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Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
1/14/21 1:07 p.m.

AAZCD's Sequioa thread reminded me I'm tired of borrowing sketchy vehicles to tow our Lemons E36, plus we want a family vacation vehicle that can reach remote lake houses and mountain cabins more reliably than our Odyssey.  Also, we've been toying with renting travel-trailer RVs for family vacations.

I wouldn't mind a Suburban, but the wife doesn't like them.  The next obvious players are the Sequoia and Armada.  The Sequoia is the safe choice, but the Armada is significantly more powerful and it shows in the performance numbers. Theoretically (if I can find one) they were also available with a tow package that has some nice features and increases the capacity to 9100 lbs.  I think the Sequoia maxes out at 6500 lbs.  That said, I'm concerned about the Nissan's reliability.  Anybody here have experience with that generation?

Any other options I'm not considering?
I specifically want:

- SUV body to haul kids & luggage. 
- Min 6K, preferably 7K+ lbs towing capacity
- $5-7K buy in 
- Not much older than 15 years
- Not going to drain my fun money with repairs
- Decent ground clearance. Some of our vacation spots have pretty shoddy roads. I even blasted across a small creek in our van once.
- 4WD would be nice, but RWD is fine. 

engiekev HalfDork
1/14/21 1:19 p.m.

Nissan Pathfinder.  We have a V8 model and it tows excellent, the V6 can still tow fine but not as much.

The 3rd row is a bit small compared to the Armada.

APEowner Dork
1/14/21 1:46 p.m.

I have no experience with either of those vehicles but I have to say that I really like the sound of the factory exhaust on the Nissan V8s.

KyAllroad (Jeremy) (Forum Supporter)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
1/14/21 1:59 p.m.

My sister has asked me for years what vehicle she should get to run a veterinary practice out of.  I would always tell her to get a Tahoe or Suburban and she bought nearly everything else (Santa Fe, 4Runner, Sequoia, RX400h, 4Runner, and now Sequoia again).    But for a time she was provided a work vehicle by a large practice, and 100% of the big SUVs they provided were.....Tahoes and Suburbans.  GM just got them right.

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
1/14/21 2:05 p.m.

In reply to engiekev :

I'll check out the Pathfinder, but I suspect they're too small.  We do a consistent job of filling up a minivan worth of crap and I realize anything short of a "real" van is going to be a downgrade.

In reply to APEowner :

I We had a late model Armada as a rental and I was surprised how much I liked it.  I think the sound didn't hurt.

In reply to KyAllroad (Jeremy) (Forum Supporter) :

Yeah eyeballing them I think the GM stuff would have more interior room as well.  We'll see if she comes around.

docwyte PowerDork
1/14/21 2:06 p.m.

My friend towed his race car out from Denver to Utah, across windy Wyoming with his Armada.  He got a whopping 4.5mpg.

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
1/14/21 2:09 p.m.

In reply to docwyte :


MrJoshua UltimaDork
1/14/21 2:33 p.m.

I daily an '03 4runner. It was bought as a dog smelling, cracked dash, dirty dirty vehicle with a lot of dash lights on and around 170k miles. I cleaned it up slightly and have been driving it for about 3 years with zero reliability issues. It likely needs front control arm bushings and it was unruly, wanting to spin the tires any time you tried to even slightly accelerate, until I resolved the lack of traction control. Overall it is really comfortable and very reliable. It feels quick on its feet and engaging to drive.

I bought a dead 2006 Armada and failed to fully save it. In the less than 20 miles I drove it, likely running on 7 cylinders, it was a fun drive. Zippy for a big pig and reasonably quick steering. It was comforable to sit in and overall felt good to pilot. I felt bad scrapping it but it probably needed an engine and wouldn't have been worth what it cost to put an engine in.

I also bought an '08 auction suburban HD that used to be a highway safety vehicle. It is a rat. Slower than what I expected a 6.0 to be. The dash is in a million pieces and the interior rattles and shakes horribly over every bump. I am hoping I can make it semi nice as I really want a third row vehicle back in our fleet. 

