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TOP-DRAWER SUV: For 2018, a Platinum Reserve option upgrades the luxury quotient of Nissan’s big Armada 4×4

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Big and brawny, that’s the 2018 Nissan Armada’s claim to fame.

With classic body-on-frame construction and burly V-8 power, the jumbo-size sport-utility vehicle delivers serious competition to segment leaders Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon. The Armada even takes on their Cadillac Escalade sibling, thanks to a premium-grade interior.

The current Armada shrank nominally in its 2017 redesign from its previously even-bigger platform. But don’t fret: Despite the shrinkage, the three-row Armada still offers a cavernous cabin, although the third-row seating is rather cramped.

Now sharing the same basic components as the Infiniti QX80, the latest Armada inches further into luxury-level territory, particularly when equipped the new-for-2018 Platinum Reserve package featuring dark chrome exterior trim, exclusive dark chrome 20-inch alloy wheels, and premium two-tone leather seats.

The front thrones are nicely shaped and provide excellent support, so comfort shouldn’t be an issue on long-distance drives.

Our tester also came with optional ($450) captain’s chairs and console, so second-row passengers won’t feel like second-class travelers. Not only do they provide increased comfort, they also improve third-row access.

Powering the Armada is a potent, albeit quite thirsty, V-8, paired with a smooth-shifting and responsive seven-speed automatic transmission. Strong acceleration is a pedal’s push away, accompanied by old-school V-8 rumble that subsides when merely cruising down the highway. As another indication of the engine’s potency, the Armada is rated to tow up to 8,500 pounds.

With 9.1 inches of ground clearance and a low-range setting, the Armada 4×4 is surprisingly adept at off-road duty. But while a handful in town, due to its size, the Armada excels at highway trips. It prefers smooth interstates rather than curvy two-lanes, where its ponderous weight hampers its handling.

Packed with up-to-date safety systems, deluxe accommodations, plentiful power and soothing highway ride, the big Armada is well-armed for family duty.

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