Automotive

Review: Overlanding Nissan's special-edition adventure trucks

Review: Overlanding Nissan's s...
Power comes from the stock 390-hp 5.6-liter V8 engine
Power comes from the stock 390-hp 5.6-liter V8 engine
View 44 Images
Nissan goes full-on off-road expedition with the Armada Mountain Patrol
1/44
Nissan goes full-on off-road expedition with the Armada Mountain Patrol
The Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol includes a rugged Calmini bumper with Warn winch
2/44
The Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol includes a rugged Calmini bumper with Warn winch
The Armada Mountain Patrol rides high thanks to its 6-in lift
3/44
The Armada Mountain Patrol rides high thanks to its 6-in lift
The Armada Mountain Patrol includes a Rhino-Rack Batwing awning and a CVT roof-top tent
4/44
The Armada Mountain Patrol includes a Rhino-Rack Batwing awning and a CVT roof-top tent
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
5/44
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
Nissan revealed the Armada Mountain Patrol earlier this year in Sedona, Ariz
6/44
Nissan revealed the Armada Mountain Patrol earlier this year in Sedona, Ariz
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
7/44
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
8/44
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
The evening glow off Sedona's red rocks provides the perfect backdrop for Nissan's Armada Mountain Patrol debut
9/44
The evening glow off Sedona's red rocks provides the perfect backdrop for Nissan's Armada Mountain Patrol debut
Nissan developed the Armada Mountain Patrol with some help from social media input
10/44
Nissan developed the Armada Mountain Patrol with some help from social media input
Nissan debuts the Armada Mountain Patrol in Sedona
11/44
Nissan debuts the Armada Mountain Patrol in Sedona
Does the Armada Mountain Patrol foretell a more Patrol-based production Armada?
12/44
Does the Armada Mountain Patrol foretell a more Patrol-based production Armada?
The Rhino-Rack Backbone Rack holds equipment like the CVT tent and Baja Designs lighting
13/44
The Rhino-Rack Backbone Rack holds equipment like the CVT tent and Baja Designs lighting
Calmini rock sliders on the Armada Mountain Patrol
14/44
Calmini rock sliders on the Armada Mountain Patrol
The front-end gets much meaner thanks to the Calmini heavy-duty bumper, Baja Designs LP9 lights and Warn winch
15/44
The front-end gets much meaner thanks to the Calmini heavy-duty bumper, Baja Designs LP9 lights and Warn winch
Baja Designs auxiliary lighting
16/44
Baja Designs auxiliary lighting
The Armada Mountain Patrol smiles (grimaces) for its close-up
17/44
The Armada Mountain Patrol smiles (grimaces) for its close-up
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
18/44
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
Power comes from the stock 390-hp 5.6-liter V8 engine
19/44
Power comes from the stock 390-hp 5.6-liter V8 engine
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
20/44
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
Setting out on an overlanding day trip in the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
21/44
Setting out on an overlanding day trip in the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
We also got behind the wheel of this Titan XD with Hellwig components and Lance camper
22/44
We also got behind the wheel of this Titan XD with Hellwig components and Lance camper
We were impressed with how stable this Titan pickup camper was on both dirt and highway
23/44
We were impressed with how stable this Titan pickup camper was on both dirt and highway
We didn't do any serious rock crawling, but there was plenty of rock and rough terrain on the trails we took the Armada Mountain Patrol down
24/44
We didn't do any serious rock crawling, but there was plenty of rock and rough terrain on the trails we took the Armada Mountain Patrol down
Driving the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol overlander
25/44
Driving the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol overlander
Driving the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol overlander
26/44
Driving the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol overlander
Driving the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol overlander
27/44
Driving the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol overlander
The Armada Mountain Patrol cleared and climbed everything in its path
28/44
The Armada Mountain Patrol cleared and climbed everything in its path
The Armada Mountain Patrol is a natural pack leader
29/44
The Armada Mountain Patrol is a natural pack leader
Spewing dust with the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
30/44
Spewing dust with the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
Overlanding through Arizona red rock country
31/44
Overlanding through Arizona red rock country
Last year's Project Basecamp was also on the drive
32/44
Last year's Project Basecamp was also on the drive
Lunchtime!
33/44
Lunchtime!
The Armada Mountain Patrol makes easy work out of the dirt road
34/44
The Armada Mountain Patrol makes easy work out of the dirt road
Overlanding in the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
35/44
Overlanding in the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
A bit bulkier than the Mountain Patrol, the Hellwig/Lance Titan XD pickup camper is still quite at home on the dirt and rock
36/44
A bit bulkier than the Mountain Patrol, the Hellwig/Lance Titan XD pickup camper is still quite at home on the dirt and rock
The Armada Mountain Patrol feels right at home on the rock
37/44
The Armada Mountain Patrol feels right at home on the rock
Overlanding in the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
38/44
Overlanding in the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
Australian-market Nissan Patrol Y61 Wagon "Legend Edition" from 2016
39/44
Australian-market Nissan Patrol Y61 Wagon "Legend Edition" from 2016
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
40/44
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
The sun sets over the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
41/44
The sun sets over the Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
The Armada Mountain Patrol is built to climb rock and kick up dust on all kinds of adventures
42/44
The Armada Mountain Patrol is built to climb rock and kick up dust on all kinds of adventures
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
43/44
Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol
A breakdown of the Armada Mountain Patrol's add-ons
44/44
A breakdown of the Armada Mountain Patrol's add-ons

