Review: 2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD
By Evan Griffey of MSN Autos
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.
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 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.
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
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?
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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