Nissan has been on a roll as regards refreshing its showroom, with five major changes during the 2013 and 2014 model years to its offerings. While it may be debatable as to whether it has saved the best for last (with the predecessors being the Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra, and Versa Note), the Rogue compact crossover is certainly no slouch in the highly competitive category, which includes the likes of the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Chevy Equinox. Arguably, this crossover category is one of the most demanding as people seem to be gravitating to the higher seating position than they’re going to get in a sedan, so the folks at Nissan have taken this into account while also working to provide sufficient stylistic differentiation from the other vehicles in the class.
This is the second-generation Rogue, with the first having appeared in 2008. And the 2014 model, unlike its predecessor, hails from the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. It is based on a new vehicle platform architecture that Nissan and its alliance partner, Renault, have developed. It is important to note this collaboration from the standpoint that when you’re going to be building vehicles for a wide array of markets—and the Rogue and its Euro version, the X-TRAIL, are going to be available in 190 countries (which is approximately every country in the world—you want to make sure that you get it right lest your stuck with a lot of unsold inventory around the world.
There are two primary areas of interest for a vehicle in this category: the outside and the inside. (What else is there? Well, the powertrain, for one, which we’ll get to in a moment.)
The current versions of the aforementioned competitors can be placed in two buckets: the swoopy and the trucky. For example, the Escape is now swoopy and the RAV4 is now trucky. Given such things as the bulging front fender forms and the way the rear smoothly tapers back without a crisp cutoff, the Rogue goes into the swoopy category. It’s not that one is better than the other. They’re just different. (One could make the argument that as these crossovers have become the alternative choice for those who would otherwise buy a sedan, the swoopy is better than the trucky. Even the Jeep Cherokee, which is another entry, has gone for swoops rather than squares.)
As for the inside, the 2014 Rogue is simply more capacious than its predecessor. The passenger compartment comes in at 105.8-cu.ft., and if you fold down the second row, you have 70-cu.-ft. for cargo. This is compared with a 97.5-cu.-ft. passenger compartment and 57.9-cu.-ft. cargo capability for the 2013 model. While you might simply imagine that they got the extra capacity by making a much larger vehicle, that’s not the case at all. The overall length of the 2014 Rogue is 182.3 in., which is actually 1 in. shorter than the 2013 model. That said, the wheelbase for the 2014 is 106.5 in., up from 105.9 in. for the 2013. They’ve also raised the roof by 1.2 in. In other words, they concentrated on getting the maximum space where the people and their stuff are.
(And speaking of packing in the stuff, there is “EZ Flex Seating System,” which means that it doesn’t take an engineering degree or a membership in a gym to fold down the seats. Even the front passenger’s seat folds rearward, so should there be the need to transport something exceedingly long, this can do it.
(And while on the subject of seating, the 2014 Rouge is available with an optional third row. Two things to know about that. (1) It isn’t offered in the top-of-the-line SL trim, which is the one here. (2) Let’s face it: even though this vehicle is comparatively roomy, that third row is comparatively cramped. Let’s look at some simple numbers: the leg, hip and shoulder room in the front row are 43, 54, and 56.6 in., respectively. The same numbers for the third row are 31.4, 42, and 49.3 in. You want to sit back there? I wouldn’t.)
A danger with having more room is that you have to do something to make sure that the larger environment is well executed and comfortable. The materials are good, and as this is the top trim, the seats feature leather, as do the steering wheel and shift knob. There is a 7-in. touch-screen display in the center of the IP for infotainment purposes. Nissan is offering its Nissan Connect Apps, so for those who don’t think a vehicle is worth considering unless it has its own smartphone-like capabilities, this is capable.
Getting back to the powertrain, there is a 2.5-liter DOHC I4 engine that produces 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. And the SL model has all-wheel drive, which essentially has the power going to the front wheels unless there is slippage, at which point it will deliver some to the back. There is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the norm of Nissans, which is all about improving fuel efficiency. The company has continued to work on its CVT, so this one is said to be 10% more efficient than its predecessor, which is no small improvement. Still, for those who are used to the conventional automatic transmission—a step-gear automatic—the CVT still takes getting used to, especially during hard acceleration, when you begin to think, because there is no discernable “shifting,” that you’re not getting up to speed as quickly as you’d like, and so you think it is the transmission, not the fact that you have 170 hp moving 3,605 lb. of curb weight.
Overall, it is clear that Nissan designers and engineers did their homework, anticipating the demands of the segment and have done a fine job delivering a solid vehicle.
Engine: 2.5-liter inline four, DOHC
Horsepower: 170 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 175 lb-ft @ 4,400rpm
Materials: Aluminum block and head
Transmission: Continuously variable
Steering: Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 106.5 in.
Length: 182.3 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 66.3 in.
Coefficient of drag: 0.33
Passenger volume: 105.8 cu. ft.
Cargo capacity (rear seat folded down): 70 cu. ft.
Curb weight: 3,605 lb.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 25/32/28 mpg