2011 Nissan Rogue SV FWD Review - VIDEO ENHANCED


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Nissan Rogue


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Nissan Rogue

After the great SUV boom of the 1990s went bust came the Age of Crossovers, "crossover" here meaning built like a car but taller, with styling more like an SUV. Well, originally… because as time progresses and crossovers proliferate, they're looking less and less like SUV-wannabes and developing style and character of their own.

Case in point: the Nissan Rogue. Built on the "C" platform also used for the Sentra sedan, it has no truck in its background. It makes no pretense of being a rugged off-road vehicle, although with front- or all-wheel drive and 8.3 inches of clearance it should handle improved forest roads just fine. Not to mention steep driveways, roadside drainage channels, chuckholes, broken pavement, road debris, and other urban hazards. But at heart, it's more at home in suburbia than the backwoods, very much like its larger sibling, the Nissan Murano.

In a parallel universe without crossovers, the Rogue niche would be occupied by a Sentra wagon. But that vehicle would be shorter and have less interior space, and space is valued by people seeking a vehicle like a Rogue. A high stance often means poor road manners -- but not here. The Rogue is no Z, but neither is it a toppy, floppy, soft and squishy 90s SUV. And it's actually a pleasant car to drive, thanks to a well-designed and tuned fully-independent suspension and torquey 2.5-liter, 170-hp four-cylinder engine matched to a wide-range CVT transmission.

Introduced in model year 2008, the Rogue has gotten its first major freshening this year, with changes to front styling being the most apparent difference. The most important changes are inside, where a minor restyle has been enhanced by the availability of features that not long ago were property of more upscale vehicles. If you wanted a navigation system previously, you supplied your own or got a dealer-installed Garmin. Now Nissan's own integrated system is part of the Premium and SL packages for the upscale SV trim level. Both the SV and the base S get a revised instrument panel with a standard drive computer information display, while the SV gets a 4.3-inch color display screen used for a backup camera and the audio system as standard equipment. The Krom™ (long "o" as in "chrome") trim package for the S is still available.

It had been a few years since I'd spent time in a Rogue, so last week's well-equipped SV was a pleasant reacquaintance. As ever, the Rogue is a conveniently-sized vehicle (car, really) that is small enough outside to be easily maneuverable on crowded streets and narrow roads and in tight parking spaces yet has more than ample space inside for four or even five people and/or luggage, activity gear, and, with the SV's folding front passenger seat, long items from the home improvement store. Unlike many a crossover, the Rogue is an enjoyable car to drive, as opposed to merely operate, with a good suspension tuning and energetic drivetrain. That fun didn't come a the expense of fuel economy, as the 25.7 mpg average I got for the week showed. There is no shortage of choice in the compact crossover class, but the Nissan Rogue remains one of the best.


Click PLAY to watch a short walk-around video of the Nissan Rogue

APPEARANCE: There is a definite resemblance to the larger Murano, for a cohesive look to Nissan's crossover line. The Rogue is a bit chunkier, like a young animal that hasn't quite filled in its adult proportions. Which is not to say that it has baby fat - it doesn't. This year's restyle adds interest to the front, with a revised grille in a new bumper fascia with cutaways around the headlights and foglamps. It solidifies the relationship to the Murano and distances the Rogue from the Sentra. Details that give a more upscale look, including chromed door handles and license-plate trim, are also new. And, as with the Murano, there is nothing about the Rogue's curved shape that says "macho rugged offroad". There's the Xterra for that.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Nissan Rogue

COMFORT: Interior styling is mid-level Japanese sporty, with softly-rounded, cohesive shapes and high-quality synthetic materials, although leather is offered as part of the SL package. The standard textured cloth is grippy, and cool in hot weather. Front seat comfort is very good, with the upright, high-eyepoint crossover seating position helping posture. The driver's seat is power-adjustable in the SV. The rear seat is commendably roomy, with good headroom even with the Premium Package's tilt-and-slide moonroof and no shortage of legroom. A low central tunnel means three kids or medium-sized adults fit easily. The rear seatback folds 60/40 when it's cargo duty time, and if the liftover to the cargo floor is higher than in a sedan, that floor is flat so whatever may be slid in and out easily, at a height that should be back-friendly to most people. In the SV, the front passenger seat folds flat so long items can be carried inside.

Instrumentation is easily seen and protected from glare. The main gauge display is new this year, with a convenient "trip computer" info display between the tach and speedometer. Also new in the SV is a 4.3-inch color display screen for audio information and backup camera view, and, with the Premium Package, nav system display -- in which case the screen is enlarged to five inches. Space utilization is good, as is interior storage, highlighted by a huge glovebox and large console box with minijack, USB port, and charging point.

SAFETY: The Rogue's unibody structure is built with a strong safety cage around the passenger compartment and front and rear crumple zones. Dual-stage front, seat -mounted front side, and full-length side curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and engine immobilizer are all standard passive safety features. For active safety, all models have four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), and vehicle dynamic control (VDC) with traction control (TCS).

RIDE AND HANDLING: The Nissan "C" platform provides a strong, rigid base for the Rogue's fully-independent strut front, multilink rear suspension. The suspension tuning is moderate, with an emphasis on comfort, but it's firm enough to minimize body roll. Relatively light weight and a low center of gravity, allied with its electric power steering system, give the Rogue good handling characteristics. It is especially comfortable on rough highway pavement, and low interior noise levels add to the pleasant driving experience. It's not meant for serious 4x4 driving, but 8.3 inches of clearance should work without major problems on improved forest roads, and also helps in dealing with curbs, potholes, and other similar hazards of city life.

PERFORMANCE: No power shortage, good fuel economy. The 2.5-liter aluminum alloy, twincam, 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine under the Rogue's hood provides plenty of power for its mission in life. Vital statistics: 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. As in the Murano and other Nissans, the secret to the Rogue's performance and economy is its continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Integrated computer controls keep the engine and transmission in their most efficient ranges as much as possible. I got mileage in the low 20s around town. A couple hundred miles of mixed highway and secondary road travel saw that increase to just over 25 -- and I was not being particularly light-footed. Since the CVT never shifts between discrete gears, it's smooth and quiet. I never felt the need for more power during my time with the Rogue, or any need for manual shifting.

CONCLUSIONS: The Nissan Rogue is as functional as any small crossover and has more character than most.

SPECIFICATIONS

2011 Nissan Rogue SV RWD

Base Price $ 23,220

Price As Tested $ 25,865

Engine Type aluminum alloy DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with variable cam phasing

Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in.

Horsepower 170 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 175 @ 4400 rpm

Transmission CVT

Wheelbase / Length 105.9 in. / 183.3 in.

Curb Weight 3329 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 19.6

Fuel Capacity 15.9 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P225/60 R17 98H Continental 4x4 Contact

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA standard

Suspension, front/rear independent strut / independent multilink

Ground clearance 8.3 inches

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon

city / highway / observed 22 / 28 / 25

0 to 60 mph 8.7 sec

Towing capacity 1000 lbs (FWD) with towing package

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Floor mats and cargo protector $ 185

Premium Package - includes:

Nissan Navigation System with 5" color touch-screen monitor, XM NavTraffic, automatic temperature control, power sliding glass moonroof, automatic on/off headlights $ 1,650

Destination charges $ 800


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