Behind the Wheel

2020 Nissan Armada Review: High on comfort and capability, low on tech

The 2020 Nissan Armada is already passed its prime.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2020 Nissan Armada has a reputation for being a strong and capable vehicle but in an increasingly competitive field, it's not the stunner it could be. As 2019 comes to a close and 2020 begins, the three-row full-size SUV will be competing against completely redesigned Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon models for buyer dollars.

Both the Armada and the 2020 Infiniti QX80 offer a similar driving and handling experience. They're powered by the same 5.6-liter V8 engine that is paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission. The engine is thirsty and competent but both SUVs suffer from lane wandering habits that make a driver's arms tired and patience wear out in a jiffy.

2020 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve rearview camera mirror The SUV does have a nifty rearview camera mirror. It's distracting in the daytime but helps mitigate headlight blindness at night.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Both can tow up to 8,500 pounds and have enough off-road prowess to more than satisfy the average owner.

Seating is especially comfortable in both of the vehicles' front rows. Second row seating is decently comfy with enough leg- and headroom for adults to be comfortable. The third row is best only for short trips as adults feel easily squished.

Nissan introduced the Platinum Reserve trim level for its Armada for the 2018 model year. Designed to be the top-tier offering, the Armada Platinum Reserve features all the bells and whistles including Dark Chrome exterior trim, Dark Grey skid plate and tow hatch cover, two-tone leather-appointed seats, interior trim with unique stitching, and 22-inch wheels and tires. It also gets a standard rearview camera mirror.

interior Nissan Armada 2020 screen shifter The center stack immediately dates the Armada.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

But, and this is a big but, it still includes Nissan's outdated infotainment system and driver information screen. There are large buttons galore on the center stack in a time where most SUVs at the Armada Platinum Reserve's price point have gone to either one large infotainment screen and a minimalist button setup or a dual-screen setup with buttons only where absolutely necessary.

The driver information screen is a relic of another generation of vehicles. Despite technically only being in the second year of its second generation, the screen looks much older.

Nissan Armada instrument cluster driver information screen The driver information screen in the Armada looks a decade old.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

With a $68,030 starting price for the 2020 Armada Platinum Reserve 4x4, it's easy to see potential buyers looking elsewhere for more updated equipment.

If you're set on getting a Nissan but want a more modern SUV, take a stroll over to the other side of the lot to the Infiniti dealership where a fresher 2020 Infiniti QX80 sits.

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The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 comes to a dealership near you later this quarter.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is the V8-powered Wrangler y'all have been asking for. Now we know how much 470 horsepower under the hood will cost you - $73,500 - and that's before taxes, fees, and any dealership markup.

With typical Wrangler Rubicon looks on the outside, the Rubicon 392's big selling point is its engine. The 6.4-liter V8 can get from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Jeep is equipping the Rubicon 392 with a 21.5-gallon fuel tank to help with the thirsty engine's range. To save on fuel, the Rubicon 392 uses cylinder deactivation to switch into four-cylinder mode when the V8 isn't needed.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

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The noise out back is courtesy of a two-mode performance exhaust. A functional air scoop feeds the engine and keeps it cool.

All that power requires a stronger frame than the typical Wrangler has. It gets upgraded frame rails, improved cast-iron steering knuckles, and beefier front upper control arms. Stopping power comes from the SUV's larger-than-usual brakes - the Rubicon 392 has 14-inch rotors instead of the Rubicon's typical 13.4-inchers. A 2.0-inch lift is standard.

Jeep has given the model an Off-Road Plus button that lets you lock the rear of the Wrangler Rubicon 392 while it's in four-wheel drive high gear. This functionality will prove especially helpful to desert trekking enthusiasts who get slippery sand under the tires but have to keep up their forward motion so they don't sink and get stuck.

It's also Moab-ready. The Wrangler Rubicon 392 doesn't have the Rock-Trac transfer case that's in the typical Rubicon, but it makes up for it with the availability of low-end torque courtesy of the new V8. Add in the standard Select-Trac transfer case, locking rear differentials, and front sway bar disconnect and adventuring on rocks just became more manageable.

The entire rig rides on 33-inch BF Goodrich KO2 tires that sit at all four corners one 17-inch beadlock-capable tires.