Before heading to Overland Expo and Abenteuer & Allrad to check out the latest off-road adventure wares built by small companies we only hear about a few times a year, we took a close look at an overland rig commissioned by one of the auto industry's household names. Nissan has been dipping its toes in the overland arena the past few years, with project builds like last year's Project Basecamp. This year, it revealed the all-new Armada Mountain Patrol, and for a few minutes under the setting sun, it stood majestically as a perfectly polished show truck. A day later, we got it filthy while putting it through its paces in the high desert of Northern Arizona.

Over the past five years, Nissan North America has moved away from the off-road market it was once a spirited part of. In the 2013 model year, it bloated its crossover lineup, turning the once-rugged, stalwart Pathfinder into yet another a unibody CUV. It followed that up in 2015 by axing the Xterra. The aged Frontier is absolutely screaming for a full overhaul, leaving just full-size models like the Armada and Titan to fill the role of body-on-frame trucks with non-ancient platforms. And the Armada is really more a big, road-touring family wagon lacking true off-road grit.

Interestingly, during those same five years or so, Nissan has been putting out some pretty wild off-road crossover concepts and one-off truck builds. It had a string of treaded "Warrior" concepts, and it added this weird, surfy 370Zki earlier this year. It has also dabbled in overland design, with builds like the digi-camo Project Titan and last year's Overland Expo-debuted Project Basecamp.

Sure, those are just one-offs with no production futures ... but maybe there's something there. It's almost as if Nissan has been signaling to off-road lovers that it hasn't forgotten about them, just have patience.

And maybe the "Patrol" name that's appeared on two of Nissan's 2018 off-road concepts, as well as earning a reference in the announcement for the recent Titan Surfcamp, has something to do with that. While the newest US-market Armada shares its underpinnings and looks with the latest international-market Patrol, it doesn't have the full slate of off-road goodies, or the rock-solid reputation, that have long made the Patrol the Patrol.

But a "Patrol"-spec Armada could add overnight credibility to Nissan's off-road lineup, bringing with it some combination of locking differentials, off-road-tuned suspension and big, grabby tires, right out of the factory.

Australian-market Nissan Patrol Y61 Wagon "Legend Edition" from 2016
Australian-market Nissan Patrol Y61 Wagon "Legend Edition" from 2016

Then again, maybe Nissan designers and engineers have just been having some fun with custom show builds. Nissan didn't give up much when we tried to poke around about the significance of the reoccurring "Patrol" concept name.

