Mountain Wheels: Enhanced mileage and comfort in Nissan’s new Rogue Hybrid
2017 Nissan Rogue SL Hybrid AWD
MSRP: $32,510; As tested: $35,590
Powertrain: 176-HP net 2.0-liter four-cylinder/battery/electric motor system with CVT automatic transmission
EPA figures: 33 combined (31 city, 34 highway)
Fuel efficiency (or, hell, anything environmentally beneficial, apparently) might be the furthest thing from some Americans’ minds these days, but … for those of us keeping the faith and living with a more global mindset, there are some new options.
An interesting example of which is the new Nissan Rogue Hybrid model, an efficient but still powerful alternative that helps boost the Rogue’s overall combined MPG to 33. With the SUV craze fully underway, Rogue is now Nissan’s top-selling vehicle, and a gas-electric hybrid edition creates some new options for those inspired buyers.
Though the small SUV was extensively retooled last year, a mid-year refresh for both the standard and hybrid versions of the Rogue gives it a considerably updated look and a more substantial overall feel. It can also be ordered with all-wheel drive, as a forward-thinking option for Colorado motorists.
If you remember Rogue as being sort of a small and not especially memorable alternative to the RAV4 or Ford Escape, this 2017-and-a-half model is quite striking and now seems a bit more like a chopped Pathfinder (there is indeed a Rogue Sport model that’s half way between the two vehicles).
Order it up in the eye-searing Monarch Orange paint color I got on my tester (a $395 extra) and Rogue has got presence, style and a pleasantly contemporary stance.
The regular Rogue is comfortably equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 170 horsepower; the Hybrid amps that up with a system mixing a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 40-HP electric motor and a substantial lithium-ion battery, creating 176 overall horsepower.
I wouldn’t call it blazingly fast but the interesting part is a two-clutch system for power hand-offs and programming for the electronic CVT transmission that really gives the Rogue Hybrid a lot of spirit under full-throttle takeoffs.
You’ll get funny little blips of revs and a feel that’s quite different than the sometimes lackadaisical feel of other CVT systems, and I figure the Rogue Hybrid will very happily handle your steepest mountain commute with plenty of juice to spare.
Mileage was also certainly up to the EPA figures, with 34 or more highway MPG and vastly improved city MPG in the 31-plus range (normal city numbers are 25 or 26 for the gasoline model).
It’s clearly just not geared at the same technology obsessed crowd as the Prius or even the new Kia Niro hybrids: Efficiency readouts are simple, contained in the mid-instrument cluster or the 7-inch navigation/entertainment screen, and really only show power flow, not the mind-bending list of efficiency reports you get on those vehicles.
Overall, that’s probably for the best as the Rogue Hybrid is simply designed to be driven and used in an entirely normal fashion, the quiet payoff being improved power and efficiency, despite the AWD edition weighing approximately 3,800 pounds. There’s an automatic start-stop system that’s non-intrusive and regenerative braking to also power up the battery during your outings.
You’ll get 61.4 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats dropped and the only physical concession to the hybrid setup is the battery pack located in the rear, though it’s topped with a carpeted lift-and-fold cargo system that allows efficient use of the space and a concave tub for luggage or tippy grocery items.
Even the passenger seat folds nearly flat, allowing you to load a substantial item like an 8-foot-long ladder if you’ve also got the rear seats flattened. An optional motion-activated rear liftgate also makes it easier to load goods with your hands full.
Options on my test model included a panoramic moonroof and an enhanced safety system with forward emergency braking. The SL model also came standard with a nine-speaker Bose audio system, NissanConnect navigation and Siri EyesFree for safer integration with your phone, on the road.
The V-shaped grille connects the Rogue’s look to that of the larger Pathfinder, plus a new bumper design, a rear spoiler and stylish wheels.
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