2008 Nissan Rogue SL 2 WD Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2008 Nissan Rogue SL 2WD

It's no secret that the SUV market has changed markedly in the past few years, with popularity switching from truck-based utility vehicles to car-based crossovers. Nissan's Murano, based on its mid-sized Altima sedan, was one of the first crossovers to abandon all pretense to the "rugged outdoors" mien that was previously the attraction of the (truck) class when it debuted for the 2003 model year with an "Adventures in On-Roading" ad campaign. In style, appointment, and equipment, the Murano was right on target as an upscale urban utility vehicle for the real world.

The Murano's success has generated at least one question. And that is "why no similar but smaller vehicles in the Nissan lineup?" Whatever the reasons were, the question is no longer relevant. The recently-introduced Nissan Rogue is very much the junior edition of the Murano.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Most apparently, the Rogue looks like a smaller Murano, with many of the same styling cues. Complementing the larger and more expensive V6-only Murano, the Rogue comes only with a four-cylinder engine, in front- or all-wheel drive form and, like its larger sibling, a CVT transmission for smoothness and efficiency. Based on Nissan's "C" platform, which also underlies the Sentra sedan, the Rogue is not meant for serious trail duty. It's meant to be at home at home, in the urban and suburban world of aggressive traffic, tight parking, and indifferently-paved roads.

To that end, both trim levels, S and SL, offer expressive styling wrapped around a functional and roomy interior that just happens to also be very stylish. The 170-horsepower engine has no problem dealing with the stress of daily traffic, and returns commendable fuel economy while doing so. Safety equipment is comprehensive, with four-wheel antilock discs, stability control, and the full complement of airbags standard in all Rogues.

Both levels are offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or Nissan's new "Intuitive All-Wheel Drive" system. The S has all the basic necessities, while the SL adds fancier trim, features not available or standard in the S, and the optional availability of upscale equipment such as HID headlamps, a Bose audio system, and interior upgrades including leather seating, the keyless Intelligent Key starting system and Bluetooth¨ hands-free cell phone connectivity.

For all possible equipment, order the SL AWD, as that's currently the only way to get Bluetooth, Intelligent Key, and HID lights. If you can live without those, and all-wheel drive, the Premium Package-equipped front-wheel drive SL that I spent the last week with is a fine way to go. With a distinctive look, good power and economy, and a high degree of ride and interior comfort in a conveniently-sized and competitively-priced package, the new Rogue serves notice that Nissan is to be reckoned with in the compact crossover class.

APPEARANCE: Like a young animal, its proportions are slightly different, a little shorter and higher, a little chunkier, but there is no doubt that the Rogue is a close relative to the Murano. The curvaceous shape is familiar, especially at the sides around the C- and D-pillars where the bottom of the window line kicks up. Rear windows are nearly identical, and if the Rogue's taillights look more conventional than the Muranos, take a look at the upcoming 2009 Murano. In front, the grille is similar if not identical, and ditto for the hood and fender shapes. As with the Murano, there is nothing about the Rogue's exterior that says "macho rugged offroad". Rather, it is a sophisticated real-world vehicle.

COMFORT: Inside, the Rogue borrows heavily from the current Oriental sport-compacts - including its cousin the Sentra SE-R - in style. My SL FWD had the standard two-tone synthetic cloth covering its seats, with the dark, textured plastics of the dash and upper door panels offset by bright (but not glaringly, distractingly bright!) matte-finished silver plastic trim on the door handles, around the instruments, vents, shifter, and cupholders, and on the steering wheel hub. The textured nylon seat cloth helps grip your body, and also has air spaces for insulating comfort. The front seats offer good comfort and support, with manual adjustment, including driver's seat cushion height. The steering wheel is adjustable for tilt, and has a comfortably-thick, ergonomically-molded rubberized rim. Cruise, and optionally with the Premium Package, auxiliary audio controls are mounted in the hub, with manual-mode shift paddles behind the spokes. Instruments are easy to see, and the climate and audio system controls in the center stack are simple to use. Orange backlighting at night provides low-glare visibility. A four-speaker, AM/FM/CD/auxiliary input audio system is standard fare in all models. The seven-speaker Bose audio system in my test car, part of the Premium Package, is a worthwhile upgrade, adding a six-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3 and WMA CD capability and RDS information.

There are numerous storage spaces in the cabin, highlighted by a huge glovebox with built-in organizer dividers. The rear seat has plenty of leg and head room, even for a central passenger, but the Rogue's width is a touch narrow for long-term three-passenger duty if all are adults. The rear seat folds 60/40 in all models, and (again) as part of the SL Premium Package, the front passenger seat can be folded flat so long cargo items can be carried. The tailgate is light in weight and counterbalanced for easy use, and the load floor height is not excessive. A cargo organizer, useful for relatively light items like grocery bags, lives at the rear of the cargo area. Yes, another part of that Premium Package....

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 Rogues have four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and vehicle dynamic control (VDC) with traction control (TCS).

RIDE AND HANDLING: Nissan's "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 the car's relatively light weight and low center of gravity, allied with its electric power steering system, give it 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 forest roads, and also helps in dealing with curbs, potholes, and other similar hazards of city life.

PERFORMANCE: 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 (167 with California-state emissions tuning) at 6000 rpm and 175 (170) lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. As in the Murano, 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. Overall fuel economy in the low- to mid-20s is one reward. Another is smooth, quiet operation, as the CVT never shifts between discrete gears. When more acceleration is desired, it's a simple matter to shift manually (into software-generated virtual gears) by means of the shift lever or shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. I never felt the need for more power during my time with the Rogue, and averaged about 23 mpg in mostly city and secondary road driving.

CONCLUSIONS: Nissan's new Rogue is a fine example of the contemporary real world-oriented crossover.

SPECIFICATIONS

 Nissan Rogue SL 2WD

Base Price $ 20,670 Price As Tested $ 23,425 Engine Type dual overhead cam 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with continuously-variable cam phasing Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in. Horsepower 170 @ 6000 rpm (167 CA states) Torque (lb-ft) 175 @ 4400 rpm (170 CA states) Transmission electronically-controlled continuously- variable (CVT) Wheelbase / Length 105.9 in. / 182.9 in. Curb Weight 3299 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.4 Fuel Capacity 15.9 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane regular unleaded gasoline Tires P225/60 HR17 Continental 4x4 Contact Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, BA, EBD, VDC 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 / 27 / 23 0 to 60 mph 8.7 sec (est) Towing capacity 1500 lbs. with towing package

OPTIONS AND CHARGES Premium Package (2WD) - includes: Bose¨ Premium AM/FM/6CD/MP3CD/aux audio system, XM Satellite radio, speed-sensitive audio control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, steering wheel- mounted paddle shifters, trip computer, folding cargo organizer, luggage cover, fold-down front passenger seat, dual illuminated sunvisor vanity mirrors, dual-level center console tray, front foglamps, mood lighting, pre-wiring for trailer hitch $ 1,900 Floor mats $ 110 Destination charge $ 745

Complete specifications on the 2008 Nissan Rogue SL 2WD and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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