A blast from the past. Walk up to the Nissan Armada, and you could believe this is a car from the Noughties. Its dated, slab-sided design has lots of 45-degree creases but little in the way of modernity. The fender chrome is reminiscent of Nissan’s Millennial Murano, while that heavy side profile resembles the old Mercedes GL-Class.

Step inside, and the retro theme continues. There is a touchscreen, but the dash also hosts four large dials and swathes of buttons. The steering wheel buttons alone can perform almost 20 different functions, some of which aren’t immediately clear from their symbols. At least the boxy design means up to eight passengers enjoy panoramic views out.

Old-school power. It’s not just the aesthetics that come from the age of nu-metal (also currently enjoying a renaissance) – the Armada’s power is decidedly retro, too. There’s no hybrid power or EcoBoost technology under the hood, where a lazy 5.6-liter V8 churns out 413 lb-ft of torque. It can tow up to 8,500 lb, but fuel economy is poor; AWD models return just 15 mpg combined, while RWD versions deliver 16 mpg on the combined cycle.

Your wallet might weep, but your ears will sing as the throaty V8 propels this near-three-ton SUV in a straight line with surprising alacrity. A smooth seven-speed automatic transmission always finds the right cog to maintain brisk acceleration. Corners are less well-received, with lots of rolling; there’s also pitch and yaw under heavy braking. Travel sick passengers might want to give the Armada a miss, since lateral movement occasionally resembles the sailing ships it’s named after.

A comfortable cabin. We’ve criticized the slab-like dashboard’s array of buttons, but it’s certainly well-assembled. The integral 12.3-inch infotainment display is far neater than the stick-on screens adopted by Mazda and BMW (among others), and the quilted leather on Platinum Armadas adds a luxurious ambiance alongside woodgrain trim and ventilated front seats. Those up front get the best deal, though the second-row seats offer 41 inches of legroom and a choice of either a bench or two captain’s chairs. The third row is handy, but best for children or short journeys, while cargo capacity ranges from 16.5 to 95.4 cubic feet, depending on how many seats are dropped.

A surprisingly compliant ride accentuates comfort levels, especially if you specify 18-inch wheels. The larger 22-inch rims don’t ruin the ride, but they do pick up tremors that their smaller siblings manage to eradicate at the source for a superior experience.

Question marks over safety. We can’t express a definitive opinion on the Armada’s safety, because neither the NHTSA nor IIHS has crash-tested it. This model isn’t available anywhere else in the world, so we can’t even reference overseas data from the likes of Euro NCAP.

At least the Armada is fitted with a wealth of safety aids. All models include adaptive cruise with active lane control, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring. This mirrors the generous specification on base S models, which offer everything you need from wireless smartphone charging to navigation. Front and rear parking sensors are also standard across the range, but those thick roof pillars make parking a challenge – the surround-view camera system is a highly recommended optional extra.

Final thoughts. Nissan only sells the Armada in North America, and even here, its appeal is limited. If you want a big V8 to tow heavy objects in comfort, it’s got you covered. Base models are so well equipped that you don’t need to spend more than $50,000 on S trim, and the cabin is a nice place to sit despite being rather button-heavy.

Beyond that, it’s hard to think why anyone would choose an Armada. In terms of off-road ability, any Land Rover or Range Rover will leave it for dead, especially since most Armadas are RWD only. As a people-carrier, it’s comprehensively beaten by the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey. If all you want is a tow car, the RAM 1500 pulls more weight for less money. And if you really hanker after a boxy three-row SUV with seating for eight, the Ford Expedition is a more powerful and spacious alternative with better safety and superior off-road capabilities.

Check prices for the 2022 Nissan Armada »