Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Rogue SL

My first impression of the all-new 2014 Nissan Rogue was that it definitely looks bigger than the outgoing model. Checking the dimensions, I was right…. and wrong. Yes, it has a slightly longer wheelbase (15 mm), but a shorter front overhang more than compensates for that. Turns out, the 2014 Nissan Rogue is actually shorter than the last generation Rogue, but it is wider and taller.

It’s the all-new styling, I think, that ultimately gives the Rogue more presence on the road; a greater sense of mass, if you will. It makes the Rogue look more grown up, more substantial, more like a proper SUV (it also makes it look bigger…). A revised interior provides greater roominess as well, even allowing a three-row option for Rogue buyers this model year.

It’s less expensive, too. The base price of our test vehicle – a top-of-the-line AWD SL – is $30,498, close to $4,000 less than the equivalent 2013 model. Ours adds $135 for a special paint option (Midnight Jade), $2,600 for a Premium Package and $1,630 for Destination fees. Total price before tax: $34,863.

For that you get a lot of vehicle, and an extremely well equipped version as well.

Backtracking a bit, the Rogue, you may remember, replaced the popular X-Trail for the 2008 model year (in fact, Rogue is called X-Trail in Europe). This is its first complete redesign, with Rogue the first vehicle to utilize a jointly developed Nissan/Renault platform architecture that increases production efficiencies and reduces cost, according to Nissan. North American Rogues are built in Smyrna, Tennessee, with Rogue and X-Trail expected to eventually be available in 190 countries.

Under the hood you’ll find a familiar 2.5L, dual-overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine that makes 170 hp at 6,000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The engine carries over from the previous generation, but the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) has been reengineered for better operation and improved efficiency. This, in combination with better overall aerodynamics (a 10-percent reduction to a 0.33 coefficient of drag) lowers the Rogue’s fuel consumption from a stated 9.6/7.7 L/100 km, city/highway for the 2013 all-wheel-drive model to 8.2/6.2 L/100 km, city/highway for the 2014 version (slightly better for front-wheel-drive Rogues).

Either way, these are hugely impressive numbers for a vehicle of this type.

Rogues are available in S, SV and SL trim, with all models receiving LED running lights, a rearview monitor, roof rails, EZ Flex Seating System with second-row split folding/reclining/sliding bench seat and pass-through, rear spoiler, splash guards, Bluetooth with hands-free messaging and phone system, satellite radio, air conditioning, power windows/doors/locks and for the S and SV models, 17-inch wheels in steel and aluminum alloy respectively.

The new Rogue now features a standard “Divide-N-Hide” cargo system that provides 18 variations between the cargo and passenger areas, including hidden storage, in addition to a lower cargo floor to better accommodate tall items. The rear doors open wider (77-degree opening angle) to help get occupants and their cargo in and out. This will also help parents to better handle their child seats and the kiddies that occupy them.

The SL model enhances the equipment level by adding 18-inch alloy wheels, Nissan Intelligent Key with push-button start, leather seating surfaces, six-way power driver’s seat, heated seats, power panoramic moonroof, hill descent control, upgraded audio and a dual-zone automatic climate control system. And at $2,600, the SL Premium Package would seem a no-brainer as it includes a navigation system with touchscreen monitor, Bose audio, power liftgate, Sirius XM Traffic, an Around-View Monitor, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Moving Object Detection and LED headlights with auto leveler.

On the road the Rogue’s steering is light and its ride feels stable and smooth. The engine started readily in the minus-20 degree conditions endured throughout this test, but it sounds harsh when accelerating up to cruising speed, at which point it recedes inaudibly into the background.

Rogue’s 170-hp engine is surprisingly peppy despite its modest specification. At 1,639 kg (3,613 lb), Rogue weight is average for the sector, although it’s actually a slightly bigger vehicle than the Toyota RAV4, for instance. So it’s not that Rogue is particularly light. Nonetheless, you can scoot around quite happily in the Rogue, which doesn’t feel underpowered at all.

The transmission, of course, is super smooth, as CVTs tend to be. There are no gears to step through, just a continuous increase or decrease of engine speeds, and the appropriate amount of torque to match your requirements. Journalists tend not to like CVT gearboxes (complaining that they make the engine moan and groan and are not sporty), but Nissan’s had a lot of experience with them, and I think that for most consumers, the differences between a CVT gearbox and a conventional multi-speed, torque-converted automatic transmission will largely go unnoticed.

Seating is very comfortable and supportive in the Rogue, although the seat heaters – welcome as they are – are slow to activate. No heated steering wheel in this vehicle, unfortunately.

Rear-seat legroom is very generous and, as mentioned above, the second-row seat is multi-adjustable. The power liftgate is a feature that owners will warm to right away.

The 2014 Nissan Rogue with SL Premium Package is fitted with several desirable safety and convenience technologies, including a Blind Spot system and Lane Departure System. Nissan has been quick to adopt the use of this type of technology in its vehicles, and it’s great to see it available in a mainstream crossover like the Rogue. Likewise the Around-View Monitor enables the driver to have a 360-degree view around the vehicle via four tiny cameras, which can be a great help when maneuvering in tight spaces.

The navigation system is easy to operate, but the display is a little small. The Sirius XM Traffic utility is a must-have for city and long-distance driving. It warns you of congestion and closures ahead, enabling you to reroute around them. It’s like having a bird’s-eye view of the upcoming terrain.

The driver interface, by the way, is conventional and easy to use. Basically it’s knobs and buttons rather than a more sophisticated (and sometimes inscrutable) software-based system. It’s a common sense interface, in other words, with the high-resolution white-on-black gauges easy to read at night.

It’s not often that I comment on sun visors, but big as they are in the Rogue, they don’t stay in place. Move them into position to block the sun, and they drop a good three or four centimetres. Obstinate devices that won’t cooperate!

My Rogue returned about 10.6 L/100 km in the city and 8.6 L/100 km on the highway. These numbers are obviously not as spectacular as the “official” estimates above but they are extremely good for a generously proportioned, all-wheel-drive SUV operating in very cold temperatures (subzero temperatures can increase fuel consumption anywhere from 12 to 22 percent, according to the US Department of Energy). Really, I think this is superb fuel economy from the 2014 Nissan Rogue.

However, there are a couple of areas where the 2014 Nissan Rogue may underperform for some consumers. Ground clearance is reduced by almost 25 mm to 188 mm, making it mid-pack among the competition when it used to be closer to the segment leading Subaru Forester (221 mm). Ford Escape and Honda CR-V have also reduced ground clearance in their latest models, with fuel economy and more car-like handling the likely motivation.

Secondly, the Rogue doesn’t tow, or at least, with a 454 kg (1,000 lb) maximum, it’s not rated to haul your house trailer or hobby car.

And an unfortunate omission is the lack of cargo area remote pulls to drop the second-row seat. Many competitors now include this useful feature.

That said, I think the 2014 Nissan Rogue SL is a very competent family vehicle, easy to drive and to park, stable and responsive on the road, well equipped, well priced, and with the new styling, a more appealing vehicle than the outgoing generation. Even with its reduced ground clearance, it still rides much higher than a car, making it much better able to handle the rugged conditions caused by the ice and potholes endured during our test. Definitely worth a look!

2014 Nissan Rogue SL
articles_PricingType 2014 Nissan Rogue SL
Base Price $30,498
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,630
Price as Tested $34,963
Optional Equipment Midnight Jade paint – $135; SL Premium Package – $2,600
Optional Equipment