Nissan Rogue - goes Rogue

Written By nyit on Saturday, April 16, 2011 | 3:44 AM

As gas prices and fuel economy standards rise during this decade, there can be no doubt that the compact crossover market is going to take off like a rocket. Vehicles like the Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4 dominate the market. But, let’s not forget the Nissan Rogue.

Nissan designers were wise to give their Rogue styling based on the popular mid-size Murano crossover. The Murano has been one of my favorite vehicles since driving the first-generation on a long-distance road trip in 2003. As much as any other SUV, it looked upscale and drove the same way.

Rogue sits a little lower on its Sentra-based chassis than most other crossovers, giving it firm and planted appearance. That also eases entry and exit for passengers. An eggcrate grille with chrome “medallion” center and large air intakes through the bumper dominates the front. Clear lens headlamps wrap from the bumper tops into the hood and to the vehicle sides. Wheel well flanks were flattened to contrast with the otherwise sculpted sides, arching roof, and rising windowlines. The rear parts air with flush window glass and wrap-around taillamps. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels look as good as they work. From some angles, the Rogue looks a little frumpy, but is generally pleasing.
My favorite part of the Rogue is its interior. Unlike some other compact SUVs, nothing about the Rogue’s cabin feels low rent. You immediately notice a spacious interior, ample rear legroom, and sportiness. Our test vehicle came with a three-spoke steering wheel that includes audio and cruise controls. It was rubber instead of leather, but felt good all the same. Supportive and comfortable bucket seats were perfectly upholstered in a canvaslike material that should prove weather- and kid-proof. A dash-mounted Garmin navigation system, XM Satellite Radio, large drinkholders, easy-to-use climate controls, and large analog gauges take the Rogue several steps above steerage. A manual shift mode in the console allow drivers to control the powertrain as they wish.
Murano envy continues when you put the Rogue in drive and power away. With 170-horsepower available from a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, drivers will want to tap-tap the transmission often. The continuously variable trans. (CVT) is basically gearless with belts that adjust on pulleys to find the optimum gear ratio. Stepping hard on the gas brings the eerie sound of a high-powered weed-eater, but quickly seems normal. Automatic all-wheel-drive, electronic stability programming, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes tell slick roads to, “Bring It On!” Around town, or flat out on the Interstate, the Rogue seemed quick and determined. Fuel economy is rated 22/26-MPG city/highway.
Driving the Rogue is definitely related to the Murano, but also other great-handling Nissans like the Sentra, Altima, and Maxima. Everything about the vehicle feels more solid and refined than you would expect. Steering is firm, but precise while the four-wheel independent suspension rumbles over rough pavement without unsettling anything and is actually fun on curvy roads. Highway trips are also a joy as the steering tightens up nicely at speed and the chassis settles in for a high-speed scamp.

While I had the car, I picked up my parents and grandmother for lunch. Four of us had no problem fitting inside and my grandmother’s walker slid into the cargo area with room to spare. While sitting in back, I noticed the door panels were molded in hard plastic instead of soft vinyl as in the front – an apparent concession to either cost or children’s sticky fingers. As my dad pointed out, there is a bit of road noise in the rear, but nobody ever said the Rogue was an Infiniti. I doubt few owners will ever notice.

I only have one problem with the Rogue - its $27,105 price tag. It is a nice little crossover, but it is hard to swallow a Sentra-based wagon that is nice, but not an Infiniti in any way, that commands a price near $30k. I would like the Rogue much more with a price tag about $5,000 less. It will take a bit more to command prices in that league.

Still, Rogue was named “Best New Small Crossover” by Kiplinger’s magazine and earned MotorWeek’s “Driver’s Choice Aware for Best Small Utility.” NHTSA gave it 5 stars for side-impact crashes. In virtually all ways, the Rogue is a star, proving it is ready for the coming battle for your compact crossover dollars.

2011 Nissan Rogue SV AWD
Five-passenger, AWD Crossover.
Powertrain: 170-HP 2.5-litre I4,
CVT auto. trans.
Suspension f/r: Ind./Ind.
Wheels: 17”/17” f/r.
Brakes: disc fr/rr with ABS.
Must-have features: Style, handling.
Fuel economy: 22/26-MPG city/hwy.
As tested price: $27,105.

By Casey Williams - MyCarData

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