An all-new Nissan Rogue?
If, as an auto enthusiast, Nissan’s Rogue hasn’t appeared on your automotive radar, you’re forgiven. In any of its various guises, over any of its generations, it wasn’t meant for you. Or me. It was intended, instead, for the thousands of consumers wanting their transportation affordable, reliable, and without any discernible affectation. Get me there, get me home, and let me get through the 60 monthlies without much in the way of additional expense or drama. No surprises. And with that – as you might surmise – no delights. In launching its all-new Rogue, Nissan presumably keeps the reliable and accessible, while throwing out everything else.
Since the Rogue is rarely on my radar, the all-new 2021 didn’t appear in my line of sight ‘til it was in my driveway. And with just one look my tepid expectations were immediately elevated; from any angle this is a ‘small’ SUV/crossover properly executed. While previous Rogues have been what a design student would deem ‘organic’, this is more upright and angular, bringing to the table more than a whiff of Volvo’s XC40. And even better, when enjoying the cleanliness of the overall design your eyes aren’t distracted by those curves and creases which adorn Toyota’s RAV4 and, to a lesser degree, Honda’s CR-V. This is a clean-sheet execution – Nissan dubs it “Modern strength” – that looks ‘clean’ (and ‘modern’ and ‘strong’!) on both the showroom and the road.
As I’ve written previously, with seemingly each new iteration of an established model that model’s footprint seems to grow. Here we have what the EPA describes as ‘small’ sitting on a wheelbase of 106 inches, while stretching to over 15 feet. The good news? In stretching the footprint there’s real room for five inside, along with almost 40 cubic feet for the things five people will inevitably bring with them.
Entering the cabin, Nissan’s team has provided a step-in that seems almost perfect for your average, height-challenged male – you’re not stepping up, you’re not bending down; you simply enter the driver’s seat in a casual, seamless manner. Once behind the wheel you’ll enjoy a supportive (8-way adjustable) ‘Zero Gravity’ seat, a clear view of the instrumentation and – thankfully! – a fairly intuitive protocol within the 8-inch touchscreen for adjusting ventilation and audio. And the positive impressions are enhanced by almost unrestricted visibility, something you don’t enjoy with the RAV4 or Mazda’s CX-5.
Under the hood is, to my amazement, a little bit of normally-aspirated goodness. With 2.5 liters of displacement in its DOHC four, Nissan delivers but 181 horses, and while that is eleven horses healthier than last year’s Rogue, it’s twenty-two south of what Toyota gives you from its 2.5 liter four. But for whatever reason, Nissan’s horses – at least subjectively – feel healthier, less strained. Whether merging onto a busy freeway or just rolling down the road, the Rogue won’t have you wishing for a turbocharger or optional V6; either one would be nice, but not really necessary. The Rogue goes about the day-to-day errands with an ease that surprises, or at least surprises based on our historically low expectations.
If you’re running those errands in inclement weather, the available all-wheel drive system provides you with five drive modes, encompassing Off-road, Snow, Standard, Eco and Sport. And with a new electro-hydraulic control for the clutch, torque distribution going to the rear wheels is more responsive.
As a platform, the Rogue’s all-independent suspension and electrically controlled rack-and-pinion steering break no new ground, but the way everything works together delivers a truly upscale composure, surprisingly serene for a crossover starting in the mid-$20s.
The test SL model, with optional all-wheel drive, topped out at $37K. And while that’s a lot of money (I’d probably order the SV – for around $32K), if you consider a shelf life of ten years it’s not that much per month. There’s a lot of value here, and while that’s been true of various Rogues over Nissan’s many product cycles, rarely would I place those models on the same level as Honda’s CR-V or Toyota’s RAV4. With this newest Rogue, I would. And just did.