time in one as a full press loan.
2017 Nissan Pathfinder
The Pathfinder sees a number of upgrades for the 2017 model year, which are considered a mid-cycle refresh for the crossover. We think they’re a little more significant than that might imply, though, and were surprised at how aggressive the new Pathfinder looks and feels.
This new Pathfinder enters the market in September which is when Nissan will also announce a new sport utility, likely a compact SUV/CUV to sit next to the Juke in the lineup. Interestingly, the Pathfinder’s sales statistics are very different from its competition, hitting more female buyers under age 55 who have kids. Those same women are ones we’d like to date because they’re targeting the Pathfinder for its more aggressive styling and strong road presence. One of their primary requests in focus groups was for a “more truck-like grille” and a “more SUV-like look.”
Nissan accommodated those requests with new design updates for the 2017 Pathfinder, flattening the hood line, making the V-motion front grille larger and more aggressive, and extending the bumpers at front and rear for a more truck-like appearance. Amazingly, these changes also improved aerodynamics while also giving the Pathfinder a more muscular look. Nissan says that the coefficient of drag in the 2017 Pathfinder is 0.326, up from 0.34 in 2016.
To go with these exterior updates, an update was made to the Pathfinder’s engine, which is now a 3.5-liter V6 with 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. That’s 24 more horses and 19 more pounds than was had on the previous Pathfinder. Most of these improvements were made through improved air intake, better direct injection, and engine core coating changes. These changes also improved fuel economy with the 2017 Pathfinder being rated at 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined.
Towing is also improved with a 6,000 pound maximum trailer weight for the Pathfinder, another key thing customers asked for. That’s 1,000 pounds more than the nearest competitors.
Nissan also improved the 2017 Pathfinder’s body control and motion through chassis and body framing changes. On the road, these translate into a better driving dynamic with less body roll in hard corners and a far better feel in maneuvers. It also helped to make the Pathfinder more quiet on the highway. Off the road, it means that the Pathfinder is more sure-footed as well.
Inside the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder, changes are mostly aesthetic and ergonomic. Third-row access is with Nissan’s lift-forward seating for the second row, which allows parents to tilt the seats forward for access without having to remove an installed child safety seat. A foot-sweep-activated tailgate (for both open and close) is also available as are several new interior technology upgrades for safety and convenience. We liked the new touchscreen monitor with its pinch-swipe gestures and the informative driver-assist display on the instrument cluster. Nissan’s AroundView 360-degree camera system is also a great option.
In all, we really like the improvements to the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder. It definitely becomes much more compelling and competitive than it was.