Base Price (MSRP):$0.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $0.00
View The 2008 Nissan Rogue Specifications
| Review by: Kirk Bell
All-new compact crossover SUV.
The Nissan Rogue is offered in two trim levels, S and SL, each with front- or all-wheel drive. All Rogues have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower. It is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission with an infinite number of gear ratios. When the SL Premium Package is ordered, the transmission has shift paddles to select among six predetermined gear ratios. The all-wheel-drive system is meant for on-road use, and it does not include low-range gearing.
The Rogue S models come standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, four-way manually adjustable front seats, cruise control, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers and auxiliary input jack, 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat and 215/70R16 all-season tires on steel wheels. S models have no options.
The Rogue SL models with six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, roof rails and 225/60R17 on aluminum wheels.
Optional for SL are a sunroof and a Leather Package with leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, six-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, one-touch up/down driver's window, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Homelink universal garage door opener and a compass. A Premium Package for front-drive SL models includes Bose premium audio with seven speakers and six-disc CD changer, XM satellite radio, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, speed-sensitive volume control, paddle shifters, trip computer, outside temperature display, foldable rear cargo organizer, rear tonneau cover, fold-flat front passenger seat, fog lights, illuminated front visor mirrors, center console dual-level tray and mood lighting. The Premium Package for AWD models has that equipment plus Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link, xenon headlights, and Nissan's Intelligent key keyless ignition.
Safety features include dual front airbags, torso-protecting front side airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags with rollover sensors, front seat active head restraints, LATCH-style child seat anchors, tire-pressure monitor, ABS with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, traction control and antiskid control.
The compact SUV market has been a successful one for Japanese juggernauts Honda and Toyota since the mid-to-late 1990s, but Japan's other major automaker, Nissan, has been late to the party. Well, Nissan is finally arriving and it's bringing the Rogue as its date.
Nissan waited quite some time to finally get into the cute-ute game, but the Rogue is finally here and it appears to be aimed squarely at the Honda CR-V. The styling is swoopy, with rounded lines and a wedge shape from front to rear. Flared rear shoulders and an upswept window line give the Rogue a sporty feel.
Ornamentation is minimal. A black and chrome Nissan badge up front is flanked by a body color grille. Only that badge and the headlights lend any contrast to the front end. There is even less character to the sides, which have no ornamentation at all. The mirrors are black on the S model and body color on SL. Chrome or black rub strips would help here, as would chrome door handles. The 17-inch aluminum wheels on the SL help, but the S has plain old steel wheels with hubcaps.
We think the Rogue looks best from the rear, where the dark rear glass, eye-shaped taillights, rounded panels, and license plate recess give it some definition. Unfortunately, the rear liftgate lacks separate opening glass.
The look is not unattractive, but it's plain. Among compact SUVs, the Rogue has a sleeker, car-based crossover look, like the CR-V, as opposed to the upright mini-SUVs like Ford Escape or Jeep Liberty. There is good reason for this, as the Rogue is based on Nissan's C platform, which also hosts the compact Sentra four-door sedan.
Onlookers will be surprised to learn that the Rogue is the longest vehicle in the class. At 182.9 inches overall, it is even longer than the seven-passenger Toyota RAV4 and the seemingly large Jeep Liberty.
At first glance, the interior of the Nissan Rogue seems nice if somewhat plain. Closer inspection reveals some quality materials that are impressive for its starting price. The dash, for instance, is molded in a soft-touch material that would be right at home in a Lexus. The door tops also have a nice soft-touch material. The remainder of the materials are price-appropriate plastic that fits together well.
The instrument panel features only two gauges, the tachometer and speedometer. There is also a motorcycle-inspired round graphic readout that displays the fuel level and water temperature, and on Rogues so equipped, trip computer information.
The center stack features three easily used round climate control knobs, and Nissan's unique radio layout. It has substantially sized buttons, but the presets are grouped in A, B and C folders, instead of AM and FM sets. It takes some getting used to, but with 18 total presets, most drivers will be able to program all of their favorite stations. An auxiliary input jack is provided for MP3 player connectivity.
Storage for small items up front is adequate. The center console has two integral cupholders and a small tray that will work for holding life's minutiae. If that's not enough, the console bin is very deep and is available with a removable tray to give it two levels of storage.
The driver's seat is comfortable and offers a good driving position, even though there aren't many seat adjustments. The tilt steering wheel helps, and there is enough head and leg room for all but the tallest drivers. There is good visibility to the front and the side mirrors are large, but over-the shoulder visibility is compromised by a smallish rear window and rear side windows that are pinched at the rear. The ride height makes getting in and out of the Rogue very easy.
The second row is usefully roomy, with head and leg room that can accommodate adults, even with the front seats moved far back. Three adults in the rear will be cramped, but they should be able to deal with short trips. Toe space under the front seats is plentiful.
Cargo space is good but not at the top of the class. The second-row seats are split 60/40, and they fold flat in an easy one-step motion to open up the maximum 57.9 cubic feet of cargo space.
The available Premium Package option includes a folding front passenger seat. It folds almost flat to allow loading of longer items. The Premium Package also has a rear cargo organizer. It has a recessed floor and removable nets to act as partitions, both of which help prevent groceries from rolling around in the back.
While the low floor makes loading items easy, separate opening rear glass would make the cargo area even easier to access.
The Nissan Rogue is based on an economy car platform and those roots show through in more ways than one. While it is among the better handling compact SUVs, it's not sporty. It drives more like a car than an SUV, but it has more body lean in turns than most cars. The brakes feel touchy at first, but it's easy to get used to them. The electric assist steering requires only a light effort, but it feels natural and direct with good road feel. In fact, the Rogue transmits more road feel to the driver through the steering wheel than most compact SUVs.
The ride is generally comfortable, but it can become busy on bumpy pavement and sharp ruts can give passengers a jolt. Perhaps Rogue's biggest drawback is interior noise. Ruts and bumps cause crashing sounds, rough pavement induces body drumming, and the engine groans under heavy throttle, all characteristics we'd expect in an economy car. Put simply, the Rogue seems like it could use more body insulation, though we realize that would add weight.
Like the CR-V, the Rogue offers only a four-cylinder engine. Nissan's four-cylinder makes 170 horsepower and is one of the better four-cylinders available today. It has the low-end punch to provide good pickup from a stop. Midrange power is adequate, but the Rogue needs a head of steam for passing maneuvers.
The continuously variable transmission works well with the engine, quickly switching to an appropriate gear ratio for the driving conditions. The only way to tell that it's not a standard automatic is to floor the accelerator and keep it there. The transmission reacts by picking the gear ratio to put the engine in its optimum rev range and keeping it there. With the available Premium Package, the CVT has steering wheel shift paddles and six preset gear ratios. The shift paddles allow for a sportier driving experience by giving the driver more control.
The Rogue goes fairly easy on gas. With front-wheel drive, it is EPA-rated at 22 mpg City and 27 Highway; AWD models are slightly lower at 21/26 mpg.
While the powertrain works well, it's best suited for around-town duty. The available six-cylinder models from Toyota and Saturn are considerably faster. The Rogue is also not built for towing, with a maximum capacity of only 1500 pounds.
The Nissan Rogue matches the Honda CR-V for carlike road manners and fuel economy, though it's not as quiet on the inside and doesn't ride as smoothly. The Rogue is priced lower than the CR-V. It should be a good choice for drivers looking for a daily commuter with lots of cargo space. Drivers who tow boats and go off-road will want to consider more rugged vehicles such as the Nissan Xterra or Jeep Liberty.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report on the Nissan Rogue from Baltimore.