2009 Nissan Rogue SL Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Nissan Rogue

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

When SUV demand went from rugged outdoors fantasy to comfortable suburban reality, macho truck to family crossover, Nissan scored big with its midsize Murano. Named after a type of Italian glass and with its "Adventures in on-roading" introductory tag line, the Murano was the antithesis of the rugged off-road SUV of yore, and was an instant success. It was positioned above some similarly-sized crossover competitors, and offered only with a V6 engine. Which begged the question of a similar but simpler and smaller equivalent. Which was answered with the model year 2008 debut of the Rogue.

Smaller than the Murano but still comfortably and usefully large enough, the Rogue proved popular with its intended urban/suburban-oriented market. Nissan got the formula right the first time, and so the Rogue enters its second year with only a few interior enhancements. As before, it's a front- or all-wheel drive vehicle based on the "C" platform that underlies the Sentra sedan, with power from a 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine matched to a CVT transmission. It's meant to be, and is, at home in the real world of aggressive traffic, tight parking, and indifferently-paved roads. For a more elemental experience in the same general size, but further out in the elements, Nissan has the Xterra.

The two Rogue trim levels, the S, with all of the necessities, and fancier SL, return this year. The SL has additional standard convenience features, including speed-sensing automatic door locks, a fold-flat (forward) front passenger seat, dual-level console tray, a trip computer with outside temperature display, illuminated vanity mirrors, cargo hooks, and mood lighting. The front-wheel drive SL can now be specified with the Leather Package, and the FWD SL Premium Package also includes Bluetooth® hands-free phone connectivity and the "Intelligent Key"(tm) keyless fob.

No opulent luxury, but that wasn't intended so no complaint. The Rogue is an honest, comfortable vehicle with a fine combination of space, style, power, and efficiency. I've just finished a week with a new FWD SL with the upgraded Premium Package and an add-on Garmin navigation system, and was suitably impressed. The fold-down front passenger seats is a small but welcome addition, allowing easy transportation of long pieces of lumber, light-duty ladders, surf rods, and/or other long, unwieldy items. Additional versatility is always good. Add that to the already good performance and handling, comfortable interior and right size that makes for both real space and easy parking, and the Nissan Rogue is a worthy consideration in the large compact/small midsize crossover class.

APPEARANCE: Look! It's young Murano! Like a young animal, its proportions are slightly different, a little shorter and chunkier, but there is little doubt that the Rogue is a close relative to a 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 presaged those of the 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 is sporty in the vein of current Oriental sport-compacts like its cousin the Sentra SE-R. Two-tone cloth is the standard upholstery, and the dark, textured plastics of the dash and upper door panels are offset by 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. 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 useful 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 improved 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. 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: It's a charming Rogue... Nissan's small crossover has character and functionality.

SPECIFICATIONS
2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD


Base Price			$ 21,810
Price As Tested			$ 25,170
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				P225/60R17 98H 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
Towing capacity			1000 lbs or 1500 with towing package

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Floor mats					$   110
Premium Package (FWD) -includes:
  Bose® premium audio system with
  RDS and XM® satellite radio, Bluetooth®
  hands-free phone system, Nissan Intelligent
  Key(tm), steering wheel-mounted audio
  controls, speed-sensitive volume control, 
  foldable cargo organizer, tonneau cover,
  front fog lights, pre-wiring for tow hitch	$ 1,930
Garmin Nuvi 750 portable navigation system	$    540
Destination charge				$    780

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