2017 Nissan Rogue SL AWD
2.5-liter I4, DOHC, CVVTCS (170 hp @ 6000 rpm, 175 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm)
Continuously variable transmission, all-wheel drive
25 city/32 highway/27 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
23.2 (Observed, MPG)
Base Price: $32,210
As Tested: $35,475
Prices include $900 destination charge.
Internet eyeballs are like sweet candy to “content producers” like yours truly, so I apologize for the clickbait title. After all, the iconic, elemental roadster has nearly nothing in common with a two-ton, all-wheel-drive CUV at first glance — or even fifth glance. But look deeper at each vehicle’s mission, and I’m convinced the 2017 Nissan Rogue defines its category just as the Miata has become the universal sports car.
While I’d love nothing more than to see a pack of 50 Spec Rogues bashing each other at the SCCA Runoffs this September, I’m referring to how thoroughly each vehicle completely disappears around the driver. I felt immediately at home upon sliding behind the wheel, and my daily commute was as relaxed as any I’d experienced in any car.
Calling the Rogue brilliant might stretch the bounds of credulity and hyperbole, as I can’t honestly say it’s a car that excites me as a supercar might. But within the sphere of family-sized crossovers, I can’t fathom a vehicle more perfectly suited to carrying a few people and some stuff a few extra inches off the tarmac.
The Rogue isn’t unattractive – indeed, it’s even handsome, though it will quickly blend into a parking lot stuffed with hundreds of other CUVs. Considering how well the Rogue sells, chances are you’ll resort to chirping the horn via the keyless remote to find your car among the clones in a Target lot as I did.
The ridges on the hood seem a bit overwrought when viewed head on, but from the side, the effect is clear – the line that begins either side of the corporate V-Motion grille continues back to just below the intersection of the A-pillar and quarter panel, then retreats back to the D-pillar. The effect visually lowers the top of the fender, giving a peaked appearance, especially when seen from the rear three-quarter angle. It’s a great way to hide the bulk of a tall front end.
That D-pillar does seem rather large from outside the vehicle, but I didn’t notice a significant blind spot caused by the big block of sheetmetal.
The Platinum Package, as fitted to my tester, adds (among some safety features) 19-inch alloy wheels, which nicely fill out the big wheel arches. The 17- or 19-inch wheels found on lesser trims are less attractive, but are beautiful when potholes begin to bloom.
The interior of the Rogue impressed me on first sit. Certainly, Rogue is meant to appeal to 95th percentile adults and larger; the seatbacks were broad and relatively flat, allowing my wide shoulders plenty of room to relax. Plenty of fore/aft adjustment is available. I comfortably moved the seat forward from the stops, which is quite unusual for my long legs. Most notably for its class, I could easily and comfortably “sit behind myself” in the rear, which meant my kids had plenty of room to stretch out without kicking my seatback.
This Rogue came with the $250 “Platinum Reserve” interior option, which offered attractive, quilted leather seating surfaces in a color they describe as “tan.” Not that I’m a Pantone-certified color expert, but I’m not willing to call it tan. It’s somewhere between butterscotch and caramel. It’s darker than the Werther’s Original candies your grandma kept in that once special candy dish you weren’t allowed to touch and closer in color to the yummy center of a Rolo.
In other words, don’t try to describe leather colors when hungry.
The doors have a solid feel when closing, but the sound isn’t as reassuring as the feel. There’s a hollow sound – not tinny like one would expect from a ‘70s-vintage compact, but not the bank vault “thunk” so fetishized by those infatuated with German luxury cars. It’s just an odd sound that seems out of character for the rest of the car.
The cargo area was roomy. Its Divide-N-Hide cargo system allows the floor to be lowered or raised, and provides a hidden spot for valuables. It kept my camera nicely out of sight while I perused the grocery store, and protected it from a sliding gallon of milk shortly after.
The Rogue was also fitted with the SL Premium Package, which adds a panoramic moonroof, LED headlamps and forward emergency braking. The Platinum Package further adds intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, and pedestrian detection for forward emergency braking. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to test the pedestrian detection — I’d rather not be the first auto journalist arraigned on vehicular homicide charges if for some reason it doesn’t work — but the other features were welcome while cruising home after a long day at the office.
The 7-inch display on this SL trim was bright and clear, offered great surround views when parking, and warned me of a possibly suicidal black cat napping in my driveway. The nine-speaker Bose premium audio system was distortion free when I cranked the knob to wake the kids.
My only gripe about the infotainment comes from the interplay between the steering wheel controls and the row of media selection buttons to the left of the touchscreen. I set 14 preset stations for the SiriusXM satellite radio, but there are only six “slots” for stations per media selection — SXM1, SXM2, and SXM3. In most vehicles I’ve driven, I can toggle easily between all the presets across all three selections via the steering wheel controls, but the Rogue would only allow me the six presets per SXM set. I had to press the SXM button on the center stack if I wanted to move to the next six. It’s a minor annoyance, but it bugs me.
Driving the Rogue was uneventful — in a good way. Those 19-inch alloy wheels, paired with 55-series tires, should have given a jarring ride, but the drive was quiet, even over pockmarked Ohio side roads and interstates. I heard no rattles, even when center-punching a poorly marked speed bump at something over the speed limit.
Yes, Nissan persists in using the continuously variable transmission it pioneered among mass-market vehicles. I can say, however, its latest CVTs are immensely improved over earlier models. I drove a 2008 Sentra for about a year as a company vehicle – that was an unfortunate, miserable driving experience, where the CVT answered my calls for a change in road speed with more sound than actual progress. The 2017 Rogue, however, feels almost as good as a traditional, torque-converter automatic. The only time I noticed the lack of traditional gear ratios was when I mashed the throttle to accelerate in passing maneuvers; there was a perceptible hesitation before I could confidently make my move. I soon found that pulling the shift lever to the left and rearward twice to select a lower ratio allowed more immediate acceleration, though I’m certain fuel economy suffered a bit.
Over my week, the Rogue achieved 23.2 miles per gallon over mostly city driving – somewhat shy of the 25 mpg city and 27 mpg combined EPA ratings. It was barely broken in, with fewer than 2,500 miles on the odometer. This, and perhaps my heavy foot, may have affected my mileage. Nonetheless, it was a disappointing figure.
Would I Buy the Nissan Rogue?
I’ll preach it from the mountaintops: the minivan is the ideal family vehicle, full stop. Still, not every driver will consider the van. My wife is one of those who’d prefer an SUV, and she was closely checking out the Rogue as a potential replacement for her current truck.
I don’t think I — nor my wife — would option the Rogue quite as thoroughly as our $35,475 tester. The base Rogue S starts at $24,720 after delivery, and stepping to an all-wheel drive S will cost $26,070. I’d definitely choose AWD. No, central Ohio isn’t particularly difficult terrain, but our frequent trips to the in-laws in hilly southern Ohio often require four driven wheels to escape. I’d likely choose an SV AWD trim in the magnificent Monarch Orange (yeah, I’d pay the extra $395 for that color, but my wife might not) with the $1,380 SV Premium package for the Around View Monitor, making my total $29,305 delivered. That gives me a great, well-equipped family vehicle for under $30,000.
Nissan has a done a magnificent job of building a car that fits most needs. The Rogue deserves every bit of praise one can heap upon it.
Mercifully, they haven’t made it a convertible. After all, it really isn’t a Miata.
[Images © 2017 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]