Nissan SUV isn't particularly rogue – but it's a nice thing anyway
By Jim Bray
What's in a name? In the case of Nissan's Rogue, it's a carryover from a previous generation, but rogue (defined, among other things, as "a dishonest, knavish person; scoundrel") is not something the Nissan SUV is.
Who'd want it to be, anyway? I mean, do you want a vehicle that's dishonest, knavish or a scoundrel?
So forget the name. The Rogue is a straightforward mid-sized SUV and judging by the number of them I see around here, a lot of people like that it's just a straightforward, mid-sized SUV. And that's fine.
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I hadn't had a chance to review a new Nissan in several years, so looked forward to seeing how the brand is coming along. Full disclosure: I've owned two Nissan products over my driving life, though neither were badged as Nissans: a 1972 240Z and a 1991 Infiniti Q45. Both of these vehicles were breakthrough products for Nissan – especially the Z – and though my tenure with both of them came toward the end of their lives (the Z was old and rusty, and the Q was old and neglected by the time I got it), they were both exquisite vehicles.
The Q45 is long dead, and just as well (alas), but the Z is still around and is about to be reborn as a whole new generation (and it's about time!). So Nissan is still alive and kicking and the Rogue is one of their more interesting mainstream products.
Getting into Nissan's sample Rogue SV AWD will set you back $37,098, which is in line with at least two of its main competitors: the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V (all trim levels and options being equal) and it's better looking than the Toyota and less annoying than the nanny-heavy Honda. So that's good.
It doesn't hurt that this new generation of the Rogue, Nissan's best-selling vehicle in Canada since 2012, won the 2021 Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada during last year's Canadian Car of the Year balloting by the members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. On the other hand, AJAC lets me be a member so that may not be great for their credibility…
But back to the Rogue, now in its third generation.
For 2021, the Rogue was given an all-new platform and powertrain, and Nissan says it has "enhanced driving dynamics and a range of available driver-assistance features", while Rogue's "Family hub" interior offers "extraordinary utility and comfort for all occupants, with available features such as 4-door Intelligent Key and tri-zone temperature control." It's also the first Nissan product to offer "the enhanced version" of the optional ProPILOT Assist with Navi-link, available heads-up display, available wireless charging and available wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
Standard on all trim levels is "Nissan Safety Shield 360", which is your typical suite of six driver-assist systems. It includes Intelligent Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and Rear Intelligent Emergency Braking. Rogues also come standard with Rear Door Alert (in case you don't realize you have one, I suppose), 10 supplemental air bags and Intelligent Driver Alertness – the latter of which I assume means if the Rogue notices an intelligent driver, it sends an alert to the police so they can pull him/her/it over so the idiot drivers don't feel threatened.
The base Rogue is equipped well already, but the SV trim level (there's also a Platinum one atop the line) adds extras such as Remote Engine Start, a nice power panoramic moonroof, roof rails, body-coloured door handles, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, an eight-way power driver seat, and two extra speakers for the rather ordinary audio system.
It also comes with Intelligent Cruise Control, Intelligent Lane Intervention, Intelligent AroundView Monitor, UV-reducing solar glass, two rear USB ports, Intelligent Blind Spot intervention; and a Wifi Hotspot.
The Rogue SV AWD, which was the one I drove, adds Nissan's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system and five drive modes: Terrain, Snow, Normal, Eco and Sport. I kept it in Auto most of the time (in which the vehicle handles itself depending on your driving style) and liked it the best, though I only drove on bare and dry road surfaces. Sport mode, surprisingly, didn't add a lot of Sport to the equation.
Powering the Rogue is a 2.5-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder engine. Horsepower is rated at 181, an increase of 11, and torque is up by 6 lb.-ft. to 181. This is adequate and competitive.
Alas, the transmission is Nissan's Xtronic CVT continuously variable transmission, a type of tranny I hate because they're generally loud and annoying and suck the joy out of the drive. I have to admit, however, that this one does a nice job of pretending to be a real automatic, and even the paddle shifters work quite well.
The suspension is independent all around, with stabilizer bars, and I liked how it felt; it did a nice job between balancing comfort and fun, though it could have been a tad stiffer for my taste.
The interior is quite nice, though the driver's seat caught my left cheek in a weird way reminiscent of what many Fords do when I park my prodigious posterior in them. The LCD touch screen works well and is laid out logically. I had some initial trouble setting the audio system's tone controls, but managed it after a couple of curt cusses.
The cabin is roomy enough and I liked that you could actually open the panoramic sunroof. Nissan's sample also had the optional Premium Package ($2200), which added rear seat heating and sunshades for the rear doors, leatherette seats and the always-handy power tailgate.
To help me in this review, I asked my friend and neighbour to come out with my wife and me for a spin. She is now on her second Murano and is a very happy Nissan customer. She loved the Rogue, except that she objected to its weird shift lever (which is actually quite similar to others from other companies – an electronic selector that's small and unobtrusive but which can cause initial angst till you're used to it).
And that was her only complaint! I had several, all minor nits that really aren't worth addressing (just a few things Nissan does that I think other companies sometimes do better, such as not inflicting a CVT on you – and Nissan is far from alone here), and she disagreed with every one, loving how Nissan does things.
So, it appears that Nissan may have not used me as their target audience, though it also appears to have hit its target audience nicely, judging by my friend's reaction to the new Rogue.
I guess that's a win for them both.
Copyright 2021 Jim Bray