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William Maley

First Drive: 2017 Nissan Armada, Pathfinder, and Titan

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Last week, I spent the morning with Nissan to check out the redesigned Armada SUV, refreshed Pathfinder crossover, and the all-new Titan half-ton pickup. Nissan says this year is the year of the truck. Considering last year was the year of the sedan and the mixed reaction we had to it, we’re somewhat worried how this ‘year of the truck’ would land.

A brief note before we dive into our impressions of the three vehicles. I only got about 30 minutes with each vehicle, so I can’t give you a definitive opinion. What I can do is give my first thoughts on them. Let’s dive in.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

  • Nissan worked on making the 2017 Pathfinder look a bit more SUV-like. The front end gets a new hood and bumper to make it look somewhat wider. Around back, the tailgate and taillights have been reshaped.
  • Here is the thing, you’ll have to look closely to spot the changes. If you were to park a 2016 and 2017 Pathfinder next to each other and ask someone to point out the differences, the only thing they would likely spot is the new grille.
  • The Pathfinder’s interior hasn’t changed much and that isn’t a bad thing. Materials used in the Platinum are for the most part very good for the class. There is plenty of soft-touch materials on the door panels and console. 
  • But Nissan loses some points for the materials used for the dashboard and the surround for center stack. It might look like something soft. But it is hard when pressed. This would be ok if it was the SL and lower trims, not in the top Platinum trim.
  • The center stack is very easy to understand thanks to a simple layout and the use of buttons and knobs.
  • Glad to see Nissan has added their latest version of NissanConnect to the Pathfinder. I really liked this system when I drove the Murano and Maxima last year with a modern interface and being very easy to use.
  • Second-row seating is towards the top of the class with a large amount of head and legroom. Also, the second-row seat is very flexible. The seat can tip forward to allow for easy access to the third row. If you’re wondering, the third row is best reserved for small kids.
  • The 3.5L V6 has been tweaked to produce 284 horsepower (up 24) and 259 pound-feet of torque (up 19). The improvements in power do make a big difference. Compared to the last Pathfinder I drove back in 2013, the updated V6 feels a bit more energetic to get up to speed. Although, the V6 does sound somewhat unrefined when you step on it.
  • Nissan made some changes to the chassis to improve body control and ride. Such changes include revised spring rates, stiffer shocks, and improved steering system. The changes make the Pathfinder feel more stable on stable on the road, especially in corners.
  • At the event, Nissan announced pricing for the 2017 Pathfinder. The base S two-wheel drive begins at $30,890 and climbs to $44,460 for the Platinum 4WD. (Prices include a $900 destination charge)
  • Nissan has made some noticeable improvements for the Pathfinder. But even with these improvements, I can’t think of a reason of why I would pick the Pathfinder over the Kia Sorento, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9. The Pathfinder is good, but competitors at the moment do it better.

2017 Nissan Armada

  • There isn’t really much difference between the new Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX80 aside from different front ends. Both are very polarizing in terms of their overall looks, but I would say the Armada is slightly more tasteful.
  • The interior is a huge improvement over the old Armada. A new dashboard, noticeable improvements in terms of materials, and bits of style strewed about make for a pleasant experience. Yes, there are a fair amount of interior bits from the QX80 in the Armada’s interior, but it doesn’t feel out of place.
  • Most Armadas will feature seating for eight people. The Platinum which was the model I drove features seating for seven (captain chairs in the second row). Sitting in the second row is quite comfortable with a large amount of head and legroom. The Platinum’s second row also features a removable center console that adds more storage. The third-row seat is best left for small kids. Adults will complain that they don’t have any legroom.
  • The standard equipment list is quite generous with all models featuring push-button start, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and navigation. 
  • Speaking about the navigation, I think Nissan made a massive oversight. Unlike the Pathfinder which boasts the latest generation of Nissan Connect, the Armada features a system from the late-oughts. The graphics look quite dated and it doesn’t feature any of Nissan’s latest technologies such as the NissanConnect telematic services.
  • Power comes from a new 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V8 has more than enough grunt to leave a stop light in decent time and makes a passing a breeze. It doesn’t hurt the V8 has a nice growl during acceleration. The automatic seems quite smart with shift points and gear changes are very smooth.
  • One item we’ll be looking at closely whenever we get in an Armada for testing is fuel economy. The Armada Platinum AWD is rated at 13 City/18 Highway/15 Combined. The last Armada we drove in 2014 only got an average of 12 mpg.
  • The ride is very pleasant with bumps being smothered. This is impressive when you consider the Platinum is riding on 20-inch wheels. Nissan also worked on the Armada very quiet. On the freeway, barely any wind noise came in. Some road noise made its way inside, but that is likely due to the large wheels.
  • Somewhat surprising is how the Armada felt in the corners. There was little body roll which is impressive for a seven-seat SUV. Not so impressive is the steering; it feels quite light when turning and there isn’t any feel. 
  • The Armada starts at $45,395 for the base SV 2WD and climbs to $60,985 for the Platinum AWD
  • Think of the 2017 Nissan Armada as an Infiniti QX80 with a significant price cut. There are a lot of improvements for this SUV that might make it an interesting alternative to the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon and Ford Expedition.

