A Victory & Reseda review of the 2012 Nissan Rogue
An old friend has returned for a visit.
We all have this friend that you welcome into your home to have stay the week with you on special occasions. One forged from a friendship by chance or circumstance that have run through the tides of mutual ups and downs. When you two do get together, it's about having fun and letting loose the stress of your individual lives.
When the friend visits, you put him or her up at your place – not at some hotel miles away. You cook breakfast for that friend, take in a movie or a museum, laugh over mutual losers over coffee – even share recent love interests (that is, of course, if you're single). The fun you have with said friend is supposed to be drama-free – or, at least hope that it is.
It is true that we often view automobiles as extensions of our lives. Perhaps this notion of a "returning old friend" is apt when I welcomed a familiar steed to the V&R Garage recently – the Nissan Rogue.
What is so special about the Rogue? Two years ago, I drove a base S model with all-wheel drive and found it to be a counterpoint after a disappointing turn with one of its competitors. It turned out to be a very pleasant small crossover. A year later, another S model with all-wheel drive spent a week with me tackling the onset of my final semester of graduate school through one of the worst winters I've spent in the Twin Cities. In all, I became very fond of the Rogue and the way it goes about its business.
Now, the Rogue has returned for another stay at the Garage. This time, it came back with a bit more kit than before. It probably stopped by the Mall of America, bought some better shoes and some nicer clothing – then, went to Best Buy and got a few new tech toys to play with.
The Rogue in question for this review is the middle grade SV model. Though it returned with a bit more embellishments than in previous visits, is the Rogue still the same old trusted friend I've known for the past few years?
For starters, this handsome devil is a byproduct of a design language evoked by the original Nissan Murano almost a decade ago. The angles, the slants and other design quirks keep the Rogue in play as many of its competitors have gone through major changes in recent months.
The mid-grade SV adds nicer visual elements to the package. Seventeen-inch rims along with Continental tires make for the footwear upgrade. That's where the Rogue stood out with its "pumped up kicks" though creating a serious stance compared to the basic necessity of the S. There is the right amount of chrome that makes the Rogue still very attractive amongst its competitors.
Inside remains the same, based on the updates from the 2011 model. The SV adds a few extra luxuries above the S. The black/gray seats have a nicer texture with some subtle blue contrast weaving in the main parts of the upholstery. These seats actually provide adequate bolstering while comforting me from the stress of closed lanes on France Avenue in Edina and the semi-insanity of Minnesota Highway 100. Rear seat room is very generous accompanied by a comfortable seat for at least two adults. Rear cargo space is even more generous – including the front passenger seat that fold flat for very long items.
The only difference between last year's "snowmobile" and this year's better-attired Rogue is the in-dash navigation combined with AM/FM/XM radio, single CD player, an auxiliary jack and Bluetooth connectivity for the phone. Sound quality from the Rogue's speaker system is pretty good. Navigation graphics could be much better, but at least the positioning was precise and it zooms in and out based on your movement – including stops at intersections.
The instrumentation is clear and straightforward, including the center trip information screens and the switches on the steering wheel, column and below the audio/navigation unit. A Sport button lurks on the center column and the 4WD Lock button is on the lower part of the instrument panel. The 4WD Lock button was what made the last Rogue very fun to drive in the snow. All of the interior materials are nice to the touch and exude proper function and quality.
The Intelligent Key system, denoted by the fob-like "key," had a quirk to tell. In most Nissan vehicles equipped with this feature, you have a button to turn the engine over and a slot to put the key in when the battery in low on this unit. Instead, you turn over the ignition in the Rogue by a switch that operates the same as regular bladed key – placed exactly where the key should be slotted. I've dealt with the feature before – it was in the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V. I would rather have pressed a button on the dashboard instead – just like the Altima, Maxima and Murano of reviews before.
Underneath the hood is Nissan's familiar 170 horsepower 2.5litre four cylinder. With dual overhead camshafts, four valves-per-cylinder and variable valve timing, the Rogue is a fine all-rounder. In both city and highway driving, the 2.5litre mill carved up the miles without complaint. Connected to this engine is Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission. In the Rogue, this CVT works well giving me the right ratios at the right engine and road speed. All four wheels benefit from the combined power of the 2.5litre engine and the CVT.
For the most part, the Rogue is quiet – except when you press the throttle to quickly gain speed from a stop or onto freeway exits. From there, the Rogue settles into a nice supple and smooth ride. When roads are imperfect, the Rogue does transmit those odd surfaces. Handling is controlled and poised, but there's plenty of roll on banks and curves.
The Rogue shows off its reflexes in the steering, which is sharp and precise. There is no play in the steering wheel and corrects itself better than most vehicles of its type from those driven recently. The brakes are amongst the best in its class in feel both in normal and panic stops. While some crossovers and SUVs dive "up" in short braking sequences, the Rogue reacts very normal and downward – just like a good ol' car.
When it comes to fuel consumption, all I wanted this Rogue to do is better than the last one – a disappointing 19.5MPG through snow and sub-zero temperatures. It did much better than that with a fuel economy average of 24.0MPG. That is exactly where I'd like the Rogue to be!
Having driven both the S AWD and the SV AWD, I pondered whether the extra kit – the bigger wheels, nicer interior trim, navigation with XM and Bluetooth, and the moonroof – was worth the sticker price. Normally, an S AWD model similar to the ones I've driven over the past two years start out in at $24,105. The SV AWD tester was stickered at $27,920 – including the Premium package that comes with the navigation, upgraded climate control system and moonroof. If I wanted more luxury and kit, the SV with the SL package in AWD can be had at $30,255 – including leather, Around View Monitor camera system and even bigger wheels.
You can save money on either of these models by eliminating the rear differential and driveshaft for an average decrease of $1,250 on the sticker price. If you lived here in the Northern Climes, it would be suggested to spend the extra money on all-wheel drive. Trust me, it is worth the extra dough.
While there are some that think the Rogue is too average for its intended purpose, it would be easy to bash some aspects of this smallish crossover. However, compared to similar vehicles I have driven in the past few years, I prefer the Rogue SV AWD with the Premium package overall. Why? I enjoy driving it without kvetching about some annoying deficiency within the vehicle.
As Goldilocks once said: "This one's just right."
I use the analogy of the Rogue being an old friend that came for the week to hang out to make a point about this smallish crossover: You can trust it to do the job. Whether it is commuting for one job, getting to several venues for another, or taking it out on the town – the Rogue came through with flying colors.
But, is the Rogue more than just a daily driver? Is it still a companion for fun, camaraderie and so forth? The Rogue is definitely not flashy or pretentious. The Rogue is Joe Average – the friend you take anywhere without any drama or stress.
Seriously, all I want in a vehicle is something that is roomy, comfortable, easy to use, built well, safe, good in bad weather and responds to my right foot appropriately. I want something I know will never let me down. If it does, it would be easy to manage. That pretty much sums up the Nissan Rogue in my book.
In the end, the Rogue did not wear out its welcome. It might be back someday. If so, we'll have plenty to catch up on.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Nissan North America, Inc.