2009 Nissan Rogue SL AWD Review
2009 NISSAN ROGUE SL AWD
What’s in a Name?
By Steve Purdy
We often wonder where model names come from and what they have to do with the vehicle to which they are attached. Exotic place names, wild and vicious animals, even totally nonsense, meaningless syllables and alpha-numeric monikers are used for cars and trucks. So . . . what does this small, 5-passenger, cute-ute from Nissan have to do with a ‘roguish’ character.
Nothing, I contend.
A “rogue” is a rascal, scoundrel, apart from the herd, a wanderer, something apart from the norm. The Nissan Rogue is none of these. It’s conventional, useful, attractive and not a misfit in any way – certainly likeable, but not a rogue in the accepted sense.
This little “cute-ute” starts at $20,220 for the basic S-model, reasonably well equipped. The SL version adds 17-inch wheels, silver roof rails, body color mirrors, 6-way manual driver’s seat. Bottom line on our SL AWD tester is $26,670, which includes the Premium Package (lots of good stuff), dash-mounted Garmin navigation system, special floor mats and destination charge.
Powering the Rogue lineup is a competent, but not impressive, 2.5-liter, 170-hp 4-cylinder making 175 lb.-ft. of torque mated to Nissan’s ubiquitous CVT – continuously variable transmission. In this case paddle shifters and a manual mode can make it feel a little more like a conventional transmission with specific gearing but it’s not as crisp and controllable as some other systems. This Rogue is rated at 21-mpg in the city and 26 on the highway using regular fuel. With the standard front-wheel drive the mileage improves just 1-mpg at both ends of the spectrum.
The all-wheel drive system is referred to as “intuitive” by the good folks at Nissan. That means essentially that it is designed for wet and slippery road competence but not so much for off-roading. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be OK on the sandy or rough two-tracks in Northern Michigan but you might not want to get over confident about slogging through the mud or climbing rocks. I felt, or heard (I’m not sure which), a little grumbling from the all-wheel drive system a couple of times at slow speeds on sharp turns.
In terms of safety equipment and ratings the Rogue is on par with most in its class sporting six air bags, active head restraints, full compliment of chassis dynamic systems and five-star ratings for side crash and front driver positions. Rogue earns four-stars for front passenger side crash and rollover protection.
Cargo capacity is not best-in-class, but is well-designed and convenient. With rear seats in place we have 28.9 cubic-feet into which we can stuff our stuff. The rear seats fold nearly flat to open up 57.9 cubic feet and we can fold the passenger seatback forward for the extra long stuff. Plenty of cubbies and hidden places make it eminently practical.
Driving dynamics felt fine, but nothing special, as well. In competition with Honda’s CRV, Mazda’s CX7, Toyota’s RAV4 and even Ford’s Escape the Rogue holds its own but does not shine. This is certainly a competent group, so keeping up with them is solid praise. We sit high enough to get that SUV view of the world. Sharp steering and independent suspension (front struts and rear multi-link design) make handling feel up to our expectations.
If you’re looking to spend between 20 and 30 grand on one of these small crossovers you have a lot of shopping to do. There are probably as many entries in this class as any except sedans. You’ll want to keep the Rogue on your shopping list, for sure.
But don’t expect it to be roguish.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved