Nissan Rogue SL - gone for a second time

Written By nyit on Saturday, April 16, 2011 | 3:39 AM

Nissan’s gone Rogue for the second time!

There, now that I have your attention, let’s look into the second-generation of the vehicle that launched Nissan into the car-based compact crossover sports utility vehicle market in 2008, joining a lineup that had until then only had the midsize Murano crossover.

Nissan has had a good run with its small trucks and truck-based SUVs. But when the compact crossover market exploded in the late 2000s with CUVs from Chevrolet, Pontiac , Ford, Mercury, Toyota , Kia, Hyundai, Honda and Land Rover, it took them a while to take the compact Sentra platform and make it a tall, small station wagon. Nissan’s recipe was to plant it on a 105.9-inch wheelbase, add a bit of ground clearance, make it seven inches taller, and give it a choice of front- or all-wheel-drive. Since then, they have added the smaller Juke, more of a crossover sports sedan. But for now, it’s time for a Rogue trip.

· Rogue reality – Take some Murano, add some Sentra and Venza, and the result was the Rogue. The design has been freshened for 2011 with a more streamlined nose with chrome grill that flanks a flattened V-shaped central grill with Nissan emblem. Large headlights sit in slightly scalloped recesses for a more interesting look, while the smooth bumper gets a wide lower air intake flanked by inset fog lights and some lower air dams. A slight edgy design line forms the upper fender line, while flattened flares frame P225/55R18-inch Dunlop radials in 10-spoke alloy wheels. A design line runs aft off the front fender flares to become a rounded shoulder line that melds into the large taillights, while the lower window sill line rises up to form a graceful curved D-pillar that meets the rounded roofline. That arching roof line has buff alloy roof rails as it meets a rear spoiler over the rear window – optional crossbars make it more functional. There’s a nice new dash of chrome in the side door guard molding, chrome door handles and a new chrome hatchback trim over the license plate. The black lower fascia has a single stainless steel exhaust pipe tip. For those who want more bling in their Rogue, a Krom Edition exists with different 18-inch wheels and a center-exit sport-tuned exhaust. It’s a cleaner design thanks to the second-gen updates, encased in a 183.3-inch overall length, one of the longest in its class, Nissan says. But there are more stylish compact crossovers out there, like the new Kia Sportage.

· Rogue roominess – Black over gray shades the nicely detailed interior, which starts with a padded dash and door tops and a cowled gauge package with chrome-ringed 160-mph speedometer with inset gas gauge, and 8,000-rpm tach with inset temperature gauge. They flank a white-on-black LCD trip computer display (distance-to-empty, average fuel consumption, average speed, elapsed time and outside temperature). The leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel has audio system and Bluetooth cellphone controls on the left, and cruise controls on the right, but is only tilt-adjust. The dash center gets a gentle redesign to accommodate a Bose sound system center speaker on top, then there are infinitely adjustable air vents over a new Nissan Navigation System with smallish 5-inch color touch screen display. Its graphics look a bit like some aftermarket navigation systems I could name, but are clean and easy to read except in direct sun, when the display washes out. The screen handles a good AM-FM-XM Satellite audio system with XM NavTraffic and a new rear-view camera. Shift to the “audio” screen in nav mode, and you get a window on the right with next turn arrow, expected arrival and miles to address – smart! Underneath it, three big dials for the powerful a/c system and a 12-volt outlet. Two big cup holders sit aft of the gearshift, lit at night by a small amber LED spotlight overhead. There’s another 12-volt outlet and MP3 and USB audio ports under the center arm rest, with lots of storage room. Interior notes - the glove box door opens low into a passenger’s knees, but reveals a big storage area. The door map pockets are small, without a water bottle holder usually seen these days. I still don’t like the placement of the power mirror control and stability control buttons, out of sight on the lower left side of the steering wheel. Inputs made on the touchscreen make “klock!” sound, which is different. The navigation screen gets a birds-eye and flat view, nice at this price level, But it’s a bit dark in here despite the alloy and gray touches – maybe some fake wood would do the trick. ; The gray leather bucket seats are firm and supportive, the driver getting 6-way power adjustments and power lumbar support. Both front seats get dual-level heaters. Access to the rear seat is just fine, with good head and leg room for two adults on a low bench, three in a pinch. Rear seaters get a dual cup holder at the rear of the front console, but no center armrest. There’s ample storage room aft of the seats - 28.9 cubic feet, expandable by dropping the 60/40 split-fold bench seat down. No third row seat, but there is a removable cargo tray under the carpeted floor for muddy boots, etc. The rear hatch opens high enough for a 6-footer to stand under – just. And the fold-down front passenger seat lets you haul something long, making for more than 8.5 feet of front-to-rear cargo space. Ultimately, there’s some nice bits of luxury and precision in here, only a bit of wind noise from the side mirrors and roof rack at highway speed in a mostly quiet cabin.

