2008 Nissan Rogue SL AWD Review

Mini Murano thinks big

2008 Nissan Rogue SL AWD Review
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It took a few days to grow on me, but after driving a fully-loaded 2008 Nissan Rogue SL AWD for a full week, this small utility vehicle has proved itself worthy. Looking strikingly similar to the Murano, the smaller, lighter, more economical Rogue comes in FWD or AWD versions in familiar S and SL nomenclatures.

FAST FACTS

1. Rogue comes with just one engine/transmission option, a 2.5L four-cylinder with 170hp and 175 ft-lbs of torque paired to a CVT tranny.

2. Fully independent suspension and stabilizer bars give Rogue car-like driving dynamics.

Standard features of the Rogue include an Xtronic continuously variable transmission, four-wheel vented disc brakes with ABS, VDC, 16-inch wheels, a 60/40 fold-down rear bench, A/C, power windows and locks, heated power mirrors, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, an auxiliary input jack (for connecting portable music players), remote keyless entry, plus front, side seat and side curtain airbags.

EXCELLENT ENGINE/TRANSMISSION PAIRING

What impressed me the most about the Rogue is its most roguish feature. The CVT doesn't really get your attention on long boring stretches of interstate, but out in the country on my usual test routes and just booting around town it really shines. And, the steering wheel paddle shifters are simply brilliant in this application!

In cahoots with Nissan’s proven QR25DE 2.5L four-cylinder engine (producing 170 hp and 175 ft-lbs of torque here), the manual shift mode gives drivers more control over the powerband. The paddle shifters make the SL models genuinely fun to drive. Shame on Nissan for not making this standard on all trims!

Power distribution in the all-wheel drive system is 50/50 front to rear on starts. Once underway, the front wheels almost completely take over. The electric power rack and pinion steering system provides excellent on-center feel and great feedback for the driver. A front independent strut and rear independent multi-link suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends contributes to the vehicle’s car-like handling and ride characteristics.

The EPA rates fuel economy at 21/26 mpg (city/highway) on 2008 model. My tester averaged almost 22 mpg combined.

VDC CAN BE SWITCH OFF FOR MORE AGGRESSIVE DRIVING

Traction control and vehicle dynamics control (VDC) are both standard on the Rogue. The latter system measures yaw, wheel slip and steering angle constantly, so it knows when to intervene and help regain control from a skid.

Interestingly, I noticed that with the VDC switched off, the transmission will hold gears a little longer before shifting. So, instead of up-shifting automatically at 6000 rpm, it'll wait until 6500 rpm.

To get the wonderful paddle shifters and manual shift mode on the S trims, as alluded to, you'll need to purchase a premium option pack. It also adds fog lights, a power glass sunroof, interior accent lighting, a six-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability and illuminated steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a multi-function trip computer and tow hitch pre-wiring. A collapsible rear cargo floor organizer (deletes full-size spare) and rear cargo cover are also included along with a fold-flat front passenger seat, center console with dual-level tray and more.

REASONABLE CARGO AREA BUT REAR SEAT DOESN’T FOLD FLAT

With the rear seats folded forward, the 29 cubic feet of rear cargo space is larger than it looks and is able to swallow up a fully-assembled 36-inch bathroom vanity my mother and I picked up for her condo. The floor is a bit high for my taste and I would have preferred the rear bench to disappear into the floor (at least a bit) instead of adding an upward slope to it. The lightweight up-swinging tailgate and optional cargo area organizers make up for this somewhat; however, the fact that the carpeting on the rear seat backs is prone to coming unfastened makes the task of sliding large and/or heavy objects into the vehicle a tricky two-person ordeal.

THE VERDICT

That said, the interior is functional, roomy and comfortable for four full-size adults, plus all their weekend gear and supplies. As a family vehicle, the Rogue has a balanced blend of performance and functionality that would make it a nice addition to most households.

PLUS
Paddle shifters on CVT tranny
Competitively priced
Car-like handling characteristics
MINUS
Paddle shifters only available as part of optional package on base model
Rear bench doesn’t fold flat

The new Rogue joins a segment chock full of highly-competitive compact crossovers. Consumer choice will ultimately dictate how well it does in the marketplace, but with a good amount of standard features and a fair price of just over $20,000, it's poised to do well.

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