2017 Nissan Titan

  • Finally! Nissan has brought out the half-ton Titan. There isn’t any difference in terms of looks between the standard Titan and the Titan XD. The only real difference comes in size: Titan is about 14.7 inches shorter in terms of overall length and its wheelbase is about a foot shorter.
  • Still looks like an older F-150 to me in the front. Everywhere else, the Titan does have some unique touches such black and silver wheels for the Pro-4X, and a large chrome bar on the tailgate of the top Platinum Reserve.
  • The Titan will be offered in regular and king (Nissan-speak for extended) cabs. Sadly, Nissan didn’t have a regular cab Titan to look at in person.
  • The interior might not be anything special in terms of looks, but build and material quality are excellent.
  • Dash layout is a bit button-heavy, but most controls are arranged in a logical fashion.
  • All Titans feature a touchscreen infotainment system, either 5 or 7-inches. The trucks available for us to drive came with a larger 7-inch screen. I’m not a fan of the NissanConnect system used in the Titan and Titan XD for a number of reasons: the interface is looking somewhat old despite being one of the newer systems on the market and having issues with devices plugged in via USB.
  • One area that the Titan shares with the XD is comfort. The front bucket seats provide excellent levels of comfort and support. The backseat is quite spacious with plenty of head and legroom for most passengers. 
  • A storage bin under the back seats provides a handy space for storing tool and other random bits. A clever trick that the bins offer is the ability for the lid to flip out and provide a flat surface for carrying large items in the back.
  • Powering the Titan for the time-being is a 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A V6 is coming, but Nissan isn’t talking details about it at the moment.
  • The V8 moves the Titan with authority, although it takes a moment for the throttle to realize that your foot is on the gas before anything happens. Provides a nice growl during acceleration and doesn’t show any signs of harshness. The seven-speed automatic provides smooth gear changes, although it does take its sweet time to downshift in certain maneuvers such as passing.
  • During the short drive loop, the Titan provided a smooth and relaxing ride. One area that Nissan might want to do some more work is in noise isolation. I found a fair amount of road noise coming into the cabin.
  • Handling is quite surprising for a truck. The Titan felt planted around corners and showed no sign of body roll. Steering is where the Titan really shined as it felt connected to the road and had the right amount of heft. This is due to Nissan using a rack-and-pinion setup, not a recirculating ball steering system in the XD.
  • Pricing for the Titan starts at $35,975 for the base S 2WD Crew to $56,595 for the Platinum Reserve 4WD. Prices for the crew cabs are on the high side and that is making us wonder how much the regular and king cabs will start at.
  • Nissan is making progress with the 2017 Titan in a number of key areas. But we have to wonder if the slow rollout that Nissan is doing with the Titan is actually hurting them. Consider that when other truck manufacturers launch a pickup, they have a number of cab and bed variants ready to go, along with a range of engines. The Titan only has one cab, bed, and engine at the moment. The regular cab goes on sale this fall, but the King Cab and V6 aren’t due till later. This could put Nissan and the Titan in a difficult spot.

Author's Note: Cheers & Gears would like to thank Nissan for inviting us to this first drive event. 


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      Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider.
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      The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for.
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      Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive.
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      EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG.
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      In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no.
      Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Fiat
      Model: 124 Spider
      Trim: Abarth
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29
      Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $28,195
      As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00
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