2008 Nissan Rogue

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Review: 2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.5

Bottom Line:

Nissan’s Rogue delivers the goods on the road with refined driving dynamics, in the showroom with value pricing, and at the pump.
Pros:
  • Keen 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway mileage
  • Quality interior materials, fit and finish
  • Smooth and carlike on the road
Cons:
  • Rear window feels like bunker opening
  • S trim lacks any option opportunities
  • $540 for Garmin nüvi 750 a bit pricey

Compare the Nissan Rogue with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4

Shrinkage is inevitable. Everything seems to be getting smaller, whether we’re talking about portion sizes in restaurants, the funds in our money market accounts or even cars. Take the 2009 Nissan Rogue. Think of it as a mini Murano.

Based on the Nissan|Sentra sedan, the Rogue delivers the utility of an SUV, the fuel efficiency of a passenger car and a surprisingly lively driving experience, all at an attractive price point. It is basically a crossover that hasn’t quite crossed all the way over, retaining much of its passenger-car roots. As such, it doesn’t offer the same cargo capacity as the more family-friendly Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Yet the 2009 Nissan Rogue is a good choice for those who need less utility and are more prone to city commuting, and it stands out from the crowd thanks to its carlike manners and well-crafted interior.

Model Lineup
The Rogue is offered in the base S trim or more upscale SL. Both can be ordered with front-wheel-drive or optional all-wheel-drive powertrains (the all-wheel-drive option costs $1,200 more). The S, with its $20,220 sticker price, offers little in the way of options. In fact, there are no dedicated packages, only optional equipment such as floor mats, splash guards, kick plates, a rear spoiler and a portable Garmin nüvi 750 navigation system. The SL starts at $21,810 and begets 17-inch alloys, better seats, some interior trim upgrades and color-matched exterior details. It also has three option packages: Premium Appearance, Leather and Moonroof.

Our Iridium Graphite SL FWD tester was adorned with the Premium Appearance Package ($1,930) and the Leather Package ($1,960). With floor mats ($110), roof rails ($230) and the Garmin nav system ($540), it priced out at $27,350, including destination charges.

The Nissan’s Premium Appearance Package includes a Bose-based 8-speaker audio system with MP3 playback capability, Bluetooth connectivity, 6-way manually adjustable front seats, HID headlights, fog lights, keyless entry and ignition, and cargo organizer. The Premium package is a prerequisite for the Leather Package. It adds leather-wrapped seats, steering wheel and shift knob. The front bucket seats are upgraded to 6-way power adjustment and fitted with warmers, and the driver’s seat gets lumbar adjustment. Auto up and down windows, Home Link and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass round out the package.

Under the Hood
The Rogue offers only one engine choice: Nissan’s DOHC QR25DE 2.5-liter four cylinder that pumps out 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. Equipped with a continuously variable timing control system, the 4-banger delivers miserly fuel-efficiency of 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

The key to the Rogue’s fuel-efficiency is its Xtronic CVT. There are three popular CVT designs in the automotive realm; Nissan’s Xtronic is a variable pulley design. This type of CVT transmission delivers seamless acceleration because the gearbox has no mechanical gears or fixed gear ratios. Its effective gear ratios can fall anywhere within the minimum and maximum capabilities of its pulley system. A pulley called the drive pulley is connected to the engine’s crankshaft outlet, and another, called the output pulley, is connected to the drivetrain. The transmission is able to change the radii between both pulleys, thereby creating different “gear ratios” within the transmission.

There is a bit of a love/hate vibe when it comes to CVTs. The biggest complaints focus on initial throttle tip-in and release at highway cruising speeds, higher revving from under the hood in certain driving conditions and a “clutch slip” feel when under hard acceleration. These misgivings are more about user perception than how CVTs perform.

Due to a combination of its pulley design and the sophistication of its computer control system, Nissan’s Xtronic displays none of these tendencies. There is an initial hesitation to the driveline upon startup, but once on the road the Rogue drives like an automatic without the sensation of shifting gears.

Inner Space
The Rogue’s cabin is simple and functional, but additional Premium and Leather packages really give it an added dimension of refinement and luxury. The seats are supple and inviting. The gauges are easy to read, with a round electroluminescent info center poised between big tachometer and speedometer readouts. Stereo and ventilation controls are conveniently at hand, and the dash itself is soft-touch upscale material, not the mediocre hard plastic found in many compact offerings.

Rear-seat passengers have plenty of room, and the Rogue offers a maximum 57.9 cubic feet of cargo area. Part of the Premium Appearance Package, the foldable cargo organizer proved quite handy at keeping grocery bags in check while retaining space for bulkier items. Overall, the interior is cozy and well-organized without being too gimmicky or pretentious; definitely one of the Rogue’s strong points.

On the Road
Thanks to the CVT, the 170-horse 4-cylinder engine had no problem propelling the 3,354-pound SL FWD with gusto. Drop the hammer and the engine revs willingly as the CVT provides a smooth, linear application of power. Who needs a V6? Further, the CVT allows low engine speeds at cruise. We observed 2000 rpm at 60 mph, offering insight into its league-leading mpg numbers.

Around town, the Rogue’s driving dynamics provide the clearest link to its Sentra heritage. It feels like a car in most every respect. The Nissan’s tall-sidewall 60-series tires and well-sorted suspension translates into carlike ride quality. In fact, the Rogue feels like it’s riding on clouds: cushy, compliant and controlled, no matter the situation. Potholes, speed bumps and gravel roads are all easily handled by the small sport utility. When asked for more cornering capability, the Rogue proves that its steering and brakes are more than up to the task. As expected, the Rogue understeers when pushed, but this spirited crossover has a surprising fun factor.

Right for You?
The Rogue shares much of its good looks with the Murano and much of its powertrain, including the CVT, with the Sentra, but calls its intuitive all-wheel-drive system its own. The Rogue SL FWD is a capable people mover that possesses a quality much in demand these days, namely value. Its $21,810 entry fee delivers more SUV for the money compared with its direct competitors in the Honda and Toyota ranks. Its 27 mpg is tops in the segment, and its high-content/reasonable-cost option packages should strike a chord with those in the budget-minded buying public looking beyond the bare basics.

Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compact tuning. Today Griffeyfreelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.

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BB01 - 9/21/2014 11:37:31 AM