Call it collateral damage, because Nissan’s updates to the 2021 Armada full-size SUV manage to inadvertently undermine the role of its luxury-oriented, mechanically similar Infiniti QX80 counterpart. Admittedly, the Infiniti‘s premium badge and slightly more sculptural sheetmetal help set it apart from the Nissan‘s more plebeian nameplate and squarer looks. Still—and as in past generations—it seems those are about the only reasons to spring for a 2021 QX80 over a top-spec 2021 Armada.
2021 Nissan Armada: Maw Patrol
Like its international counterpart, the Nissan Patrol, the 2021 Nissan Armada sports fresh front and rear ends that incorporate the Japanese brand’s latest design language. Anchored by a prominent grille and blocky LED headlights, the refreshed Armada’s mug brings a bolder look to the big SUV. In fact, just about every piece forward of the A-pillar’s is new, including the fenders, hood, bumper, and badge. That’s right, the Armada marks the first production Nissan to wear the brand’s latest logo, which it unveiled earlier this year on the 2022 Ariya electric SUV. The new logo finds a home on other areas of the 2021 Armada, too, such as the wheels and liftgate. The rear also sees a redesigned rear bumper and freshened LED taillights.
2021 Nissan Armada: Inner Beauty
Yet, the most welcome change to the Armada comes to its cabin, where Nissan fits a redesigned center stack that houses a massive 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The setup looks ergonomically superior to that of the QX80 (and Patrol), which uses two separate touchscreen displays (one measuring in at 8.0 inches, the other at 7.0 inches). Additional storage space on the center stack, an updated center console design, and a standard 7.0-inch cluster-mounted display further improve the Armada’s insides.
Once again, seating for eight comes standard, however, higher-end SL and Platinum trims are available with second-row captain’s chairs in place of the standard three-across bench, which lowers the Armada’s seating capacity to seven. Items such as a power-folding third-row seat and a rear-seat entertainment system, which adds an 8.0-inch screen on the backs of each front headrest, are limited to the Platinum model.
2021 Nissan Armada: Midnight City
Strangely, it’s the Armada SL, and not the flagship Platinum, that adds a Midnight Edition package for 2021. As its name suggests, the Midnight Edition kit adds a black-painted grille, exterior mirror caps, roof rails, badging, and front and rear skid plate décor to the SUV. It also nets darker taillights, special 20-inch wheels, black interior trim and leather seating surfaces, and unique floor mats.
Additionally, a new S trim serves as the entry-level Armada model. The previous base trim, the SV, now serves as a bridge between the lower-level S and better-equipped SL, which adds the likes of standard 20-inch wheels and tires (the SV comes standard with 18s), a trailer-sway control system, leather seating surfaces, a memory driver’s seat, and a premium Bose stereo.
Every 2021 Armada comes standard with items such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Automatic rear braking, a surround-view monitor, and a camera-fed rearview mirror are available on the top-line Platinum.
2021 Nissan Armada: Towing Power
Although the Armada’s 5.6-liter V-8 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission carry over for 2021, the SUV benefits from a small bump in power. Now churning up 400 horses, the V-8 produces 10 more ponies than last year when fed premium fuel (that sum falls to 390 hp on regular gas). Torque also rises from 394 lb-ft of torque to 413 lb-ft, and all 2021 Armada models are available with two- or four-wheel-drive.
Despite its engine’s additional grunt, the 2021 Armada maintains a maximum towing capacity of 8,500 pounds. That’s a little off the 9,300-pound towing capacity of a two-wheel-drive Ford Expedition with the Heavy-Duty Trailer Towing package, but it’s still among the best in the class. A standard trailer brake controller is new to the 2021 Armada and further reinforces the model’s towing capabilities.
Yes, the 2021 Armada is “only” a Nissan, but it continues to offer many of the same frills as its fancier QX80 sibling, making it a potentially better buy for the less fashion-conscious. Look for the 2021 Nissan Armada to go on sale in January.