the peterborough examiner Thursday, February 16, 2017

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Armada too much, not enough

Road Test: 2017 Nissan Armada

Neil Vorano Highway 11 past North Bay in the dead of winter is not a road for the faint of heart. The divided fourlane highway turns into a two-lane road all the way up to Timmins ? my final destination ? and well beyond. Snow squalls, heavy winds and occasional black ice make this route treacherous and nerve-racking, especially at night, which adds the danger of lumbering moose attracted to salt on the roads. So, I?m happy to be making my run to the hometown in something with all-wheel drive, Bridgestone winter tires and, quite frankly, a huge footprint: the 2017 Nissan Armada. It?s a tank, solid as anything on the road, and my driving partner ? a whiny cat protesting his carrier incarceration ? and I both feel a bit safer in this quiet tomb. Of course, the curb weight of 2,694 kilograms and its 5.6-litre V8 mean the fuel economy isn?t so good. I couldn?t get below 12 L/100 km on the highway from Toronto to Timmins, and around town that rises up to hover around 20. But if it means peace of mind, so be it. That V8 is silky smooth and there?s more than enough power for the occasional passing lane to get past the slower trucks that forever cover this route. It also offers a pleasant, cosseting ride with light steering and decent agility, considering its heft. Inside is a comfy place to be, with big, cushy seats, wide-open spaces and a commanding view ahead. If I had three passengers besides the noisy cat, they?d feel the same way. Captain?s chairs in the second row would allow for outstretched legs, drinks held securely in the centre console and the rear heat adjusted just as they like. Supple leather covers the chairs, with a comfy heated option, and music playing from the satellite radio could fill the silence of the Armada. The cabin is a luxurious and pleasant place to be while on long drives. But this behemoth, this giant of body-on-frame SUVs, is playing some sleight of hand here. Sure, even I, at six feet tall, have to pull myself up with the steering wheel to get in, with help from the running boards, and I could have easily worn a cowboy hat on the drive up, if I were so inclined. But in the case of interior room, looks can certainly be deceiving. It comes with a third row of seats, with seating for seven people in this formation (the base second-row bench seat pushes seating to eight). That third row, however, is for the usual small children or circus performers. With no leg room to speak of, regular-size people will be gnawing their knees. It?s an emergency row of seats and not something you?d want to use on a daily basis; if you?re consistently carrying more than four adults, this is not your car. But that?s not even the bigger problem (no pun intended). You?d think, with such a humongous vehicle, that it could swallow just about anything you wanted to put inside. Not so. If you plan to have six or seven people in the vehicle and go to the airport, you?ll need to get a taxi for the luggage, because with the third row in use, you?ll be able to fit one large suitcase and a smaller bag in the cargo hold. I?m not kidding, that?s it. The Armada offers an either/or situation for passengers and cargo; either you carry six or seven inside with no luggage, or four people with all their bags and accoutrements. The high floor takes away precious space and makes loading more of a chore. Let me put it into perspective for you. Behind the third row of seats, the Armada has 467 L of cargo space, and 1,413 L with the third row stowed; the Honda Civic Hatchback, which seats five, has 728 L behind the second row. And if you?re an apples-to-apples kind of person, the Armada indeed has more cargo room than the Chevrolet Tahoe, but far less than the Toyota Sequoia. With the second-row captain?s chairs, the Armada?s cargo space is even more limited. Despite having the second-row sears folded, the console gets in the way of anything large you want to put back there; forget the 4x8 sheets of plywood, you?re playing a game of Tetris with smaller boxes at best. Versatile, it is not. So, who is the Armada aimed at, exactly? There are other vehicles that could carry eight people more comfortably and have loads more cargo room, if that?s what you?re looking for; you just can?t argue with the utility of a minivan, though admittedly, only the Toyota Sienna offers AWD. There are other vehicles that can tow heavy loads and carry five in style with plenty of cargo ? most notably pickup trucks. If you have four or five people and tow on a semi-regular basis, perhaps the Armada is worth a look. After all, it is rated to tow up to 8,500 pounds (3,855 kg). But for any other reason, it?s just a case of too much or not enough.

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