Mountain Wheels: Nissan’s Rogue grows and adds space-age conveniences
In a galaxy far, far away, a long time ago, Star Wars movies were awesome and the Nissan Rogue — which had not been positioned as a big tie-in to the most recent post-George Lucas creation — was itself a puny ladybug of a compact SUV.
Nowadays, those forces of entertainment and automobiles are all combined, but Rogue has changed beyond belief. It now appears to be about the same size (and almost as flashy) as the old Nissan Murano, and is no longer a stripped-down or simplified affair.
In fact, you’ll find an impressive array of the kinds of features and conveniences you used to have to shop at the Pathfinder level to get — including a new, comprehensive electronic safety system that evolved from the technology found on Nissan’s upscale Infiniti models.
Yes, the one-speed continuously variable transmission (the XTronic CVT) still whines a lot especially in sport mode, but if chrome and angles and even more angles turn you on, the new Rogue might be right up your alley.
And I am not kidding about the chrome, from a massive V-shaped wedge on the grille, to trim on the fascia, windows and along the rocker panels. That’s integrated in a much sharper design that includes angled headlamps and big character lines flowing off of the hood, over the car’s front haunches and into the windows.
There’s also prominent silver roof rails, LED light-infused side mirrors and cool, aerodynamic features integrated into the rear — an exposed blade that sits atop the 3-D, triangular brake cluster and a big air dam. You have to reach down low to manually grab the lift handle on the rear gate.
My SL-level Rogue, equipped with AWD, stickered for $32,410, but the addition the panoramic sunroof, LED headlamps, leather seats and 19-inch alloy wheels pushed the price to $36,520. Rogue starts at $24,800. All models are equipped with a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and the CVT.
The platinum package, one of those option groups, also adds Nissan’s new ProPilot Assist program, which is one of the big innovations Nissan hopes will set the car apart from its competitors.
While it takes on some of the semblance of an autonomous driving system, Nissan reminds drivers that you still actually have to keep your hands on the wheel and drive the Rogue, though an invisible force field — another Star Wars tie-in, perhaps — rather magically allows you to cruise in full-speed traffic and automatically slow down or speed up as you follow other vehicles.
The system will also keep the car centered in lane, even as you take curves. Just remember that it only works as long as you’re actively involved.
Up front, you’ll find those broad and very leathery, over-stuffed, scoop-bottomed seats with offset-colored trim, plus leathery trim on the console and tons of piano black trim to accentuate the cabin appearance.
An undersized, flat-bottomed race wheel may be the Rogue SL’s key concession to Star Wars-inspired design. Graphics on the Rogue’s navigation and infotainment system have been vastly improved, as well, with easy integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
I appreciated the rear doors which fold out almost 90 degrees for improved passenger access, and the equally comfortable and well-padded sliding rear seats. That optional sunroof really opens up the space and provides more light to rear passengers.
In the far back, there’s an odd, multi-layer cargo deck with an optional piece of carpet that sits on top of the already carpeted interior. You can fold, flip and flop the deck in a number of configurations, and use a small hidden storage space underneath. C-pillar windows offer a little more light.
Overall mileage matched the EPA specs, with as much as 32 MPG on the highway and a combined figure of about 27 MPG.
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