The 2017 Nissan Armada comes to showrooms soon, replacing the Titan pickup based Armada we’ve come to know since 2004. The new Armada comes by way of the global market Nissan Patrol, also recognizable here as a cousin to the Infiniti QX80.

While this might sound on the surface like a hand-me-down product replacement for expediency, in our first drive of the 2017 Nissan Armada, we find that this transformation is more a hand-me-up.

This is because the Nissan Patrol upon which the new Armada is based is more a world-class purpose designed and built SUV than a derivative of a pickup-truck as the old Armada was. Built in Japan, the Nissan Patrol and now Armada crawls on the same paths in world markets as does the Toyota Land Cruiser, legendary in its off-road prowess.

What this means is a slightly narrower track, a taller profile and longer wheelbase than most of the American full-sized SUV’s which it will compete. There’s a fully independent coil sprung suspension, ladder frame, and big wheels spanning 18 to 20-inches.

It comes with more standard power than most with a 5.6 liter DOHC V8 good for 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque delivered through a seven-speed automatic transmission. With available two or four-wheel drive, it can tow up to 8,500 pounds right out of the gate

Pricing will start at $44,400 for the Armada two-wheel drive in SV trim, in a three grade strategy that also includes SL and Premium. In all cases, standard are LED headlamps, running boards, two-tone paint, 8-passenger seating, and a Bose premium touchscreen audio system with navigation.

This puts it at a $3,000 price advantage over the Chevrolet Tahoe and about $2,000 less than the Ford Expedition. In both cases, our first impressions are that you get a much more elevated sense of design and quality inside, with a premium interior that’s near identical to the Infiniti QX80.

Materials are identical to its luxury cousin with exception of seating fabrics and leather, minor trims and here there is simulated wood trim instead of the real thing you will find in the Infiniti. Fit and finish, comfort and feature content is impressive for its entry price.

Stepping into the top-level Premium grade as our test vehicles were, you get power folding third-row seats, leather trim everywhere and there’s also a dual screen theater entertainment system available as an option with multiple inputs.

Handling and driving behavior is also much akin to the Infiniti QX80 with a level of steering sharpness and suspension refinement that’s as impressive on the streets and highway as it is off the pavement. Substantial anti-roll bars front and rear keep it flat in cornering, acoustic glass and lots of sound deadening make it library quiet as they call it. Indeed it is.

In our test we had an opportunity to take it off-roading to get a feel for its suspension control and articulation, it’s traction management capabilities and its low end power delivery. Here we found an SUV that can give you a true selectable low range four-wheel drive mode and rock-worthy approach and departure angles when you want them, providing a remarkable nimble character maneuvering in the rough.

17-nissan-armada-14Power from the 5.6 liter V8 is smooth and refined, the seven-speed automatic transmission seeming to have just the right number of cogs. Even on regular unleaded, it provides snap and response when prodded from a stop or passing on the freeway with a smoothness and finesses that won’t wake the kids from their video games.

With seating for eight passengers standard, seven with the Premium grade and its second row captain’s chairs, the new 2017 Nissan Armada we feel will offer something a bit more premium in the market against American competitors, more value in specifications and features than a Toyota Sequoia which is admittedly getting quite long in tooth.

Our first impression really puts the new 2017 Armada closer up to the Toyota Land Cruiser in theme, but far less in price – at least at its entry point. The new 2017 Nissan Armada arrives at dealerships by this fall. We’ll bring you a far more detailed test drive when we get more time with the new Armada very soon.