First look at the 2008 Nissan Rogue leaves me wanting for 1 thing, a chrome grill. On every model of the Rogue the grill matches the body colors. Maybe they chose this to be different from the new 2009 Nissan Murano; whatever the reason, it’s just lacking. However, the market that this crossover settles in is highly competitive with neighbors like Toyota’s Rav4 and Honda’s CR-V.
Nissan has taken a few pages from its more upscale child, Infiniti. Granted you have to opt into a package or two for some of the “high end” options like HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlights, bluetooth phone connectivity with a very long list of compatible cell phones, intelligent key system, paddle shifters, Bose stereo and leather seating. Now if you do not opt for any options you can slide into a front wheel drive model for only $19,250 and only $1,320 extra for All Wheel Drive.
The interior of the Rogue is oddly upscale for a $20,000 crossover. It is competently pieced together with everything working in harmony. Lets face it, it is not playing in the same sandbox as it’s $35,000 Infiniti EX cousin but it’s good for its class. The gauge cluster is a handsome blue and red combo with a center LCD info display. The LCD display in the dash does have a tendency to wash out on a sunny day with sunglasses on. The eight speaker Bose system is decent with good base response from its subwoofer and it eats MP3 and WMA disks also.
Dropping the rear seats down reveals an abundant storage area enough for a mountain bike and all the accompanying camping gear and coolers. Honorable mention is the cavernous glove box up front; I didn’t have one to experiment with but I think a small laptop could be stored inside! The front seat also has a fold flat feature to transport all those long items that you might have otherwise needed to borrow your friends truck.
All that said, this is not a sport crossover as much as Nissan markets it that way form a style standpoint. Granted it has sport paddle shifters on the up level model but it is mated to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). This type of transmission has no “gears” and is one smooth ride. It is belt driven and constantly changes to match the engines needs at every speed. I did find on my demo drive that it felt a bit numb and obviously not sporty feeling like a standard or even a conventional automatic. Nissan has been successful with this transmission for years now and they are about the only automaker that has tackled the CVT for mass production.
The AWD is not a simple stripped down system. It is an intelligent system and will adapt to the changing road conditions of the US. To save gas, the Rogue is primarily front wheel drive but every time it accelerates from a stop, the AWD system transfers 50% of the power to both the front and rear wheels. This helps on nearly every road surface and eliminates wheel slip when racing off the line. It also has a AWD Lock feature that can be used for short times. This is not going to let you rock crawl on the Rubicon Trail but it will help in those sketchy winter situations.
Bottom line: if you are looking into a compact car or even a small waggon, check this out. The reliability should be good as has been historically true with Nissan’s that are built in Japan as the Rogue is. Fortunately they did not choose Mexico, like some of their cars, where the reliability often suffers.