The Nissan Rogue was first introduced to the Boston automotive media in the form of a hand-crafted life-size model at the Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation back in December 2006.
The prototype, a static display, was just fragile enough that the Nissan people present asked that the doors not be slammed, cringing whenever that happened. Since that cold winter day, there’s been no reason for Nissan to cringe about the Rogue because it has morphed into the brand’s second best seller (behind the Altima sedan) with more than 650,000 units sold since its introduction.
The biggest change for the Nissan Rogue is that it’s now available in a three-row configuration. Nissan execs readily admit this isn’t a space for grownups to take extended rides but it will do in a pinch. Families will find it helpful for those times when they get called on for carpooling or visitors come in from out of town. Cargo space does get crimped in this configuration.
Also, the Rogue now has the zero gravity seats first found in the Nissan Altima. Drivers with extended commutes will marvel at their comfort. The articulated seat shape now offers support from the chest to the pelvis.
The 2014 Nissan Rogue is powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a next-generation Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) that is seamless. People think they prefer an automatic transmission but in reality the CVT, as it evolves, is the better way to go for fuel economy. Nissan has tweaked the CVT so it is 10 percent more fuel efficient, which helps the front-wheel drive Rogue get rated at 33 mpg highway and 26 mpg city for a combined rating of 28 mpg (an overall 18 percent gain in fuel economy).
Driving the Rogue along city streets, back roads, and highways, I was able to beat the combined rating by almost 2 mpg. Wayne Gerdes of cleanmpg.com, my driving partner, was able to squeeze 39.2 mpg out of the Rogue, which shows it has some potential for fuel sipping when driven correctly.
One thing we both noticed, though, is even under moderate acceleration on inclines the Rogue’s engine had a whine to it. That was somewhat surprising because the rest of the vehicle is so refined. Nissan has introduced a 2.5-liter, supercharged four-cylinder in the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. Maybe that engine will become a better choice for the Rogue if it needs more oomph.
Otherwise, the driving experience is darn near perfect in the Rogue—thanks to active trace control, active engine braking, and active ride control. The trace control is great on curves with its application of vehicle stability and torque smoothing. The ride control smooths out bumps so you don’t feel like a bobble-head doll on rough surfaces, and the engine braking gives drivers a little boost when slowing down to make it more effortless.
The exterior could be one polarizing element of the Nissan Rogue. Almost a decade ago, Saab and Subaru joined forces to create an SUV that was nicknamed the “Saabaru.” The Rogue replicates that front-end, which either means Saab was futuristic in its designs or Nissan designers have come up with a retro look that never had broad appeal. Nissan does, however, do a good job with the use of LED lighting as a design element.
The best part of the interior for the 2014 Nissan Rogue is actually in the cargo area. This is a flexible vehicle in the two-row model along the lines of a Honda Fit but with a lot more room and comfort.
The divide-n-hide cargo system provides 18 adjustable variations between the cargo and occupant areas, including out-of-sight storage and a lower deck to handle taller items. It can be operated easily with just a couple of fingers. It works well for hauling mulch or muddy kids coming home from a soccer game.
The 2014 Nissan Rogue comes in three well-equipped models, S, SV and SL, each in a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel-drive. Along with the long list of standard features found on Rogue S, starting at $22,490, the Rogue SV, starting at $24,230, adds 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, privacy glass, Nissan Intelligent Key with push button ignition, six-way power driver’s seat, power driver’s seat lumbar support, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, NissanConnect Apps, two additional audio system speakers, roof rails, and Smart Auto on/off headlights.
Rogue SL models, starting at $28,070, include leather-appointed seating, Bose audio system with nine speakers, NissanConnect with Navigation, 7.0-inch QVGA color touchscreen display, power liftgate, Around View Monitor, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, fog lights, Quick Comfort heated front seats, outside mirrors, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
All-wheel-drive is an additional $1350 and is available on all trim levels. Destination and handling add an additional $860 to all prices.
2014 Nissan Rogue Crossover Utility
Price, base (with destination): $23,250 Rogue S with front-wheel drive. Fuel economy: 26 city / 33 highway in front-wheel drive. Drivetrain: 2.5-liter, four-cylinder. Body: Four-door crossover utility.
Horsepower: 170 hp at 6000 rpm. Torque: 175 lb. ft. @ 4,400 rpm. Overall length: 182.3 inches. Wheelbase: 106.5 inches. Height: 66.3 inches. Width: 72.4 inches. Curb weight: 3393 lbs. front wheel drive / 3532 lbs. all-wheel drive .
Strong fuel economy numbers, cargo flexibility, and incredibly comfortable seats make Rogue a great family hauler.
A couple of miscues on exterior design and noticeable engine whine on even slight inclines.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Nissan may not score a knockout with the Rogue but it’s going to continue its winning ways with this crossover utility in 2014.Keith Griffin is the president of the New England Motor Press Association.