Driven: 2018 Nissan Rogue, from upstart to mainstream

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Feb 20, 2018
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When it was introduced back in 2007, Nissan Rogue was a challenger trying to muscle its way into a growing segment against entrenched competitors, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in the burgeoning compact crossover category. With impressive sales growth from a mere 17,000 to 403,000 units in ten years, the Rogue has gone from an underdog to one of the category leaders. That’s why there may not be a more inappropriately named vehicle on the market these days than the Nissan Rogue. A rogue in the most positive sense of the word is a scoundrel, someone who’s a bit mischievous and outside the norm. Yet, as the second best selling car in America, the Nissan Rogue is decidedly mainstream. As good as it is (and it is good), there’s nothing even remotely daring or dangerous about its style, performance, or personality.

Behind the Wheel: Nissan Rogue

Rogue leapfrogged past Toyota Camry on the sales chart last year, because it is a better Camry. Rogue is roomier, more convenient, more comfortable, and more capable, with very little sacrifice to efficiency or driving dynamics. Let’s be honest, who really buys a Camry for driving dynamics?

The thing that makes Rogue’s meteoric rise to the top of the sales charts so remarkable is that for the most part, it’s absolutely unremarkable. It has pleasant enough looks, adequate performance, acceptable efficiency, a cookie-cutter interior, and a price that puts it squarely at the center of the segment. Basically, Nissan copied Toyota’s playbook for Camry and applied it to an SUV. No surprise, it’s working.

Compared to the CR-V and RAV4, Rogue is longer overall, has a longer wheelbase, offers more front seat legroom and headroom, and more cargo volume when the rear seats are up, though both competitors have more room for stuff than Rogue when you fold the rear seats down. Other dimensional differences are negligible. Check the features lists on the fully-loaded version of these Utes and you’ll see very little difference in equipment. Even in base trim, they are a lot alike.

So, aside from styling which is subjective, what sets Rogue apart? It’s the room and a driving dynamic that leans heavily toward calm, cool, collected comfort. This isn’t a hot rod SUV. You won’t mistake it for an Alfa Stelvio, Audi SQ5, or even a Mazda CX-5. Rogue is a mild-mannered family car. The 170 horsepower four-cylinder engine is perfectly adequate, however, the CVT transmission zaps it of any zip, slowing the 0-60 time to a leisurely 9.1 seconds. Steering is light but direct and handling is predictable if uninspiring. What this leaves you with is a car that’s quiet and comfortable whether you’re running errands around town or cruising down the interstate.

The other big differentiator is driver assistance technology. Everyone has adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist available, but Nissan takes it one further in Rogue, combining the two to create ProPilot Assist. Activated by pressing the blue button on the lower right side of the steering wheel and then setting the cruise speed, this Level 2 autonomous system uses a combination of radar, sensors, and cameras to manage vehicle speed and help with steering to keep the car centered in its lane. In order for both functions to work, you have to ensure steering assist is activated before you engage ProPilot Assist. This is accomplished by pushing an inconveniently placed button on a panel down by your left knee where several other important functions – Eco and Sport mode, heated steering wheel activation, and traction control – are for some strange reason also located.

This is not a hands-off steering system, only an assist feature that reads the lines on the road and will nudge you back to the center of your lane if you start to drift and guide the car through mild curves like the kind you find on a typical rural interstate. Take both hands off the wheel and in just a few seconds the Rogue will beep a friendly reminder. If you still don’t take action those beeps will become louder and more frequent. If you refuse to grab the wheel then, Rogue will tap the brakes to get your attention. If after all that your hands still don’t make it back to the wheel, the electronic brain in Rogue will assume something is wrong. It will turn on the flashers, slow the car to a stop in your lane, and then call emergency services. It’s a good system. One of the best I’ve encountered in terms of lane centering, but it’s not perfect. Of course, if the road is snow covered, the cameras won’t be able to see the lines and when the sensors get packed with snow, the cruise control shuts off.

Winter weather (along with sheer human stupidity) is one of the biggest reasons we won’t be driving fully-autonomous cars anytime soon.

My All-Wheel Drive Rogue was a fully-dressed in their highest level SL trim package. This meant nice heated, leather seats, soft-touch surfaces, a full suite of infotainment options including navigation, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, surround view monitor, Nissan Connect Services and more on an 7-inch touch screen that includes – joy of joys – knobs for both volume control and tuning! In addition to all the SL features my Caspian Blue Rogue was added the SL Premium package with its the panoramic moonroof and LED headlights, the SL Platinum Package which kicks in 19-inch aluminum wheels, the aforementioned ProPilot Assist and electronic parking brake, and finally the Platinum Reserve Interior Package adding tan leather seats with quilted leather inserts and piano black door inserts. All dolled up, this is a seriously good-looking interior that had everyone saying “wow” the first time they climbed it.

The only knocks against the interior are those poorly placed buttons – seriously, the drive mode selectors need to be near the shift lever or somewhere on the center stack – and the lack of USB ports in the rear seat. This is a family vehicle. Families travel with multiple phones and tablets. It’s time for every manufacturer (Nissan is not the only one guilty of this) to include one USB port for every legal seat in the vehicle. Don’t argue with me. Just do it.

So the Rogue isn’t very Roguish. But it is very good if what you’re looking for is a family car that’s roomy, capable, quiet, comfortable, loaded with tech, driver assist goodies and excellent utility. There’s no secret sauce here, just a really well packaged SUV that hits the mainstream bullseye better than almost every other car out there. That’s why it’s finding its way into so many garages these days.

2018 Nissan Rogue SL AWD
Four-door, five-passenger, SUV/Crossover
Base price: $24,800
Price as tested: $36,640 includes $995 destination charge
Optional Equipment: SL Package includes navigation, adaptive cruise, Bose premium audio, heated leather front seats, heated steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, blinds spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams ($7,730), SL Premium Package includes panoramic moon roof, LED headlights ($1,820), SL Platinum Package includes 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, ProPilot Assist, Electronic parking brake ($790), SL Platinum Reserve Interior tan leather seats with quilted inserts, piano black door inserts ($250)
Engine: 2.5 liter, four-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC
Transmission: Xtronic CVT with Sport and Eco modes
Power: 170 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque: 175 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 RPM
Curb Weight: 3,659 lbs.
0-60 MPH: 9.1 seconds
Top Speed: 118
EPA MPG: 25 city, 33 highway, 27 combined

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Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, Pursuitist.com. His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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