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Valentine One Radar Detector

Eric
07-05-2007, 03:09 PM
If traditional large SUV selling points - lots of power, beefy capability - continue to be high on potential buyers' shopping lists, then the updated '08 Nissan Armada shouldn't have any trouble enticing folks to take a look. This full-size, full-frame SUV comes standard with a 317 horsepower 5.6 liter V-8 and a 9,100-lb. tow rating.

These are better numbers than most competitor SUVs offer - at least when equipped with their standard powertrains. Or even their optional ones, for that matter.

The Chevy Tahoe, for example, comes standard with a 4.8 liter, 290 horsepower V-8. Its optional 5.3 liter V-8 only just barely edges out the Pathfinder's V-8 in terms of on-paper power with its 320 hp rating. However, the Tahoe's max tow rating, even then, is only 7,700 lbs. - considerably less than the Nissan's.

Ford's '08 Expedition does offer a slightly higher max tow rating (9,200 lbs.) but its 5.4 liter engine comes up 17 hp shy (300 vs. 317) compared with the Nissan. Though smooth, it lacks the authoritative off-the-line and part- throttle/passing gear pull of the Nissan's bigger mill - which produces considerably more torque (385 lbs.-ft. vs. 365 lbs.-ft.) several hundred RPM earlier (3,400 RPM vs. 3,750 RPM for the Ford).

Toyota's aging Sequoia lags behind all three - with just 273 horses available from its smallish 4.7 liter V-8 - and a max tow rating of only 6,500 lbs.

In addition to its admirable grunt, the big Nissan also offers glam - including new-for-'08 features such as keyless ignition, a 9GB hard drive for storing audio files (packaged with the optional GPS system) and Bluetooth wireless capabiity.

The interior's been made over for '08, too - with an entirely new dash layout, center stack and different trim/materials, including (notably) softer dash and panel padding offset by attractive wood inserts and a 7-inch LCD display.

Nissan's clear intent here was to soften some of the rough edges (and rough plastics) used before, in order to keep pace with the luxury car-like interiors now available in several competitor models, including the current Chevy Tahoe (and its upmarket GMC cousin, the Yukon). While the standard engines/towing ratings of GM's large SUVs may not be as mighty as the Armada's, their handsome new interiors raised the bar several notches at least.

Capability and class need not be mutually exclusive.

The GM SUVs are still the class leaders (on the inside at least) but the new Armada's updated cabin narrows the gap considerably - and is certainly just as nice as what you'll find in the '08 Expedition and several other large SUVs currently on the market.

Trim levels and equipment combos are pretty simple, too. The '08 Armada comes in sport-themed SE (base price $35,250) or luxury-oriented LE versions (base price $41,750) with either 2WD or 4WD.

No extra charge E-85/flex fuel (FFE) versions of both the SE and the LE are available.

Eight passenger/three-row seating is standard and buyers can choose as a no-cost option second-row captain's chairs. That cuts total seating capacity down to seven but gives the second row occupants Business Class accommodations. Buyers can also order power folding third row seats - even on base SE models. With the second and third row seats down, the Armada offers nearly 100 cubic feet of cargo space. This is less cargo capacity than the Expedition and Tahoe - but not much less. The Tahoe's got 109 cubic feet of cargo space; the Expedition 108 cubic feet. You'll have to balance what matters more to you - the extra 10 or so cubic feet of storage space or the extra 1,400 lbs. of towing capability (Pathinder vs. Tahoe). Or the extra 17 horses underhood (Pathfinder vs. Expedition).

If there's a downside to Armada ownership, it's a function of the very things that have made large and powerful heavy-duty SUVs like it so appealing for so many years: Its sheer size, for one (nearly 208 inches long, 77.2 inches high and 79.3 inches wide) may intimidate some potential buyers. Though it doesn't feel so huge on the road (the Armada's turning circle is actually pretty tight at 40.8 feet vs. the Expedition's 43.9 feet - although not quite as tight as the Tahoe's, at 40.8 feet) you do have to reckon with its outsized proportions when trying to parallel park on a city street or fit it into a typical suburban garage.

And its appetite for fuel (12 city/17 highway for 4WD models) may scare off some more.

Filling up this six-thousand-pound beast's 28 gallon tank at $3 per is an $84 proposition; you could end up spending more each month on fuel than you are on the payment itself. If gas prices shoot to $4 or even $5per, may the Motor Gods have mercy on you.

On the other hand, the Armada's the real deal. Its 4WD system (with locking differentials and 4WD Low range gearing) is fully capable of tackling just about any type of terrain and laughs at unplowed roads that would be the end of lighter-duty AWD crossover SUVs. It also has one of the strongest V-8s of any large SUV - and that includes the optional V-8s offered by several of its direct competitors. Few have more towing capability or interior room - and if they do, it's not by very much and usually entails a compromise in some other category of functionality or capability.

Bottom line: If you want something that's still unapologetically He-Manish in a world gone crossover and fuel conscious, the Armada makes its own case. It may not speak to everyone - and is probably more than most of us will ever need. But if you do need the level of capability this big galoot offers, lesser vehicles just won't cut it - no matter how nice their interiors may be.

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