Nissan’s Rogue serves up some professional jealousy
summit daily auto writer
Though it pains me a little to say it, I like the Nissan Rogue a whole lot more than the Toyota RAV4 I just made a three-year commitment to.
I thought I’d never say this, as my previous brief brushes with Rogue’s standard continuously variable transmission, its ungainly nose and its whole downsized-version-of-the-Murano thing hadn’t won me over.
But after a week that included a totally excruciating three-hour, one-way trip from Denver to Keystone on Saturday – bone-dry roads, adding to the pain – I am now a total Rogue convert. Perhaps even lease-breakingly so.
Principally, while RAV and Rogue are more or less the same vehicle (and not that far removed from the elderly Ford Escape, the Honda CRV and maybe/kinda/sorta the larger and more expensive Chevy Equinox), Rogue’s benefits present themselves in the form of a much quieter ride, interior and even engine and transmission.
The CVT transmission, essentially a one-speed system, proved itself to be entirely livable and only a tad slow to respond and high-revving at the very apex of the Tunnel (or, during last week’s cold snap, a little cranky at -25 degrees).
For the most part, it’s imperceptible, even on freeway ramp takeoffs, and it helps the Rogue get nearly 28 mpg on flatter stretches of highway.
I also appreciated Rogue’s interior quality, with sturdier but softer seats than my Toyota, a cozy, wraparound dash and an overall feel a little less ponderous than the widely-spaced RAV.
The solidity might contribute to Rogue’s sound deadening. I could have sworn the little Nissan was equipped with a six-cylinder engine but its standard, 170-HP 2.5-liter four cylinder is a nearly identical mill to the one under the hood of my CUV, just many decibels more quiet.
On the road, Rogue shows sprightly driving character, steady handling and a solid nature. Its “intuitive” AWD system means it spends most of its time as a front-wheel drive vehicle but instantly adapts to slippery conditions (or you can punch the button on the dash and keep it in full-time AWD at lower speeds). It’s not geared for massive off-road jaunts but will certainly make good work of bad snow days or summer camping trips on rutted gravel.
I’m still not a huge fan of Rogue’s funny chrome Batman emblem-styled front grille and its bug-eyed headlamps, but that’s simply an issue of taste.
Move further aft and Rogue’s shape is virtually identical to other roundish CUVs (the Murano and even the Lexus RX started quite the trend years ago), though Rogue’s finishings are quite well executed, including roof rails, chrome-tipped exhaust and a dynamic rear spoiler.
That cushioned interior is rounded out with circular AC vents, a three-knob AC control system and a very nice touchscreen navigation system, complete with backup camera. Developed by Bosch, the navi is very similar to the new system found in Volkswagens but features better rendered graphics.
The only shortfall of functionality is the necessity to reach through or around the wheel to access the trip computer.
A 60/40 split rear seat allows easy storage for skis and snowboards, and the top-lifting rear gate and rear cargo deck are at an easily-accessible height.
As a higher-end option, Rogue’s Krm Edition substitutes a more Infiniti-styled version of the nose shield, a stout under-bumper air dam and wheels and moldings that make it look almost like a tiny version of Jeep’s awesomely ridiculous SRT-8 Grand Cherokee.
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