2015 Nissan Rogue SL FWD Review By Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
Appearance can be deceiving. Case in point: the newest Nissan Rogue. The second-generation Rogue made its debut for model year 2014, but due to the vagaries of scheduling I never was able to test one. When the 2015 edition showed up recently, I was initially shocked by its apparent growth. It looked as big as the original Nissan Murano of 2003.
Then I started looking at the numbers. Compared to the original, the new Rogue is actually an inch shorter, sitting on a wheelbase 0.6 inches longer. Width is up by 2.5 inches, and height, with or without a roof rack, up about two inches. Ground clearance has decreased from 8.3 inches to 7.4, still plenty for its city/suburban utility mission and making for slightly easier access. Most important interior dimensions are similar or fractionally larger, with the greatest increase 2.5 inches of rear legroom. So most of the larger appearance is a styling illusion.
Under the hood is the familiar 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, matched as before to the "Xtronic" continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The engine is unchanged, with maximum 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, but the CVT has been upgraded with a slightly wider ratio spread and quicker response to throttle input. As ever, front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available.
What's new besides styling? Originally a two-row spec only, third-row seating is now offered, as a 50/50 folding bench in the rear cargo area. Like all such in small crossovers, I suspect it's best used sparingly and for small children. More usefully, the most recent electronic innovations can now be had, meaning improved lighting in the form of LED daytime running lights and headlights, and available electronic safety aids and a power liftgate. Wider rear doors make rear seat access easier, and that seat has a 40/20/40 folding back and nine inches of fore-and-aft travel to that seat (split 60/40) for versatility and convenience. The optional Divide-N-Hide« cargo system gives 18 possible variations in cargo/people organization.
With the new generation for 2014, changes for 2015 are minimal. The transmission gets an "eco" mode, for improved fuel economy, the SV Premium Package gets heated cloth seats, and there are new color choices. Trim levels are S, SV, and SL, with option groups Family Package (third-row seating, privacy glass, and run-flat tires since the third row takes space otherwise used for the spare) for the S and SV, the Premium Package for the SV and SL (slightly different for each but with all the latest electronic goodies and connectivity beyond what's standard in each), and a moonroof for the SV (part of the SL Premium Package). All are offered in either front- or all-wheel drive form.
My test car for the past week was a front-wheel drive 2015 Rogue SL with the Premium Package. Which meant a near-luxury specification with leather seating, a high-quality audio system, all of the current electronic connectivity and safety features, and plenty of useful interior space with many possible configurations. It was smooth and quiet over the road, whether around town or on the highway, with plenty of power for its mission in life. The latest CVT has noticeably better response to the driver's desire to accelerate. Fuel economy, at 25 mpg for my week, with minimal highway travel and 27.7 long-term, was commendable for a crossover of its size. Yes, the additional width is noticeable when parking, but the Rogue is still a conveniently-sized and eminently useful crossover, now with more style.
APPEARANCE: As mentioned, the newest Rogue looks larger than it really is. Which probably helps establish presence on the road, and the lines are now close enough to those of the larger Pathfinder that there could be some confusion. It's a rounded three-box shape with Nissan's signature vee-shaped grille with hood lines swept back from the vee and a GTR-inspired lower bumper fascia in front, flowing character lines on the sides, and a rounded tail with oversize wraparound taillights. Ground clearance has decreased, but little real worry there and short overhangs should prevent damage when encountering steep driveways or rolled curbs. The plastic cladding underneath is not a skid plate, it's there for aerodynamic efficiency.
COMFORT: At SL level, particularly with the Premium Package, there is little besides the Nissan nameplate to tell you this isn't a "real" luxury vehicle. As is usual at the high end of the middle class, the driver's seat is power-adjustable, while the front passenger seat and steering wheel are manual. Seating and steering wheel are leather, and upper instrument panel and door surfaces are textured, soft-touch material. Trim here is carbon fiber-look plastic. Compared to lesser models, the SL gets upgraded seats. They are comfortable and heated, with good high-eyepoint visibility aided when backing by the Around View┬« video monitoring system which used small cameras mounted in the grille, at the bottoms of the outside rear-view mirrors, and above the license plate to give a composite image of the car's immediate surroundings in the screen in the center of the stack. That's a bit small but still useful, especially when pulling into tight spots or being around children and pets. Instrumentation is complete and the "Fine Vision" electroluminescent gauges are easily visible in all lighting. The rear seat is is the most notably improved part of the interior. You want space, comfort, and versatility? Here it is. The rear seat cushion is split 60/40, and each section has nine inches of (manual) fore-and-aft travel. Legroom varies from very good to stupendous. The other dimensions are improved as well. With the 40/20/40-folding seatback and fold-forward front passenger seat, versatility is king. Now add the Divide-N-Hide cargo system, which allows organization of the cargo area with changing floor height, shelving, dividers, and a cover, and there are even more possibilities.
SAFETY: The Rogue's unibody structure is built with Nissan's "Zone Body Construction" 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 vented disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and vehicle dynamic control (VDC) with traction control (TCS).
RIDE AND HANDLING: "New" here really does mean new, as underneath the restyled bodywork is a new chassis platform. The Rogue gets the first US-market use of the "Common Module Family" platform architecture jointly developed by Nissan and partner Renault. The basic suspension design, fully independent with struts in front and a multilink system in the rear, is similar but not identical. This, a slightly longer wheelbase, and other enhancements make for a vehicle with a smooth, compliant ride, properly-weighted steering -- electrically power-assisted -- and a planted feel on the road. Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with antilock, brake assist, and electronic brake-force distribution ensure quick, controlled stops.
PERFORMANCE: The familiar 2.5-liter aluminum alloy, twincam, 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine under the hood provides plenty of power for the Rogue's mission in life. Vital statistics: 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. The secret to the Rogue's combination of 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, and the system has been modified for quicker response to driver demands for acceleration. Fuel economy is one reward. Another is smooth, quiet operation, as the CVT never shifts between discrete gears.
CONCLUSIONS: Nissan's nearly all-new second-generation Rogue continues to offer space and comfort and adds style to the mix.
2015 Nissan Rogue SL FWD
Base Price $ 28,280 Price As Tested $ 31,130 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in. Horsepower 170 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 175 @ 4400 rpm Transmission CVT Wheelbase / Length 106.5 in. / 182.3 in. Curb Weight 3481 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 20.5 Fuel Capacity 14.5 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular Tires 225/60R18 100H m+s Dunlop Grand Trek ST30 Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, EBD, BA standard Suspension, front/rear independent strut / independent multilink Ground Clearance 7.4 inches Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 26 / 33 / 25 0 to 60 mph est 8.8 sec Towing capacity 1000 lbs OPTIONS AND CHARGES SL Premium Package -- includes: power panoramic moonroof, LED headlights with automatic leveling, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, moving object detection $ 1,990 Destination Charge $ 860