Jeep has given the SUV 11 features that are normally options on Wrangler, nine color choices for buyers to pick from, and bronze colored accents. At the center of the dashboard is an n8.4-inch infotainment screen that allows Jeep Off-Road Pages to be viewed.

Mopar will offer factory-based accessories with the model.

The new Jeep is expected to arrive at dealerships in the first quarter of this year.

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The 2021 Cadillac XT6 has familiar familial design attributes, inside and out.

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

When people shop for a new SUV, especially a premium one, they're looking for style and sophistication as well as good seating, a modern infotainment system, and excellent safety features. Cadillac hits most of those checkboxes right on the nose with its 2021 Cadillac XT6. But all that gleams under the spotlight is not a star.

The Cadillac XT6 is mostly unchanged for the 2021 model year. That's both good and bad. The three-row SUV suffers from the sameness factor that many General Motors SUVs do and along with other weighty issues.

The face of the SUV features the same styling cues as the Cadillac XT4 and XT5, which slot lower than it in the company's lineup and the interior is much the same. Sort of a "if you like one Cadillac SUV you'll probably like them all" scenario going on here. That includes the less-then-premium dashboard and infotainment system surfaces.

2021 Cadillac XT6 The dashboard of the 2021 Cadillac XT6 is outfitted in less-than-premium materials.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

2021 Cadillac XT6

The 2021 Cadillac XT6 's upgraded engine option is a 3.6-liter V6 power plant that comes paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission in the Sport and Premium Luxury trim levels. It's powerful enough to get you going with ease and the tranissmision smoothly shifts through the gears.

The all-wheel drive-enabled XT6's biggest struggles are in terms of drive dynamics. The tester XT6 Sport felt too heavy for its frame. At 4,690 pounds the Sport model is the SUV's heaviest variant, by about an NFL lineman. In the XT6, the weightiness came from the mid-rear, where the SUV's AWD mechanics would be located. This made the XT6 less dynamic at nearly every turn from roadway to parking lot.

Small item storage in the XT6 is not ideal, but rear cargo space is better than average. A power liftgate is standard and power-folding third-row seats make reconfiguring the area easy.

The 2021 Cadillac XT6 offers a good amount of rear cargo space.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Cadillac XT6 is a good vehicle for its target audience, but it could be better. While there are high points, like the comfortable seats that can be equipped with heating in the first two rows, the low points are mainly when the XT6 is considered versus the competition. Other premium SUVs, like the Acura MDX, have far more comfortable and plush seats.

Another plus is that adults can fit in the third row of the XT6. This is something that older midsize SUVs struggled with but has become more common in recent years with the emergence of the Kia Telluride, Subaru Ascent, and Hyundai Palisade, as well as the redesigned Highlander. However, the XT6 still has less head-, leg-, shoulder-, and hip room than many of those models, in all three rows.

There's nothing cutting edge about the tech in the Cadillac XT6 and that's okay. It's not the Escalade. What is there is perfectly suitable compared to the XT6's main rivals. The main pain point is the SUV's infotainment screen, which is smaller than other offerings in the segment and can appear crowded with information, or lacking information, depending on the use case scenario.

2021 Cadillac XT6 The 2021 Cadillac XT6 has seating for up to seven. Here, it's configured for six.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

All Cadillac XT6 models come with automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, following distance indicator, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, following distance indicator, a high-definition rearview camera, Safety Alert Seat, and IntelliBeam headlights with rear park assist. Premium Luxury and Sport models also get lane change alert with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert as standard.

As in the XT5, the XT6 struggles with its lane keeping assist and departure warning technology, which rarely reads the lines until the vehicle is well over them, even in excellent driving conditions (new pavement, fresh lines, bright but not glaring sun). At night, just "fuhgetaboutit", as they say in any number of Martin Scorsese films.

The 2021 Cadillac XT6 starts at $48,990. General Motors loves to get buyers to add on packages and equipment to up the price of their model. All-in, the XT6 Sport tester Cadillac leant for this review had a MSRP of $70,570 after $13,375 in options were tacked on. That's a steep price to pay for this SUV. For that amount of money, it should be better.

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