Capable Off-Roader or Practical Family Car?

An unassuming family vehicle you might have in your driveway moonlights as one of the most versatile and capable off-roaders out there. The Nissan Armada has a history and backstory that may make you think twice about its role as a family hauler.

What most don’t know about the Nissan Armada is that it’s capable of far more than daily errands. With seating space for eight, you wouldn’t think this SUV could give a Jeep a run for its money. But its international twin, the Nissan Patrol, is a pretty accomplished and revered off-roader.

What’s the Patrol, anyway?

Sold outside the U.S. market, the Nissan Patrol is known for getting off the pavement. Serving as an official vehicle for UNESCO and the United Nations, as well as many a police car, this 4×4 spends its time powering through deserts, grasslands and sometimes even warzones throughout the world.

Outside the states, the Patrol is sold in two body styles (short and long) and looks quite different than its Armada sibling we’ve come to see on our streets. In other countries, the Patrol is sold with some pretty intense options for off-roading that go far beyond the standard 4×4 – one model sold in Dubai includes a raised air intake snorkel for water crossings.

And the Patrol has pretty much always been this way. While the Armada was introduced in the United States in 2004, the Patrol has been crawling and climbing around the world since the 1960s. First introduced as the 60 Series Nissan Patrol, its first generation ran for nearly 20 years. Since then, it’s had very infrequent updates and is only on its fifth generation in its nearly 60-year run. It’s a jack of all trades, but this 4×4 is a master at one thing: upholding a reputation of consistent off-road performance for decades.  It also offers some pretty affordable prices on base models with other optional upgrades, too.

The Armada is an off-roading sleeper

Luckily for those of us in the states, the Armada is basically the three-ton U.S. version of this miniature tank. While most come for the three-rows of seats and stay for the quick acceleration and excellent towing capacity (thanks to an impressive standard 5.6-liter V8), it’s really still just as capable as its foreign twin. Yeah, it’s pretty well prepared for going off-road: it has standard front and rear independent suspension, and also offer 9.2 inches of ground clearance and intense 20-some degrees of departure and approach angles. You couldn’t tell by looking at it, but this family vehicle is really meant for something far more than suburban life has to offer.

The Armada appears in its element in an off-road proving ground. Watching it do exactly what it was built to do is truly astonishing, considering that it’s the same family SUV you spot prowling grocery store parking lots. There’s something satisfying about seeing this little-known off-roader with one wheel in the air, clearing bumps and handling the kind of rough terrain that would bring other family SUVs to a full stop. The Armada turns out to be one of those SUVs with a secret superpower.

And yes, while that’s pretty neat, there are some instances where the Armada just doesn’t live up to expectations. It certainly doesn’t shine is fuel efficiency – it gets a pretty unimpressive 14 miles per gallon in the city, and doesn’t even break 20 miles per gallon on the highway. While that’s enough to turn quite a few families off of this rugged SUV, it does offer some pretty nice perks like 390 horses and a 6.3-second 0-60 time, smoking other competitors like the Chevrolet Tahoe.

The Armada also has Nissan’s Titan truck to thank for its agility. Sharing its body-on-frame design, the Armada has some of that ruggedness that made their truck such an appealing option. And that’s not to mention the longer body that makes up the US Armada also includes an impressive amount of cargo space.

While it’s pretty capable of doing all the things you want an off-roader to do, it also does a good job of offering luxury, upscale amenities inside. The Patrol offers some pretty nice interiors as well on some of its upper-trimmed models. It stays ahead of other off-roading competitors like Jeep by offering a little bit more luxury than the competition. It also beats out Jeep in technology offerings, with optional features like Surround Vision technology that Jeep has yet to offer.

The Patrol also then has inextricable ties to the luxurious Infiniti QX80, though it’s been widely noted that there’s not much other than the Infiniti badge that can’t be found on the upper trim levels of the Armada. And with a starting price upwards of $80,000, the Infiniti version of the Nissan model probably won’t need to venture too far off the roads anyway.

More than meets the eye

But for those who already happen to have them in their garage but crave the freedom of a Jeep, you might not even need to make a purchase. You’ve already got one of the world’s favorite off-roaders disguised as your family SUV. And for those wanting something that’s agile enough to off-road when you want to but still can use practically on a daily basis, this just might be the perfect vehicle for you. It offers the best of both, even though one side of its history has been hidden under its family-friendly appeal.

The Armada’s heritage makes it a capable off-roader, while still becoming an ideal vehicle for many American lifestyles. So, hey, the family-sized Nissan Armada could be the perfect vehicle for your next outdoor adventure!

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