· Rogue road manners – Under the hood is a standard 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. It’s hooked to an Xtronic CVT (continuously-variable transmission) with switchable overdrive. That means the engine revs rise until it finds its sweet spot under acceleration, and the CVT’s belts and pulleys do the ratios instead of gears. The first-gen Rogue I tested four years ago hit 60-mph in 8.5 seconds, the engine hovering around 5,000-rpm as the CVT spun its way to the ideal torque spot. Our second-gen Rogue, with the same engine and front-wheel-drive as well, did it in 8.7. That still pretty good compared to a RAV4 and CR-V, which are closer to 10 seconds in their sprints to 60-mph, while the new 176-hp Kia Sportage matches the Rogue. Passing power was good, but you have to get used to the engine revs climbing and staying there, unlike the rise and fall of an engine with a regular gearbox. Rogue fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg City/28 mpg Highway for the front-wheel-drive model; we netted an indicated 21- to 25-mpg in mixed driving, better than the average 17-mpg we got with the last one we tested. Based on Nissan’s “C” (read: Sentra) platform, with subframe-mounted front independent struts with coil springs and a rear independent multi-link suspension with aluminum upper links, the ride was firm and responsive for a crossover. It was also comfortable. We could point this crossover into a turn and it would stay planted, only showing a touch of understeer when pushed, aided by standard stability and traction control. It had almost sedan-like handling and nimble. I’m still not a fan of the electric power-assisted steering, which had a stiff on-center feel, but it was precise. The all-wheel power (11.84-inch front/11/68-inch rear) disc brakes had a good pedal feel and control with ABS and brake force distribution and brake assist, with solid stops with minimal ABS intrusion when used hard. For safety, dual-stage front air bag; front seat-mounted side impact air bags; and roof-mounted curtain side impact air bags with rollover sensor.

· Nissan numbers – The Rogue comes two ways - Rogue S and our Rogue SV. The starter Rogue S is $20,810 for the S. Our SV with SL package was $27,070, with standard 6-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, rear view monitor, Bluetooth hands-free cellphone system, keyless entry and start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, navigation system, Bose 7-speaker audio system with subwoofer, auto-dim rearview mirror, automatic Xenon headlights, moonroof, climate control and front fog lights. For comparison, the Kia costs less, and has a few more horsepower and the most dramatic styling of the competitors. It was also pretty nimble, but its electric steering was too artificial. The RAV4 is almost as quick, and pretty nimble, as is the RAV4, although they both cost more. And there’s others in the crowded field to consider, like the nice Chevrolet Equinox and its GMC sister, the Terrain, plus the Ford Escape, VW Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander, etc.

· Bottom line – The Rogue is no cad. It’s a roomy, comfortable, sure-footed crossover with solid performance and handling. The restyle was minor, making a simple look nicer, but it blends in a bit with the world around it. Still, with a price that’s less than some of the imports and even some of the domestics, with the right options, the Rogue could be a smart choice.

Vehicle type - 5-passenger compact crossover

Base price - $27,070 (same as tested)

Engine type – aluminum DOHC, 16-valve in-line four

Displacement – 2.5 liters

Horsepower (net) – 170 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) – 175 @ 4,400 rpm

Transmission – continuously variable transmission

Wheelbase – 105.9 inches

Overall length – 183.3 inches

Overall width – 70.9 inches

Height – 66.3 inches

Front headroom – 39.3 inches

Front legroom – 42.5 inches

Rear headroom – 37.6 inches

Rear legroom – 35.3 inches

Cargo capacity – 28.9 cu. ft./57.9 with 2nd row folded

Towing – up to 1,000 lbs.

Curb weight – 3,429 lbs.

Fuel capacity – 15.9 gallons

Mileage rating – 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway

Last word – A nice choice for a Rogue trip

By Dan Scanlan -

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