Wednesday, December 11, 2013
For seven consecutive days, Nissan's Rogue was as pleasant and compatible a companion as a best friend from high school.
A new grille, front and rear bumpers and spoilers, chrome trim, and instruments are some of the cosmetic changes Nissan made to its popular Rogue crossover.
Photos courtesy Nissan
The new Rogue has several feature upgrades, but mechanically it goes pretty much unchanged.
NUTS AND BOLTS
WHAT IS IT? 2011 Rogue SV, the first update of Nissan's popular small crossover.
WHAT DOES IT COST? 2011 Rogue is available in three trim levels with front- or all-wheel drive. Starting prices range from $21,460 for a front-drive S model to $25,680 for an AWD S Krom edition. Test car was an SV AWD with a starting price of $25,150 and $1,700 Premium option package.
WHAT I LIKED BEST: Styling changes, new creature comfort features.
WHAT I LIKED LEAST: Rear sightlines, CVT drone.
WHO'S IT FOR? Anyone in the market for a vehicle that delivers a sedan-like ride, handling and fuel economy in a more utilitarian package.
IMPORTANT NUMBERS: 2.5-liter, 16-valve I-4 with variable valve timing produces 170 horsepower, 175 pounds feet of torque. Continuously variable automatic. 3,479 pounds. 105.9-inch wheelbase. 28.9/57.9 cubic feet cargo space behind third/second rows. 22 city/26 highway mpg (EPA). Zero to 60 in 8.1 seconds (stopwatch).
It is roomy and comfortable enough for a couple of multi-hour trips on the highway.
It is economical enough for a workweek of commuting on a single tank of fuel.
It is versatile enough for fetching building materials from Lowe's and Home Depot.
And it is peppy and agile enough to keep me from feeling frustrated behind the wheel.
Yet when the Rogue was retrieved after a week, I didn't miss it. Maybe it's because it doesn't have a strong personality or because it never behaved like its name.
Whatever the reason, we failed to connect an emotional level.
The 2011 Rogue SV is like someone you meet at a cocktail party, spend most of the evening chatting with, and then never see again ... and don't care.
I certainly won't mind if another Rogue shows up in my driveway any more than I'd mind spending another evening with that cocktail party companion. But there's simply no compelling reason to look forward to either.
In today's automotive world, in which consumers appear driven more by practical and utilitarian needs than emotions, the Rogue's plainness may not be a deal-breaker. But it's surprising that the same company that delivers dynamic performers such as the Altima and Maxima and distinctive vehicles such as the Juke and Cube also spawned the Rogue.
Not that there's anything wrong with it, as Jerry Seinfeld might say.
With some pump prices nudging past four bucks a gallon during my Rogue engagement, I appreciated being able to drive a little over 24 miles for every gallon the Rogue consumed. The EPA says the Rogue will average 22 mpg in city driving and 26 or 28 mpg (with front- or all-wheel drive, respectively) on the highway.
The Rogue was competent and pleasant enough in both scenarios. In town, it is small enough to be maneuverable and easy to park. On the highway, it tracks true with minimal driver intervention, rides comfortably, and does a nice job of muting wind and road noise.
Not all noises are so well muted. The Rogue's drivetrain is comprised of a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has been a pioneer and champion of CVTs, which in principle are more efficient than conventional automatics because they can provide an infinite number of "gear" ratios.
Nissan's CVTs seem to bear that out, delivering good performance and decent fuel economy. And because they don't rely on clusters of gears engaging and disengaging, they exhibit none of the lunging or lurching that can be noticeable when even the most sophisticated automatic transmissions shift up or down.
What is noticeable when driving the Rogue is a sort of moaning or droning as the CVT does its job. It's particularly noticeable during full-throttle acceleration, when the otherwise discreet engine also becomes more obtrusive.
If you're not used to driving a CVT, the Rogue's whine might even be disconcerting, since it sounds a lot like a conventional automatic that isn't operating properly.
The Rogue's responsiveness should alleviate those concerns. It's not a speed demon and doesn't offer an optional V6 power upgrade like some of its competitors, but it feels peppy around town and has ample punch for highway merging and passing.
It also delivers ample comfort. The Rogue won't make the worst winter-ravaged road ruts or shoddy spring patch jobs disappear, but it rides smoothly on average roads.
Its handling is equally competent, characterized by a responsive steering system, reasonably good grip and adequate roll control in the corners.
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A new rear spoiler is among the changes in the updated Nissan Rogue crossover vehicle.
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The Rogue has plenty of storage space in a utilitarian and fuel-efficient package.