Nameplates like Camry and F-150 are legends in the automotive industry. These vehicles sell in massive numbers, spreading across the market like blame at an AA meeting.
|1. All 2014 Rogues are powered by a 2.5L 4-cylinder with 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque.
2. Front-wheel-drive versions deliver 26 MPG city, 33 MPG highway and 28 MPG combined.
3. One of just two models to offer a third-row in its class, the optional bench makes space for two extra passengers (theoretically).
4. The S model starts at $23,350, including $860 in shipping and handling fees.
Nissan’s most popular product in America is the Altima midsize sedan, but did you know its No. 2 vehicle is the Rogue? Yes, this compact crossover has won the hearts and monthly payments of thousands of Americans that are in the market for an efficient, affordable utility vehicle. To keep this important nameplate relevant, engineers and designers have completely overhauled it for 2014.
The Rogue was introduced for the 2008 model year and since then its sales have steadily increased. Calendar-year-to-date deliveries are up almost 14 percent and all told nearly 650,000 of them have been sold in the U.S. since it first went on sale.
PARLEZ-VOUS RENAULT? HEI!
Nissan and Renault joined forces back in 1999 but aside from some corporate connections they really haven’t shared much on the vehicle front, until now. The 2014 Rogue is built atop a brand-new platform called the Common Module Family or CMF for short. It’s the automakers’ first shared architecture, taking advantage of the best both companies offer.
Despite its all-new Franco-Japanese underpinnings the latest Rogue is remarkably similar in size to today’s version. Its wheelbase is up by a little more than half an inch but its overall length is down by one inch. Adding interior space, the total width has been increased by 1.5 inches; curiously though height is identical between the two models at a whisker more than five and a half feet. Overall interior space in the 2014 model has grown by more than 8 cubic feet.
In the future CMF will support multiple vehicles and will be available in more than 190 countries around the world. For even more global flair the all-new Rogue is assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee. The outgoing model is built at Nissan’s Kyushu facility in Japan.
FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT
Dimensionally the new Rogue is very close to the model that’s on sale today. Like seeing an old high-school pal at the grocery store and being unable to recall their name, that uncomfortable familiarity extends under the hood as well.
The only powerplant offered is a tried and true 2.5-liter four-banger. As before, it puts out 170 horsepower with 175 lb-ft of torque. These numbers are competitive, if unimpressive.
The engine may be essentially carryover but quite a few changes have been made to the transmission. If you were hoping for a stepped-gear unit opposed to the continuously variable trans installed in today’s Rogue you’re going to be sorely disappointed; the ’14 vintage still has a CVT, but it’s been refined in a number of ways.
The biggest news has to do with efficiency. Frictional losses in this gearless cog-box have been slashed by 40 percent, which results in 10 percent better overall petroleum efficiency. Sixty percent of the time it works every time!
DESIGNED FOR EFFICIENCY
Further improving thriftiness the Rogue spent plenty of time in the wind tunnel. You could say the result of this fine tuning “blows” the competition away (hardy har har).
The body’s overall drag was cut by 10 percent thanks to the addition of tire deflectors, underbody covers and a muffler spoiler. Yes, even the muffler received wind-tunnel attention. Overall the vehicle slices through the air with a coefficient of drag of just 0.33.
Equally important is mass and engineers worked hard to hold their position in today’s ever-escalating Battle of the Bulge. Armed with slide rulers and drafting boards they managed to keep Peiper’s Panzers from penetrating the Allied defenses and reaching Antwerp.
Obscure WWII references aside, the Rogue fared quite well in its 2014 redesign. In spite of slightly inflated dimensions and additional equipment the vehicle is only about 100 pounds heavier than today’s model. To keep extra mass at bay it features an aluminum hood, special lightweight bumper covers and a composite rear hatch with an integrated spoiler.
IT’S THE (FUEL) ECONOMY, STUPID!
Like flip phones, the color beige or elastic-waist jeans the Rogue’s engine feels painfully dull and not very refined, but the tradeoff for all of this wholegrain mediocrity is efficiency, and lots of it.
Thanks to a slippery body and special tuning, fuel economy has been boosted by 18 percent compared to the 2013 model. In numerical numbers the result is a best-in-class performance; front-wheel-drive Rogues sticker at 26 miles per gallon in the city and 33 on the highway. Combined they deliver 28 MPG!
