Now boasting a way more grown-up feel, the Nissan Rogue is a surprising new entry into the crossover market. We check it out.
Remember that cute, but a little awkward junior high student who grew into his or her skin to become a well-rounded individual? If there were a vehicular equivalent of that same idea, we would think the 2014 Nissan Rogue would be Exhibit A.
Totally re-imagined for 2014, the Rogue has grown up into a three-row, mainstream crossover and will now be built in Tennessee.
Naturally, the brand decided to show off their new baby at home in the Music City, where they consider themselves to be more than a little "Nashville proud."
But should they be proud of this redesign? Let's find out.
The best for last?
In the high-stakes poker game that is the automotive industry, many other manufacturers have already displayed their new wares. Nissan has had the enviable position of waiting to see the other's cards before revealing their own.
The fifth of five redesigned vehicles to have arrived since the 2013 model year, the Rogue is a five, or optionally, seven passenger crossover that features DNA shared with French partner Renault. Overseas, the Rogue will be badged X-Trail, a nameplate that was previously used on a similar, but mostly unrelated, five-seater.
Speaking of market (share), the 2013 Rogue is selling at such a brisk clip that Nissan has decided to keep it around for 2014 as the Rogue Select, with a slightly lower base price. That gives Nissan some room to ratchet up the all-new Rogue.
The 2014 Rogue is powered by last year's inline four-cylinder engine that also does duty in the Nissan Altima. Making 170 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, the 2.5-liter motor is rated at a solid 26/33 mpg (28 combined) with front-wheel-drive and 25/32 mpg (still 28 combined) with AWD.
The singular engine choice is connected to a likewise singular transmission: Nissan's latest CVT that now includes a function called D-Step to simulates gear changes in the upper rev band. It's not quite dub-stepping, but that's fine with us since the transmission itself is responsible for 10 percent of the Rogue's fuel economy boost.
The Rogue's unibody construction utilizes a new electric power-assisted rack and pinion unit that offered very good road feel in our testing. Now riding on a new suspension made up of struts in front with coil springs and an independent multilink kit in the rear, it seemed to provide a new found confidence for the driver.
Or maybe it was all the added technologies on board.
For starters, the Rogue includes Active Trace Control, which uses steering angle sensors to help maintain the intended target line. Then there's Active Ride Control uses sensors to measure wheel spin and then pulses the brakes when negotiating rough terrain in order to minimize the vehicle's pitching motion.
Available features include a lane departure warning system and a blind spot monitor, plus Nissan's innovative "around view monitor" that gives a birdseye-style view of what's going on around the vehicle.
Premium design, inside and out
Biokinetic Synchronicity is the new buzz phrase from Nissan's styling department.
Interpret that as you choose: New sheet metal is found throughout, starting with a more refined grille that brings the Rogue more in line with the Pathfinder. A new fender design blends into handsome creases, giving way to more fluid lines that start on the hood and gently work their way outward and lead to the rear quarter. Clever use of blacked-out B and C pillars give a wide-open appearance on the side view of the greenhouse.
Nissan's trademark boomerang elements from the 370Z and Altima appear here on the front LEDs and the taillamps.
Inside finds an enhanced passenger and cargo space as well as three levels of trim: base S, mid-level SV and top of the line SL. A divided dashboard with soft touch material and aluminum trim strips split the front seating area into twin pods.
The second row includes a 40-20-40 split with recline and fold, but the real action is up front with "zero gravity" seats to prevent fatigue on the body's pressure points. An available third row seating option is complete with a 50/50 split that yields 9.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind it. If you opt out on the third row option, you can then take advantage of the Divide-N-Hide cargo system's two-piece cargo organizer with 18 possible configurations for dual shelved storage.
A few minutes behind the wheel revealed a competent new crossover that's clearly much more grown up than its predecessor.
Immediately after hitting the gas pedal, the difference between this latest CVT and its predecessors became apparent. At upper reaches of the rev band, it offers up a believable feeling of actually shifting gears. This isn't done just for that seat-of-the-pants feel; it also makes the Rogue sound more satisfying than before.
Unfortunately, a better engine room racket doesn't translate to more power and torque. At around 3,500 lbs., the Rogue isn't especially plump, but it could use another pony or two under the hood. Still, we were easily able to achieve combined city/highway mileage of 28.9 mpg, which slightly betters the EPA estimates.
With the new-for-2014 Active Trace Control, we discovered a system that operates in a fashion not unlike torque vectoring. In this case, let's call it brake vectoring.
We operated the Rogue on a large watered down skid pad in the parking lot of the Tennessee Titans' LP Stadium, and tried it without the system in active mode. What we found was that constant steering input was required to keep the Rogue from understeering. Designed to instill more confidence when negotiating tight turns such as expressway on-ramps, in active mode, the system sensors read the curve and apply slight, almost imperceptible braking to keep the car in check.
It's no replacement for total attention and awareness from behind the wheel, but in today's stressful lifestyle, it's an added driver assist that could prove its worth in a New York, er, Nashville, second.
Leftlane's bottom line
Nissan renews one of its best sellers and in the process makes it larger, longer, and more refined than ever before. With the larger dimensions come added interior space and comfort.
As it grows larger, and as its competitors have also embraced four-cylinder engines, we wonder if this new Rogue is starting to encroach on Murano and Pathfinder territory.
2014 Nissan Rogue base price range, $22,490 to $28,070.
Photos by Mark Elias.