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2008 Nissan Rogue SL 2 WD Review Boone NC

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS 2008 Nissan Rogue SL 2WD It's no secret that the SUV market has changed markedly in the past few years, with popularity switching from truck-based utility vehicles to car-based crossovers. Nissan's Murano, based on its mid-sized Altima sedan, wa...

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2008 Nissan Rogue SL 2 WD Review

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2008 Nissan Rogue SL2WD

It's no secret that the SUV market has changed markedly in the pastfew years, with popularity switching from truck-based utility vehicles tocar-based crossovers. Nissan's Murano, based on its mid-sized Altima sedan,was one of the first crossovers to abandon all pretense to the "ruggedoutdoors" mien that was previously the attraction of the (truck) class whenit debuted for the 2003 model year with an "Adventures in On-Roading" adcampaign. In style, appointment, and equipment, the Murano was right ontarget as an upscale urban utility vehicle for the real world.

TheMurano's success has generated at least one question. And that is "why nosimilar but smaller vehicles in the Nissan lineup?" Whatever the reasonswere, the question is no longer relevant. The recently-introduced NissanRogue is very much the junior edition of the Murano.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Most apparently,the Rogue looks like a smaller Murano, with many of the same styling cues.Complementing the larger and more expensive V6-only Murano, the Rogue comesonly with a four-cylinder engine, in front- or all-wheel drive form and,like its larger sibling, a CVT transmission for smoothness and efficiency.Based on Nissan's "C" platform, which also underlies the Sentra sedan, theRogue is not meant for serious trail duty. It's meant to be at home athome, in the urban and suburban world of aggressive traffic, tight parking,and indifferently-paved roads.

To that end, both trim levels, S and SL,offer expressive styling wrapped around a functional and roomy interiorthat just happens to also be very stylish. The 170-horsepower engine has noproblem dealing with the stress of daily traffic, and returns commendablefuel economy while doing so. Safety equipment is comprehensive, withfour-wheel antilock discs, stability control, and the full complement ofairbags standard in all Rogues.

Both levels are offered with a choice offront-wheel drive or Nissan's new "Intuitive All-Wheel Drive" system. The Shas all the basic necessities, while the SL adds fancier trim, features notavailable or standard in the S, and the optional availability of upscaleequipment such as HID headlamps, a Bose audio system, and interior upgradesincluding leather seating, the keyless Intelligent Key starting system andBluetooth¨ hands-free cell phone connectivity.

For all possibleequipment, order the SL AWD, as that's currently the only way to getBluetooth, Intelligent Key, and HID lights. If you can live without those,and all-wheel drive, the Premium Package-equipped front-wheel drive SL thatI spent the last week with is a fine way to go. With a distinctive look,good power and economy, and a high degree of ride and interior comfort in aconveniently-sized and competitively-priced package, the new Rogue servesnotice that Nissan is to be reckoned with in the compact crossoverclass.

APPEARANCE: Like a young animal, its proportions are slightlydifferent, a little shorter and higher, a little chunkier, but there is nodoubt that the Rogue is a close relative to the Murano. The curvaceousshape is familiar, especially at the sides around the C- and D-pillarswhere the bottom of the window line kicks up. Rear windows are nearlyidentical, and if the Rogue's taillights look more conventional than theMuranos, take a look at the upcoming 2009 Murano. In front, the grille issimilar if not identical, and ditto for the hood and fender shapes. As withthe Murano, there is nothing about the Rogue's exterior that says "machorugged offroad". Rather, it is a sophisticated real-world vehicle.

COMFORT: Inside, the Rogue borrows heavily from the currentOriental sport-compacts - including its cousin the Sentra SE-R - in style.My SL FWD had the standard two-tone synthetic cloth covering its seats,with the dark, textured plastics of the dash and upper door panels offsetby bright (but not glaringly, distractingly bright!) matte-finished silverplastic trim on the door handles, around the instruments, vents, shifter,and cupholders, and on the steering wheel hub. The textured nylon seatcloth helps grip your body, and also has air spaces for insulating comfort.The front seats offer good comfort and support, with manual adjustment,including driver's seat cushion height. The steering wheel is adjustablefor tilt, and has a comfortably-thick, ergonomically-molded rubberized rim.Cruise, and optionally with the Premium Package, auxiliary audio controlsare mounted in the hub, with manual-mode shift paddles behind the spokes.Instruments are easy to see, and the climate and audio system controls inthe center stack are simple to use. Orange backlighting at night provideslow-glare visibility. A four-speaker, AM/FM/CD/auxiliary input audio systemis standard fare in all models. The seven-speaker Bose audio system in mytest car, part of the Premium Package, is a worthwhile upgrade, adding asix-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3 and WMA CD capability and RDSinformation.