Naturally all-wheel drive cuts into those figures slightly, but probably not as much as you’d think. Rogues with all-season grip sticker at 25 in urban conditions and 32 on the interstate.
But what about real-world efficiency? Everyone knows window stickers can’t be trusted; they’re like an improperly maintained roller coaster in an Albanian amusement park. Put your faith in one and you’re bound to be disappointed, or rushed to a suspicious Balkans ER. Either way smiles and chuckles become tears and muffled sobs.
Restoring our faith in humanity this Nissan delivered the goods. In reasonably heavy-footed driving we managed more than 30 miles per gallon bombing around the hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, Foggy Mountain Breakdown blasting the whole time.
SPORTY, YET UNREFINED RIDE
On the road this vehicle handles extremely well. Yes, it’s a crossover that’s actually fun. The Rogue’s steering is very tight and secure feeling, with no slop or numbness, an impressive feat for an electrically boosted setup.
In addition to the tiller this vehicle’s brakes are nice and firm as well, which gives you the impression of solidity and adds confidence to the overall driving experience. The Rogue’s ride is also surprisingly tight, with minimal body roll. Is this a mass-market crossover or a Z-Car wearing platform shoes?
Driving dynamics may be impressive but that’s not the whole story. Unfortunately the engine lets some helium out of this balloon, deflating the overall experience. That 2.5-liter four-cylinder is pretty unrefined, emitting grumpy sounds at even slightly elevated RPM. If that weren’t bad enough the idle is choppy as well. Overall this powertrain tingles like a limb that’s fallen asleep. For once a CVT isn’t the target of our scorn; here it actually works really well. When necessary it can automatically downshift a little to take advantage of engine braking.
FEATURES AND PRICING
Inside the Rogue is tastefully designed with a variety of soft-to-the-touch materials covering large swaths of the instrument panel and doors. The squishy stuff is attractively patterned and suitably classy; it’s a definite step up from what Toyota offers inside the RAV4.
As an added bonus you don’t even have to spend big bucks to get a nice cockpit. Even the midlevel SV model’s interior is a great place to spend time. In fact the only cheap-looking interior component is the headliner, which feels like recycled cardboard that’s been flocked in leftover dryer lint.
Unfortunately the interior isn’t particularly quiet. Some wind and road noise infiltrates the cockpit. It’s not terrible but other new vehicles are so incredibly silent these days that the Rogue’s couple extra decibels do stand out.
Keeping up with the Hondas, Kias and Fords this Nissan offers a few differentiating features. One of them is a clever reconfigurable storage space. The “Divide-N-Hide Cargo System” can be adjusted 18 different ways to hold a wide array of different items.
THIRD-ROW… SORT OF
Another noteworthy feature is an optional third-row seat. This gives the Rogue seven-passenger capability along with a giant asterisk. It will only accommodate that many people if the rearmost riders have been cremated and stashed in small urns. They’re the only ones that will be comfortable back there and that’s only because they can’t feel anything, not because they’ll actually fit.
Telematics is all the rage these days and in the Rogue it’s enabled through NissanConnect, either with navigation or without. Drivers can access all kinds of cloud-based services through their smartphones, from Google search to hands-free text messaging.
In addition to electronics, certain high-end features are also available. Buyers can get things like blind-spot, lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems plus the company’s nifty Around View Monitor, which makes parking a snap.
Three trim levels of Rogue are available including S, SV and SL. The most affordable base version starts at $23,350, including $860 in destination and delivery fees. If you want all-wheel drive plan on spending an additional $1,350. The range-topping SL model starts at a little more 29 grand. Exact pricing for the middle-of-the-road Rogue SV we sampled was not available but it probably cost right around 25 big ones. The 2014 Nissan Rogue goes on sale in the middle of next month.
If that’s too much money there is another Rogue option. Curiously, the current-generation vehicle will continue on for at least one more model year, soldering on as the “Rogue Select,” a low-cost option. It starts at less than 20 grand and goes on sale in January. Yeah, we’re confused by this decision as well.
The Rogue is something of a polarizing vehicle. As crossovers go it’s great to drive and delivers absolutely stellar fuel economy but the engine is a letdown. Its interior is pretty excellent, but it’s a bit noisy inside and that third-row seat is hopeless.
Still, at the end of the day this vehicle’s deficiencies do not outweigh its benefits. It’s a serious contender in the compact crossover segment and a vehicle that’s absolutely worth your consideration. Going forward it will undoubtedly continue to be one of Nissan’s most popular models.