That is an odd batch of SUV's to consider, but they all started as worn out versions of once expensive vehicles. They are all similar in that the interiors are rough, they have similar miles, and they were all cheap compared to normal examples. The Toyota is the oldest and it is the one that drove the best.  The Armada feels like it would be the nicest to drive if it was still running well and enough money was dumped into it to deal with nitpicky electronics and  interior issues. The Suburban is 5 years newer but feels much older due to the interior aging poorly, the leisurely first gear acceleration and overall lazy handling, and all of the rattles and shakes. The Suburban and Toyota were about the same price, and the Armada was almost free and I made money scrapping it. 

I would go Toyota if you don't need a fold away third row.

MaxC New Reader
1/14/21 2:39 p.m.

I am (was) a Nissan Master tech, and worked for Nissan from 2008-2015.  I like to judge how reliable a vehicle is by how many major repairs I've had to do to them over the years.  That being said, I would say the generation of Nissan Armada (and Titan for that matter) is VERY reliable.  Never had to put an engine or transmission in one.  To be fair, Nissan had a problem of radiator trans coolers leaking and mixing coolant and trans fluid, requiring the replacement of both.  That only happened to me personally on pathfinders and frontiers, even then it was very rare.  I think the armada engine is very reliable, and the transmission as well if you don't put coolant in in.  The rear diffs were not prone to failure like Titans (maybe its because people tend to abuse armada's less).  They will often crack exhaust manifolds, so listen for a "clicking" sound that gets faster with RPM.  It might be a good negotiating point in a sale if you can confirm they're leaking. 

I would buy one for a family car, and they're always on my radar to fill that role (we currently use an 08 Quest). 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
1/14/21 2:55 p.m.

You mention that you might be willing to go 2wd...

On the couple of occasions that I have shopped Armadas the value priced ones always turn out to be 2wd (while I'm shopping for 4wd.)  This gives me a perception that they made/sold a lot of 2wd Armadas and if you are open to the idea of 2wd then maybe one can be found cheap


Shop for the Infiniti QX56 also.  It is the tarted up Armada but depreciation brings them down to Armada prices.  Also many 2wds

Boost_Crazy HalfDork
1/14/21 3:00 p.m.

I’ve got an ‘04 Titan that I bought new. It has been extremely reliable. The only repairs I’ve had to make were the radiator (external leak, didn’t mix trans fluid) and I replaced a leaking $2 fuel line pulsation damper o-ring that took all of 5 minutes fo fix. The gray paint did not hold up well in the CA sun, and the interior is not very durable. But mechanically it has been bullet proof, and still drives great. It is a terrific tow pig. 

One thing to consider- do you own a trailer, or will you be renting? The higher tow rating of the Armada may allow you to rent trailers that they won’t rent to you with a Sequioa. My brother had to borrow  my Titan once because U-Haul wouldn’t rent him a car hauler with his Hemi Ram to tow a Chevy 1500. They were fine with the Titan. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/14/21 3:10 p.m.

I've posted elsewhere, but my tow rig is an 05 Sequoia.

1. Sequoia is less powerful than the Armada, for sure. 

2. Sequoia (especially the Gen 1.5 05-07 models with VVTi) is plenty sufficient to tow a racecar on an open trailer and all spares/gear/etc. If I was towing a 20+ ft enclosed trailer, I might feel it's a bit underpowered.

3. My experience is my Sequoia gets approximately 12mpg towing an e30 on a heavy-ish open trailer (and mine has a big safari rack on the roof that hurts mileage as well). And mine has larger tires than stock as well. I've heard the Armada gets really bad mileage towing, but no firsthand experience. 

4. The Sequoia interior is dated compared to the Armada, but is actually much better quality in terms of materials (IMO).

5. I mean, the Sequioa V8 is a widely-used engine and known to be very reliable (guys I know have 400k on them with basic maintenance). There are one or two items of note on them (auxiliary air pump, coils), but most have been fixed by now. Like the Armada, the Sequoias also get cracks in the manifolds, which affect nothing other than causing an annoying ticking sound. Many have probably been fixed or replaced by now (I have aftermarket headers sitting in my garage waiting to be installed on mine someday). 