Whatever Nissan's long game, it has been building some interesting one-offs. And for this year's Overland Expo, it followed up last year's appearance by debuting the all-new Armada Mountain Patrol, which joins the Armada Snow Patrol from earlier this year to complete the 2018 "Patrol" show truck duo.

The presentation of the Mountain Patrol followed a social media campaign inviting fan input on the design of the truck. The meatiest additions are the 6-in Calmini lift kit and Icon Vehicle Dynamics heavy-duty coil-over suspension and extended A-arms cushioning the 17-in Icon Rebound wheels centered in Nitto Ridge Grappler 35/12.25/17 tires.

The Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol includes a rugged Calmini bumper with Warn winch
The Nissan Armada Mountain Patrol includes a rugged Calmini bumper with Warn winch

The other big addition lending to the Mountain Patrol's "don't mess with me" demeanor is the custom-fabricated steel front bumper from Calmini that juts out around a 12,000-lb (5,443-kg) Warn Platinum Series winch. Calmini complements that big chin with a heavy-duty steel rear bumper, rock sliders and a swing-away spare tire holder.

The Mountain Patrol supports multi-day expeditions with a four-person Cascadia Vehicle Tents Mt. Shasta roof-top tent, which is held in place by a Rhino-Rack Backbone roof rack and joined up high by Baja Designs LED lighting, a Hi-Lift Jack and a Rhino-Rack Batwing 270-degree awning.

Nissan developed the Armada Mountain Patrol with some help from social media input
Nissan developed the Armada Mountain Patrol with some help from social media input

The Mountain Patrol doesn't offer a full kitchen, but it does have a slide-out ARB fridge. ARB is also the badge on the pull-out drawer system and air compressor. Up front, Lowrance off-road navigation helps prevent undesired expedition detours and, we imagine, encourages desired ones.

We've already started to slip into that gray area, but before we start advertising every add-on and accessory manufacturer that threw gear Nissan's way, we'll let this handy pictorial take care of the rest:

A breakdown of the Armada Mountain Patrol's add-ons
A breakdown of the Armada Mountain Patrol's add-ons

Below its foresty burnt orange wrap, the base Armada offers a muscular 390-hp 5.6-liter V8 engine and 8,500-lb (3,855-kg) towing capacity, not to mention a spacious interior. Even when filled out with expedition show truck gear, it's a capable machine to get out and about with.

"One thing true off-road enthusiasts understand about the Armada Mountain Patrol is its authentic adventure heritage," said Brandon White, Nissan North America's chief marketing manager, when introducing the Mountain Patrol. "Every 2018 Armada is inspired by the global Patrol – a vehicle with over five decades of off-roading credibility."

There's that "global Patrol," again.

Patrolling the desert with the Mountain Patrol

We had roughly a dozen journalists shuffling off between trucks on our Nissan convoy through near-ghost towns, ancient rock art sites and open high desert, so we didn't get a whole ton of time at the helm of the Mountain Patrol. But we did take the wheel for a good stretch of sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth and fast trail that gave a good, quick taste of the special-edition Armada's capabilities. And they were quite tasty, indeed.

We didn't do any serious rock crawling, but there was plenty of rock and rough terrain on the trails we took the Armada Mountain Patrol down
We didn't do any serious rock crawling, but there was plenty of rock and rough terrain on the trails we took the Armada Mountain Patrol down

We were expecting to feel a bit of weight and rattle from the tent, rack and accessories up top when negotiating hills and off-camber terrain, but the ride was smooth and we didn't notice any major handling shortcomings. The upped ride height did its job quite well, allowing us to soar clean over one or two mid-trail rocks that made us wince.

