2009 Nissan Rogue S Review

2009 nissan rogue s review

A little behind-curtain action for you: When I finished with the 2008 Nissan Murano, I asked Farago if he was interested in a "Take Two" review. He wasn't. As I had even less interest in writing one ("Ride is softer than butter… no! Softer than veal fat"), I didn't. Why waste time insulting a fat pig when I can be losing hundreds of dollars at online poker? As you can imagine, I wasn't exactly doing cartwheels when the Nissan Rogue showed up. For all I knew it was a half-pint version of its (uglier) big brother. And a CVT, too? I was upset. But was I right?

Certainly not in the looks department. Whereas the Murano has simply gone off the goofy-looking tracks, the Rogue is cute. Look at that face– you know your mother loves it. While not quite as Pokémon as other Japanese cars (hello Miata), the gawking headlights, trapezoidal Nissan badge area and Eli Manning mouth give the compact soft roader a definitive– if not distinctive– face. The Rogue's size helps. Or rather, lack there of. This is the first SUV-ish vehicle in a long time where I could see over the roof (I'm about 6' in heels). Just like kittens, smaller equals cuter. My only real gripe is with the Muranoized rear quarter windows. They ain't cute and do nothing but create irritating blind spots.

I won't lie to you: this is not the nicest interior in the world. But the Rogue won't lie to you either. There's no fake wood or carbon fiber and just one strip of fake aluminum per door. You won't even notice the latter. Starting with the bad, I really disenjoyed the front seats. They reminded me of furniture I used to take from peoples' lawns in college. And a Toyota Corolla.

The switchgear feels typical for the segment, meaning hollow and derived from petroleum. Same holds true for the plastic covering the dash and other surfaces. It's simply not Nissan's finest hour, especially in light of the fact that the Altima Coupe's interior is their finest hour. That said, the steering wheel was lifted from Datsun 280Z — just wonderful.

Everyone knows that few makers can build a V6 as well as Nissan. So color me surprised that the 2.5-liter four-cylinder in the Rogue feels hewn from the same superlative stock. Peppy and potent, the DOHC mill spins-up eagerly to its 6,250 rpm redline where it's generating 170 honest hp. Even better: the twisting grunt (175 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm). Certainly not world beating (or even class-leading)– until you realize that the Rogue weighs just 3,267 pounds. Drop your revisionist protestations; in 2008 that's light for any car. Which means the Rogue is quick.

At this point, you are probably upset about two things: 1) peak torque so high up in the rev range and 2) the Continuously Variable Transmission. To address the first issue, the motor spools-up so fast that you're in the power sweet spot almost instantly. As for the latter, I still experienced the same blue balls-inducing coitus interruptus effect that you get with all CVTs (save the rule-proving exception Lexus LS600hL). It's just not as upsetting. One of the big reasons is that the Rogue is actually powerful enough to avoid rocketing from 1,500 to 6,000 rpm at the slightest hint of incline. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the CVT isn't awful. Unless you're reversing up a hill. Then it is.

We've established the Rogue's quickness, but is it fleet of foot? Why yes, it certainly is. To me, this was the most surprising aspect of my time with the car. However, as I based my pre-conceived notions of Nissan CUVs on nothing but the Murano's grotesque, oafish ways, what was I supposed to think? Regardless, the Rogue feels young. Imagine a nine-month-old Labrador puppy. Forget that it's little more than a Sentra on stilts. It certainly has. When pressed to press-car limits you'll realize the Rogue's ultimate objective is understeer. But driving around most of the corners like most of the people most of the time, the Rogue is neutral, balanced and sporty. I'm as shocked as you.

Unlike the RAV4 and CRV that have become bloated, over-engined caricatures of their former svelte (and practical) selves, the Rogue is a surprisingly fresh little ride. In fact, the last time I recall liking a small trucklette this much was the first generation Honda CRV. Beating on a cliché, less is even more as I averaged more than the advertised 27 highway mpg. Tops in safety tests, too. If sitting high is your main criteria when selecting a vehicle, have I got a smart choice for you.


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  • Revolver1978 Revolver1978 on Feb 28, 2009

    I want to like this vehicle, I really do want to like it, but I can't get over plain-ness of it. It's stark, but not in a purposeful way. I can't put my finger on it, maybe it's because everyone else has blinged up their designs. Maybe it's the soft curves. Maybe it's the not-so-pretty-sister-of-'03 G35 face. . . . or the rump that looks so Hyundai Santa Fe-ish. A dozen other CUV's/cars come to mind when I look at it rather than the Murano, which probably isn't what Nissan had intended. It's a better handler and more economical that the Escape/Mariner twins, but somehow their designs seem more appealing to me. The interiors of btoh use similar quality materials, but the Nissan's seem less artful. Maybe a prolonged test drive will sway me. . . .

  • Rougesucks Rougesucks on Oct 18, 2009

    I GOT TO TELL YOU THE ROGUE LOOKS LIKE A CUTE BABY MURANO AND WITH THE PRICE OF GAS GOING UP I THOUGHT I MADE A GOOD DECSION BUT ITS ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES I HAVE MADE, I USED TO BE A TECH AND I KNOW WHATS NORMAL AND ABNORMAL VIBRATIONS. IT TOOK ME 6 MONTHS AND HAD TO FILE A CASE WITH THE BBB AND NISSAN STILL CLAIMED IT WAS NORMAL.IT WAS A BINDING AXLE SHAFT, IF YOU FEEL VIBRATIONS AND THE DEALER SAYS ITS NORMAL HAVE THEM PUT IT ON A HOST, OFF THE GROUND AND PUT IT IN DRIVE TO CHECK IT OUT. I HAVE A VIDEO OF WHATS IT SHOULD NOT DO

  • Buickman 1938 Union Made
  • Syke Given it's got a factory radio, did it also have the factory heater (as opposed to one of the aftermarket heaters as I had in my 1937 Buick Special)?
  • SCE to AUX I have difficulty identifying any car made before my year of birth (1963), and I never would have guessed at this one.Thanks for the history lesson. It was also a reminder that if transported back in time, I'd have difficulty even operating this vehicle. I've driven a column shift exactly once, but I've never operated a radio like that!
  • Lincoln That radio unit is quite the find. It must have been a ridiculously expensive option in the '30s.
  • Raven65 This is utter BS and people need to push back hard against it by refusing to buy the affected vehicles. I find it interesting that this only applies to Buick, Cadillac, and GMC... the "premium" GM brands. I guess they're betting that the people who buy these brands won't balk at a $1500 shakedown (and they may be right). I just read an article about the redesigned Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon twins that are about to start production. This will definitely push people away from the GMC toward the Chevy. Why does GMC still exist anyway? I can't believe they kept that division around back when they went bankrupt, reorganized and shed Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummer - given that GMCs are literally nothing more than rebadged Chevys. Nobody uses OnStar... and FORCING people to subscribe to it is not going to make it any more relevant. It just needs to go away.
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