When Nissan says it is going to build a fullsize SUV to compete with the big boys, it isn't kidding. How could anyone have missed our giant 2WD tester when it was dropped off at our home office? Dwarfing every other SUV in the test, the massive Pathfinder Armada was as intimidating sitting in the parking lot as it was barreling toward you in your rearview mirror.

Part of this intimidation factor came not only from size, but from the Armada's styling, which is best described as aggressive - although some testers felt the side profile appeared confused. The look is distinctive, and there is no doubt the vehicle you are looking at is an Armada.

You will definitely have a chance to see the Armada, especially as it passes you on the highway. Nissan packed this SUV with a fantastic powertrain, which made this heavy beast nearly as quick as the Porsche and faster than the Cadillac. Engineers must have gone to great lengths to calibrate the engine and transmission management software, because the engine is perfectly matched to an excellent five-speed automatic transmission, which always felt like it was in the right gear.Our testers also appreciated the switch to disable the VSC traction control, which allowed us to lay smoking scratch all over town.

On the inside, the Armada is enormous. One of our testers reported that eight adults could fit inside the Armada comfortably, and after a 100-mile trip, they were all still friends. Wind and road noises are tolerable, but louder than the competition. The dash is logically laid out and easy to use, but it faced the same criticism of the quality of plastics and switchgear we leveled at the Titan, the Armada's sibling. Just as in the Titan, the Armada has one of the best A/C systems we have tested, easily numbing your outer extremities in a matter of minutes.

The ride of the Armada is generally good, especially since the Titan's solid rear axle was traded for an independent rear suspension setup, but even this setup can get overly bouncy on expansion joints. This IRS helps with high-speed stability and ride quality, but our testers still felt that the heavy SUV exhibited more understeer and body roll than they would have liked.

The Nissan Pathfinder Armada is an excellent first try at an all-new vehicle, but controversial styling and a less luxurious interior show there is still room for improvement. Despite these few criticisms, we expect the Armada to be a strong competitor in the showroom.

From the Logbook:
The Armada has love-it-or-hate-it body lines, but in either case, it draws attention. - Editor Steve Warner

It has excellent power and performance. The Armada pinned me in my seat, with its awesome acceleration.- Feature Editor Travis Noack

The ride improves with eight people, and the handling remains predictable.- Associate Editor Sean P. Holman