Nissan Rogue — An impressive redesign

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Compact crossovers are hot. And the burgeoning segment is crowded with new products, many among the best-selling vehicles in North America, so it's with perfect timing that Nissan introduces an all-new second-generation Rogue for the 2014 model year. Now built in Tennessee, the new Rogue rides on a new platform that expands interior space enough to include an optional third-row seat and considerably more cargo room.

While the Rogue retains the same exterior look as the previous iteration — even casual observers of the automotive landscape won't mistake it for anything other than a Rogue — it retains its basic shape and dimensions with subtle styling changes including a cleaner front end appearance with swept-back headlights and a more upscale-appealing grille.

It also features more aggressive wheel arches; and redesigned wrap-around taillights. Although it’s all new the dimensions are nearly identical to the old version. Wheelbase is just 0.6 inch longer at 106.5 inches and overall length is actually an inch shorter.

Width is up 1.5 inches increasing passenger space and height has also increased slightly. Nissan engineers performed miracles with the interior creating enough room for a third-row seat (perhaps a stroke of genius since Toyota dropped its third-row option in its new RAV4) and increased cargo storage to 70 cubic feet. A caveat here: the rear seat is only for very small folks and when it is in place cuts useful storage to less than 10 cubic feet.

Inside, the Rogue receives a full makeover using upgraded materials with few hard plastics; a refreshingly straight-forward dashboard design with redundant steering wheel controls; the same front seats now used in the Altima designed with "zero-gravity" technology borrowed from NASA to help reduce fatigue on long drives; second-row seats that recline and slide fore and aft a very useable nine inches; and an innovative Divide-N-Hide cargo system that allows for hauling various forms and sizes of stuff at the same time. All seat backs can be folded forward except the driver's seat when hauling cargo is the order of the day.

We found the Rogue a pleasant compact crossover during our drives. It seemed well-planted on all types of pavement with decent feedback from the electric power steering. The carryover 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 170-horsepower offered enough forward momentum to get us away from stoplights, and for the extra urgency needed to pass a slower-moving car on a two-lane blacktop. The CVT seemed more invisible than in the first-generation Rogue. If you want more you will have to look elsewhere. It's the only engine/transmission combination offered.

If the Rogue lives up to EPA estimates, owners will smile over its 33 mpg highway, 26 mpg city and 28 overall rating in front-wheel drive configuration. There's a slight falloff with the available all-wheel drive to 32/25/28.

New driving technologies abound with such optional features as 360-degree view camera, moving object detection, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and forward-collision warning. There's also a suite of what Nissan calls "dynamic technologies." They include: Active Trace Control to help improve cornering feel by automatically applying the brakes and smoothing engine torque while accelerating;
Active Ride Control that smoothes out serious road imperfections by applying the brakes and adjusting engine torque to reduce head toss especially for rear-seat passengers; and Active Engine Braking where the transmission helps slow the Rogue as the driver brakes resulting is less brake effort.

The Rouge comes in three models S, SV and SL with a substantial list of standard features. The third-row seat is available in S and SV, but not in the top-trim SL. Prices start at $23,650 including destination charge for front-wheel drive S and escalate through the lineup to $30,490 for the AWD SL.

Standard equipment on all models is generous and includes air conditioning, cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a five-inch color infotainment display with rearview camera, a height-adjustable driver's seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a four-speaker sound system with iPod and USB connections, and power windows and doorlocks. Standard safety includes stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes and a full range of airbags. The base all-wheel drive model gets hill descent control.

Our mid-range front-wheel drive test vehicle with the Premium package (navigation, Sirius/XM radio, seven-inch touch screen, blind spot monitoring) carried a bottom line of $27,865.

Interestingly, the outgoing Rogue, which is built in Japan, will continue to be sold in 2014 as the Rogue Select. The reason for this decision is simple, it gives Nissan a compact crossover in the $20,000 to $23,000 price range — a place that basically no longer exists in the segment.

Base price: $23,650; as driven, $27,865
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 170 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 175 foot-pounds @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: front wheels
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 106.5 inches
Length: 182.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,413 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 39.3 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 70 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 33 highway, 26 city
0-60: 9.3 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson

The Good
• Advanced safety features
• Excellent fuel economy
• Versatile interior storage
• Upscale styling

The Bad
• Uninspired handling

The Ugly
• Only one engine and transmission