There are numerous storage spaces in the cabin, highlightedby a huge glovebox with built-in organizer dividers. The rear seat hasplenty of leg and head room, even for a central passenger, but the Rogue'swidth is a touch narrow for long-term three-passenger duty if all areadults. The rear seat folds 60/40 in all models, and (again) as part of theSL Premium Package, the front passenger seat can be folded flat so longcargo items can be carried. The tailgate is light in weight andcounterbalanced for easy use, and the load floor height is not excessive. Acargo organizer, useful for relatively light items like grocery bags, livesat the rear of the cargo area. Yes, another part of that PremiumPackage....

SAFETY: The Rogue's unibody structure is built with a strongsafety cage around the passenger compartment and front and rear crumplezones. Dual-stage front, seat -mounted front side, and full-length sidecurtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and engine immobilizerare all standard passive safety features. For active safety, all Rogueshave four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake forcedistribution (EBD) and vehicle dynamic control (VDC) with traction control(TCS).

RIDE AND HANDLING: Nissan's "C" platform provides a strong, rigidbase for the Rogue's fully-independent strut front, multilink rearsuspension. The suspension tuning is moderate, with an emphasis on comfort,but the car's relatively light weight and low center of gravity, alliedwith its electric power steering system, give it good handlingcharacteristics. It is especially comfortable on rough highway pavement,and low interior noise levels add to the pleasant driving experience. It'snot meant for serious 4x4 driving, but 8.3 inches of clearance should workwithout major problems on forest roads, and also helps in dealing withcurbs, potholes, and other similar hazards of city life.

PERFORMANCE: The 2.5-liter aluminum alloy, twincam, 16-valveinline four-cylinder engine under the Rogue's hood provides plenty of powerfor its mission in life. Vital statistics: 170 horsepower (167 withCalifornia-state emissions tuning) at 6000 rpm and 175 (170) lb-ft oftorque at 4400 rpm. As in the Murano, the secret to the Rogue's performanceand economy is its continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Integratedcomputer controls keep the engine and transmission in their most efficientranges as much as possible. Overall fuel economy in the low- to mid-20s isone reward. Another is smooth, quiet operation, as the CVT never shiftsbetween discrete gears. When more acceleration is desired, it's a simplematter to shift manually (into software-generated virtual gears) by meansof the shift lever or shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. I neverfelt the need for more power during my time with the Rogue, and averagedabout 23 mpg in mostly city and secondary road driving.

CONCLUSIONS: Nissan's new Rogue is a fine example of thecontemporary real world-oriented crossover.

SPECIFICATIONS

Nissan Rogue SL 2WD

Base Price $ 20,670 Price As Tested $ 23,425 Engine Type dual overhead cam 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with continuously-variable cam phasing Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in. Horsepower 170 @ 6000 rpm (167 CA states) Torque (lb-ft) 175 @ 4400 rpm (170 CA states) Transmission electronically-controlled continuously- variable (CVT) Wheelbase / Length 105.9 in. / 182.9 in. Curb Weight 3299 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.4 Fuel Capacity 15.9 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane regular unleaded gasoline Tires P225/60 HR17 Continental 4x4 Contact Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, BA, EBD, VDC standard Suspension, front/rear independent strut / independent multilink Ground clearance 8.3 inches Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 22 / 27 / 23 0 to 60 mph 8.7 sec (est) Towing capacity 1500 lbs. with towing package

OPTIONS AND CHARGES Premium Package (2WD) - includes: Bose¨ Premium AM/FM/6CD/MP3CD/aux audio system, XM Satellite radio, speed-sensitive audio control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, steering wheel- mounted paddle shifters, trip computer, folding cargo organizer, luggage cover, fold-down front passenger seat, dual illuminated sunvisor vanity mirrors,dual-level center console tray, front foglamps, mood lighting, pre-wiring for trailer hitch $ 1,900 Floor mats $ 110 Destination charge $ 745



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