We were definitely glad to have the 390 hp and 394 lb-ft worth of V8 muscle while climbing and cruising, and we couldn't help but smirk – rightfully or wrongfully – as we sat in the cabin chatting about the 2.7-liter turbo four General Motors was busy introducing for the Silverado 1500 at that very same time. Pickup was never an issue, and we were able to get the Mountain Patrol comfortably cruising to around 45 mph (72 km/h) on some of the longer sections of fairly smooth track, confident that the suspension would gobble up any and all lumps and bumps that popped out of the periphery.

The Armada Mountain Patrol makes easy work out of the dirt road
The Armada Mountain Patrol makes easy work out of the dirt road

At the end of the day, we enjoyed the ride and couldn't cite any complaints, but we only really logged about 25 minutes of hard, quality wheel time. And since it was a day trip, equipment like the roof tent, refrigerator and auxiliary lighting remained but decorative jewelry.

But getting this one all dusty was more than you'd do with the average special-edition show build. Folks will likely love or leave the orange wrap, but beyond that, Nissan did some nice work here, and it was a unique opportunity to test-drive the type of truck you usually only see sitting still at Overland Expo, SEMA and/or the LA Auto Show, then never again.

Bringing it home with the hell-raising Hellwig Nissan Titan "Rulebreaker"

Moving on to a SEMA build that we have actually been seeing again and again, we got to finish out the drive with the biggest rig of our convoy – the tiger-like "Rulebreaker" expedition pickup camper from Hellwig and Lance. Essentially, a blacked-out Lance 650 pickup camper inside the bed of a lifted Titan XD with a Hellwig rear sway bar, leaf springs and air springs stabilizing things below, not to mention the usual laundry list of aftermarket pieces found on any SEMA build, this multi-company showcase vehicle was along for the ride.

We were impressed with how stable this Titan pickup camper was on both dirt and highway
We were impressed with how stable this Titan pickup camper was on both dirt and highway

The Rulebreaker first debuted at SEMA 2016, simultaneously highlighting the all-new Titan XD and its 2,500-lb (1,134-kg) payload, along with the fact that it is possible to make a pickup camper look cooler than those bright-white, broad-sided pompadours that look straight out of the 1970s.

The camper layout obviously makes the Rulebreaker much larger than the Mountain Patrol we drove immediately before it, so we expected to feel a difference in acceleration and handling immediately. But Hellwig's upgrades around the rear axle stabilize the rear-end to the point that all that extra bulk was rarely and barely noticeable.

We were driving this one during the very last leg, a smooth combination of level dirt road and highway back to the lodge, so we didn't go over anything that would really get it popping and rattling, but the lack of discernible pull on the rear or strain on the engine was impressive – a testament to getting someone that knows what they're doing to adjust the suspension on your pickup before rolling out with a big, ol' camper hanging off the back.

A bit bulkier than the Mountain Patrol, the Hellwig/Lance Titan XD pickup camper is still quite at home on the dirt and rock
A bit bulkier than the Mountain Patrol, the Hellwig/Lance Titan XD pickup camper is still quite at home on the dirt and rock

At one point, Hellwig's Mike Hallmark actually asked from the passenger seat, "did you ever think you'd be cruising at this speed in a big camper like this, full gangster lean," at which point we realized that we were sailing down the left lane of the highway, steering one-handed and all but forgetting about being in a full-size diesel pickup with a slide-in camper hogging the bed. Not bad for a full-size truck camper.

The only negative we did notice was some cross wind on the highway, which seems an inevitability of riding around with a broad-sided camper in your bed. It wasn't course-changing or otherwise problematic, but it did make us reel things back ... for a couple minutes.

We'll be watching closely to see if all these "Patrol" mentions lead anywhere concrete or end up more like the "Warrior" series of treaded snow/sand crossovers (we feel safe assuming Nissan won't be releasing a production Warrior all-track-drive in the future). Hopefully, we'll see a Patrol-inspired vehicle (or another model entirely) that harks back to the rugged, US-market Nissan utility vehicles of old.

0 comments
There are no comments. Be the first!