On occasion the process works and a member of the auto industry comes up with a new vehicle name that's tantalizing.
Chalk one up for Nissan. It calls its compact crossover derived from the Sentra sedan Rogue, a devilishly delightful moniker. More so when compared to RAV4 from Toyota or CR-V from Honda -- bor-ing.
Rogue is a great-sit-up-and-take-notice name that doesn't put you to sleep like the MK XYZ nomenclature over at Lincoln.
Of course, it takes a little more than a cute name to win folks over, especially because RAV4 and CR-V are well established, and Rogue is just one of a long line of intenders seeking to capitalize on the interest in a replacement for a sport-utility that does better on mileage and doesn't look like a minivan.
Rogue is offered in front- or all-wheel-drive in S or SL trim, but with only a 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower 4-cylinder with one of those continuously variable automatic transmissions -- or do you say CVT? That's the one with an infinite number of gear ratios to match conditions whether the road is flat or hilly, the cabin full or empty or your foot floats like a feather or falls like lead on the gas pedal.
With a CVT you don't feel the shift points when moving through the gears. Traditionalists used to waiting to hear or feel the tranny upshift after kicking the pedal hard to get ahead of the pack will need to adjust to the new seamless and soundless technology.
Rogue isn't a barn burner. It's not that the 2.5 sputters down the merger ramp. It's just that the 4 is being asked to put more than 3,400 pounds in motion and that takes some effort. A Sentra sedan has a little more zip than its crossover cousin. Accept that, and you'll accept Rogue.
Can't fault the 4 for its mileage rating -- 21 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway, especially since we tested the all-wheel-drive version that pays a slight fuel penalty for all-seasonality. But it would be nice if the 4 cylinder was a touch quieter, especially at launch from the light. Consumers will tolerate more commotion in an SUV than a crossover. If automakers can make V-6 engines with the power of a V-8, why can't they make a 4 with the quiet of a V-6?
FWD or AWD, Rogue boasts stability control with yaw sensors as standard to limit lateral fidgeting. The suspension is tuned more for soft, bounce- and irritation-free motoring than pinpoint handling. Take a corner at speed and stability, as well as traction, control works to prevent slipping or sliding. But they don't keep the sidewalls from feeling as if they are scuffing the pavement. There's a pronounced lean to those 16-inch all-season radials in turns.
Though compact sized, Rogue has good room for four adults or two adults and a couple rug rats. Cloth seats are a tad firm and side bolsters a little narrow but there's plenty of room to stretch front or rear. And for a compact, rear-seat leg and especially head room are a pleasant surprise. The second-row seat is far enough ahead of the rear wheels that occupants don't get bounced around -- as when the seat sits right over them.
A nice touch is the generous cargo room behind the second-row seat. Should you need more, the seat backs lower with a pull of a lever. The lever is easy to reach and use so there's no fear of physical injury or mussing your clothes.
Speaking of clothes, kudos to Nissan for adding a pull-down hook on the back of the front seat that can hold coat or sweater or the dry cleaning. Neat. Or, it can hold the plastic bag from the grocery store. Other nice touches include holders for the iPod and cell phone -- as well as cups.
We tested the base S version, which starts at $20,450 with AWD, an on-demand system that directs torque front or rear depending on wheel slippage detected. FWD starts at $19,250.
The S is nicely equipped but aimed at the price-sensitive consumer. Air conditioning, power mirrors/windows/locks and keyless entry are standard, but seats and liftgate are manually operated. And options are limited.
The top-of-the-line SL starts at $20,670 with FWD and $21,870 with AWD and offers not only more standard equipment but also more options.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch, all-season radials; body-colored, sideview mirrors; privacy glass; roof rails; seatback pockets; center console; visor vanity mirrors; and a washable and portable tray below the cargo floor to hold wet or dirty gear, tools or clothes.
The SL also offers an optional premium package at $2,200 that includes AM/FM/CD changer, Bluetooth hands-free phone, foldable cargo organizer (basically a pop-up plastic basket under the cargo floor to keep stuff from rolling around), paddle shifters and satellite radio. Power moonroof adds $800, and leather package with leather seats, power driver's seat, Homelink receiver and rearview mirror compass runs $1,800. None of these items is available on the S.
Nissan won't say how many it expects to sell, but since it doesn't offer a compact crossover now, any sales would be plus business, more so if it keeps a customer out of a RAV4 or CR-V.
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2008 Nissan Rogue S AWD
- Price as tested: $20,575 - Add $745 for freight. Wheelbase: 105.9 inches - Length: 182.9 inches - Engine: 2.5-liter, 170-h.p. 4-cylinder - Transmission: CVT automatic - Mileage: 21 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway
- $20,450 Base - $125 Splash guards
- Another compact crossover. - Decent room for people and their things. - AWD for all-season motoring. - Stability control with traction control and side-curtain air bags standard. - Wonderful name.
- Have to move up to SL to get many options, including power seats in $1,800 leather package and moonroof at $800.