Metro Weekly

Big Mover

2004/2005 Nissan Pathfinder Armada

You may have heard that the region’s highways are being overrun by vehicular behemoths, SUVs whose enormous width and girth hog lanes and block the views of their more traditionally-sized brethren. This isn’t completely true — the prominence of the Mini Cooper and the continuing spread of Toyota’s hit hybrid Prius are but two examples of the success to be found going small.

But then, there will always be the folks for whom size does matter.

The Nissan Pathfinder Armada is part of the ongoing bigger-is-better brigade of SUVs. The original Pathfinder has now been downsized in the Nissan SUV line-up, leaving this new, larger edition to serve at the company’s super-sized flagship.

The Armada shares a front-end with Nissan’s truck contender, the Titan (gee, do you think there’s a theme going on here?). But where the pick-up’s exterior design segues from an aggressive chrome grill and shaped hood to a standard roof and bedline, the Armada is all parabolas and parallelograms. The visual cues wander all over, from the arched midsection over the front seats to the flat and slab-sided expanse along the passenger seats and rear stowage. In some ways it echoes the styling of the Nissan Xterra, the bulgy SUV that’s oriented more to actual sport utility, as opposed to the Armada’s focus on comfortable oversized transportation utility. But where the Xterra comes across as a quasi-hip and young design, the Armada comes across as a little mixed up.

The jumble of design elements on the Armada isn’t the prettiest picture, but it does make for a distinctive look.

The odd jumble of design elements makes the Armada look even bigger than it actually is. In the damning with faint praise category, you can say that the Armada isn’t as ugly as the Hummer. But then, if you’re in the market for an oversized, steroidal SUV, looks aren’t your primary consideration. Stance and appearance are what counts, and that’s the Armada appeals to.

Behind the wheel way up above all the highway hoi polloi you’ll find the Armada pulls its considerable weight through traffic at a respectable rate. It’s perfectly capable of taking you on a long, comfortable trip to any destination you have in mind, benefit of a big V8 engine. Just be sure to budget enough for the gas — it’s a guzzler, particularly if any city/suburban stop-and-go driving is factored in.

The Armada interior offers the list of features that seem in demand by SUV buyers these days, including third row seats and an optional DVD player for the audience in back. Many automotive writers criticize those SUVs that don’t offer third row seating, but I could just as easily do without it, as I simply don’t find them all that appealing. If you need to seat that many people on a regular basis, you may as well buy a van. And given that most every SUV you see on the road has at most two or three people inside — if not just a lone driver navigating the rush hour with a cell phone in hand and eyes off the road — I’m not convinced that all those SUV buyers are that into it either.

As an option, however, that third row may be occasionally useful, as long as they are designed in a way that keeps them unobtrusive when not in use, and not too detrimental to the storage space. In the Armada the seats fold fairly flat to keep the back storage expansive. Adding to the open feeling in back is an optional automatic lift rear gate that would seem a necessity for anyone under about under about six feet.

2004/2005 Nissan Pathfinder Armada
MSRP: $40,600 (as tested: $44,720)
EPA est. MPG: 13 city/18 highway
Highlights: The available size and space makes you feel like the captain of the highway seas
Lowlights: Goes through gas like a fat kid goes through candy

Sitting in the command position behind the wheel, the continuity of the Armada’s slab styling becomes apparent. The interior door panels protrude into the cabin, with the window, lock and side mirror controls riding way up high in an awkward position. It leaves you feeling like you’re stretching to accomplish a task that should be accomplished without much effort. The high doors and high center console leave you feeling that you’re sitting in a hot tub (or bathtub, if you’re feeling less luxurious).

But if you’re looking for copious space, this is your place. It may be clunky, but it’s enormous. If you want an SUV that casts a distinctive profile on the highway without succumbing to the over-the-top size of a Hummer or the over-the-top price of a Land Rover, then the Armada may be the place for you to drop anchor.

Find more of Sean Bugg’s car reviews online at

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.