Itís difficult to be a completely successful and profitable volume automaker in the U.S. without a full-size pickup truck and sport/utility vehicle.

Much has been written about the new Nissan Titan pickup truck set to debut early this winter. But actually beating it to market is the Pathfinder Armada full-size SUV.
 
Sharing the Titanís all-ne" />

Issue: Sep 2003


Full Speed Ahead



Nissanís new SUV sails into the full-size segment.

by Andrea Wielgat

Itís difficult to be a completely successful and profitable volume automaker in the U.S. without a full-size pickup truck and sport/utility vehicle.

Much has been written about the new Nissan Titan pickup truck set to debut early this winter. But actually beating it to market is the Pathfinder Armada full-size SUV.
 
Sharing the Titanís all-new platform and powertrain, the Pathfinder Armada hits dealerships this month. Nissan hopes to sell about 40,000 units of the vehicle each year.
 
The addition of Pathfinder Armada allows the company to be a full-line SUV manufacturer that also includes the Xterra, Murano, and Pathfinder, says Nissan.

ďIt really completes our family of SUVs,Ē says Mitch Davis, senior manager, marketing, Nissan SUVs.

Pathfinder Armada also gives Nissan and its dealers the chance to cash in on a robust, stable and high-margin segment.

ďItís a good volume opportunity for us,Ē says Larry Dominique, chief product specialist for the Titan and Pathfinder Armada. ďPlus, itís a good profit opportunity for us.Ē







 
Nissanís Pathfinder Armadaís 5- speed automatic transmission has a gated floor-mounted shifter.
Pathfinder Armada comes in at the top of the range and is Nissanís SUV flagship. The vehicle will compete against the heavy hitters in the segment including Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Toyota Sequoia and Ford Expedition.

The SUV is slightly longer than its competitors which range in length from 196.9 inches (Chevy Tahoe) to 205.8 inches (Ford Expedition). Pathfinder Armadaís length touches 206.9 inches.

Nissan says the SUV does not compete with the much larger SUVs in the segment including the GMC Yukon XL, Chevy Suburban and Ford Excursion.

In preparing to introduce the vehicle in the segment, Nissan performed research clinics with potential customers who said they want and need room for several passengers and their stuff.

The unmet needs study also found that one of the largest complaints in the large SUV segment is a big, lumbering feeling. Nissan, says Dominique, wanted a very firm handling but confident drive for its SUV.

To help with this, the Pathfinder Armada has a fully independent rear suspension, which Nissan says is an improvement on Pathfinderís 5-link rear suspension. The system allows for improved control on rough surfaces and eliminates the ďhead tossingĒ experienced in most SUVs. Additionally cornering is improved.









 
 
The Pathfinder Armadaís new V-8 engine is shared with Nissanís full-size pickup truck.
Pathfinder Armada also has a new platform, which utilizes a fully boxed frame with 50 percent high strength steel. Frame supplier, Tower, said it was unnecessary to use hydroforming in the frame, says Dominique. Additionally, it is 95 percent welded.

Standard on the Pathfinder Armada is a 5- speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with a gated floor-mounted shifter inside the vehicle. The system has tow/haul modes for increased performance and fuel efficiency. According to Nissan, the transmission has a unique gear set chosen for use in high torque situations.

Four-wheel drive models have a two-speed transfer case with 4-Lo and Auto 4X4 technology. Nissanís 4WD system automatically distributes torque to all four wheels depending on road conditions. Up to 50 percent can go to the front wheels on demand.

Vehicle dynamic control (VDC) with brake activated limited-slip traction control is also standard.

Driving the Pathfinder Armada and its sibling, the Titan pickup, is an all new engine. The 5.6L DOHC 32-valve V-8 produces 305 hp. and 385 lbs.-ft. of torque with 90 percent of torque available below 2,500 rpm.

It has an aluminum block with cast iron cylinder liners, forged steel crankshaft, microfinished crankshatft and camshafts, molybdenum-coated pistons, 6-bolt main bearing caps and single stage timing chain, says Nissan. Dana supplied both the front and rear axles for the Pathfinder Armada. The Pathfinder Armada has the highest maximum towing capacity in its class of up to 9,100 pounds, when properly equipped.

Vehicles outfitted with the towing package receive a higher axle ratio and a transmission temperature gauge. When buying the tow package customers also get a receiver hitch, heavy-duty radiator, additional 7-pin wiring harness plug, trailer brake pre-wiring, heavy duty battery and rear suspension air levelizer, which adjusts the air pressure in the suspension bladders and helps keep consistent ground clearance and departure angle during towing.

Inside the vehicle, Pathfinder Armada can seat up to eight people thanks to a hide-away third row seat.







 
Inside the vehicle the second and third rows of seats easily fold flat.
Depending on models, customers can get second and third row bench seats or second row captainís chairs and third row bench seat.

An assist spring allows easy folding of the third-row seats into an area cut out of the floor. The second row of seats double-fold to create a large flat area in the rear of the vehicle.

Nissan says people buying in this segment felt there wasnít enough storage in the SUVs on the market. To deal with this Nissan equipped the Pathfinder Armada with multiple storage areas throughout the vehicle.

A large console storage bin between the two front seats has two cargo areas including a smaller bin for things like cell phones, note pads and pens while a much larger area can fit binders or a laptop.

An overhead console area has several small bins and a storage net for maps, sunglasses, headphones and CDs. It also houses the vehicleís rear air conditioning and audio controls along with a 7-inch color display screen for the entertainment system.











 
A 7-inch color screen entertains the children.
 
The Pathfinder Armada has up to 14 cupholders.
Additionally, there is a removable secondrow console storage bin when equipped with the second row captainís chairs. The Pathfinder Armada has up to 14 cupholders depending on the model.

To help make the driver more comfortable, the brake and accelerator pedals are adjustable. With SUV safety becoming increasingly more important to customers, Nissan equipped the Pathfinder Armada with a long list of safety features.

The SUV has roof-mounted curtain supplemental air bags to provide rollover protection to all three rows of seats. Side-impact supplemental air bags mounted in the seats are also available.

Dual-stage front supplemental air bags with seat belt sensors and a front passenger occupant classification sensor is standard.

The Pathfinder Armada also has a tire pressure monitoring system with a warming lamp in the gauge cluster. A warning will also display on the optional navigation system screen.
 
The Pathfinder Armada is available in several models including the SE, SE Off-Road and LE in both 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive.

The SE Off-Road builds on the base model with ďall-terrainĒ equipment including Rancho performance shock absorbers, a lower final gear ratio, BF Goodrich All-Terrain tire mounted on off-road style aluminum alloy wheels, fog lamps and three skid plates.

The LE is more luxurious than the SE with second row bucket seats and a removable center console.

Nissan expects the SE to be the biggest seller with 40 percent of orders. The Off-Road version of the SE is expected to grab about 25 percent of sales. The fully equipped LE will see the remaining 35 percent of sales.

Nissan says Pathfinder Armada buyers will be at the income level of luxury car buyers, with more than 30 percent having owned a luxury vehicle in the past.

ďThese buyers are actually younger and more affluent than middle utility buyers,Ē Dominique says.

Pathfinder Armada buyers are also expected to be loyal to Nissan with about 30 percent of customers coming from within the Nissan family.

Pathfinder Armada arrives at dealerships this month. The vehicle entered production late last month at Nissanís new Canton, Miss., plant alongside the Titan pickup. The engine for both vehicles ó Nissanís Endurance V-8 ó is assembled at the companyís plant in Decherd, Tenn.

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