Otherwise, not much to add here other than mine has been very reliable, is super quiet and comfortable when towing, and also has excellent offroad capability if you need any of that. 

Drive both, see which you like better.

Also worth considering the 08+ Sequoia with the 5.7. They're old enough now that they're relatively affordable. Definitely more "soccer mom" vehicles than the previous generation (which is essentially a Tundra drivetrain and 4Runner suspension and is a tough truck). 

1985 BMW 318 Stage Rally Build - 1988 Porsche 924S Street Build - Sequoia  Build-Page 91| Builds and Project Cars forum |

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
1/14/21 3:15 p.m.

MrJoshua - that's quite the ragged SUV adventure lol. Thanks for the impressions.

MaxC - that's exactly the kind of info I'm looking for on the Nissan. Much appreciated.

John - I've noticed the same thing.  I'd much rather spend closer to $5K and every one in that range I've seen is RWD.  While I'd like better capabilities than our minivan I'm sort of dubious that 4WD is necessary in Ga.  Michelle and I miss hanging with you, Steve, and crew at the Mitty btw.  Maybe one of these days we'll get it back together.

Boost - good to hear and yeah we'll be renting RVs.  I don't need/want to own one of those.  I've run into similar situations when renting trailers for Lemons races.


So far it seems that the Armada is in the lead.


Chris_V UberDork
1/14/21 3:21 p.m.

Too bad your better half is nixing the Suburban. Because as a tow pig that doubles as a stuff hauler/family hauler, the 2500 series GMT800 excels. With the 8.1 liter, you can have a 12,000 lb tow rating. Mine tows my 9400lb, 35 ft travel trailer with ease, though it does only get 10 mpg doing it.

And with the magnaride, it even rides really nice for a heavy duty rig. Only problem is, they are going up in value. I picked mine up for $6500 a few years back, but it's probably closer to a $10k rig now...

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
1/14/21 3:29 p.m.

In reply to irish44j (Forum Supporter) :

12mpg doesn't seem bad for that setup. Certainly worlds apart from docwyte's friend.  I'm doing my best to ignore the kind of stuff, but you have a valid point.  As an aside, it's amazing how much better your Sequoia looks to me in all black.  This would be an appliance for me so I'm trying to not let my aesthetic preferences influence things too much.  However, I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit that I'd be pissed if I had to look at some beige averagemobile that looks at home in a mall parking lot.

Matt B (fs)
Matt B (fs) UltraDork
1/14/21 3:38 p.m.

In reply to Chris_V :

Yeah I suspect the Suburban is maybe the best answer, but you know how it goes. I'd love a 2500, but they certainly command a premium as you said.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/14/21 3:41 p.m.

In reply to Matt B (fs) :

the real key is just to put a big rack and some tougher-looking all-terrain tires on it, so it looks less like a soccer-mom vehicle :)

I will note that multiple people riding with me on tows have commented how much quieter and smoother it is than their tow rigs (the people in question have a similar-year Suburban and an Expedition, FWIW). I often forget I have a trailer back there except on long/steep uphills where I wish for a bit more power. But if you're down south probably less mountains to deal with anyhow. 



Olemiss540 Reader
1/14/21 7:05 p.m.

2004ish Cadillac Escalade. Comfy. Towey. Reliable. Better looking than same gen Chevy. HD tranny and 6.0L gasser. Air suspension. Done and Done.

OHSCrifle SuperDork
1/14/21 7:28 p.m.

Regarding Nissan 5.6.. my bro in law drove his 2006 Titan V8 like he stole it for 229k miles while replacing absolutely nothing except consumables. The thing sounded great too. Paint was awful. He sold off to a happy buyer in 2018 and I'm sure it's still on the road. 

Boost_Crazy HalfDork
1/14/21 7:54 p.m.

One more thing about the Armada. It was available with stability control, tailored towards towing. Common now, but it was the first truck with that feature. Not sure when other manufacturers added it. I’m not normally a big fan of stability control, but I think it does add an extra element of safety when towing. I “tested” it once and was very impressed. I was towing a car in heavy traffic that came to a sudden stop. My safety cushion disappeared when some shiny happy person decided to cut in front of me while braking hard. I had to brake very hard, and discovered the Uhaul car trailer’s surge brakes only worked on one side. The trailer pitched violently and started to push the tail of the truck sideways. Faster than I could correct, the stability control did it’s thing, straightening the truck and trailer like magic. My passenger, who had a lot of towing experience, asked “how in the hell did you do that?” 

AAZCD (Forum Supporter)
AAZCD (Forum Supporter) Dork
1/14/21 8:00 p.m.

A few notes:

I want to emphasize what irish44j said about model years for the Sequoia. There are some good Tow-Pig improvements in the '05-'07 that make it better than my '04. For the price of my '04 I am still very happy with it, but towing a car on a trailer (4.5-5.5k load) it felt like it was straining.

irish44j has a lot of good Sequoia info posted across the  various Tow-Pig threads.

A RWD Sequoia (with tires) should handle back country roads well, just not true off-road.

My '04 Cayenne got 14 - 17 mpg towing my 2019 Challenge car from Oklahoma and back. No long hills, but it didn't feel strained at all. It's a Porsche though, so probably not as simple or inexpensive to maintain as Toyota/Nissan.

pimpm3 (Forum Supporter)
pimpm3 (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
1/14/21 8:06 p.m.

I have owned pretty much every vehicle being discussed in this thread.

I have had two 1st gen sequoias, a 2005 z71 Suburban, a 2007 Yukon Denali with the 6.2, a 2012 Armada and a 2018 Armada.

The sequoias never gave me any problems but they are hard to find in 4x4.  The Suburban was great, but my wife didn't like it.

The Denali was a POS and gave me a terrible experience.

The 2012 armada was great.  It drove nicely, pulled a trailer well and never gave me any issues.  I sold it to my sister who still has it.

I bought my wife a 2018 armada 2 years ago to replace it.  So far all we have done is oil changes.

mr2s2000elise UltraDork
1/14/21 8:12 p.m.
pimpm3 (Forum Supporter) said:

I have owned pretty much every vehicle being discussed in this thread.

I have had two 1st gen sequoias, a 2005 z71 Suburban, a 2007 Yukon Denali with the 6.2, a 2012 Armada and a 2018 Armada.

The sequoias never gave me any problems but they are hard to find in 4x4.  The Suburban was great, but my wife didn't like it.

The Denali was a POS and gave me a terrible experience.

The 2012 armada was great.  It drove nicely, pulled a trailer well and never gave me any issues.  I sold it to my sister who still has it.

I bought my wife a 2018 armada 2 years ago to replace it.  So far all we have done is oil changes.

Love your 2018 


it's the real  deal Nissan Patrol (with some missing JDM/uae  options), but build quality is way better than the previous Tennessee/Mississippi one 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
1/14/21 9:05 p.m.

Though the Patrol based Armada didn't arrive until the 2017 model year, the Patrol based Infiniti QX56 arrived in the 2011 model year.  Now depreciated, a low mile 2011 might be a way to get into a Patrol for less. 

Maybe not the $6k cheap OP is looking for but cheaper than a 2017 Armada

grover Dork
1/14/21 9:31 p.m.

I just bought a 2008 sequoia last month- it's got the 5.7L v8. I believe it has 380hp and 400ftlb torque. We just drove it with a trailer from Woodstock, Ga to West Palm Beach FL and back. I averaged 11.5mpg. The trailer was around 7,500 lbs. I was under the impression that the sequoia that I own has a 10k tow rating. Power was no issue at all- I never needed more although I did not climb any mountains. I did use the tow hail mode button and did add a brake controller. It wears super windy when we were driving down and an anti sway hitch would have been nice. It was happiest at 70mph. 
The seats are super comfortable (I have the limited) and the turning radius is truly mind bending. 
I did compare this to the excursion, expedition el or max and the suburban. The sequoia is smaller than the suburban and long expedition by about 2ft in the interior. 
I think these are just a tundra with a boxed frame and irs, possible that I'm wrong though. 
I love the sequoia. Glad I bought it and do not miss my power stroke. 

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