Color me impressed. Nissan's Rogue is going on four years without any major revisions (a mild face-lift is due in 2011), but there's still a lot to like, especially if you're in the market for a comfortable little sport-utility.
No, the 170-hp, 2.5-liter I-4 isn't the most powerful four-cylinder in its class (that nod currently goes to Chevrolet's Equinox), but it's certainly peppy enough to propel the Rogue's 3400 pounds. Better yet, it's smooth -- and so, too, is the continuously variable transmission. Nissan's done a great job in calibrating the CVT to respond to tapering throttle input much like an automatic; the engine drone many associate with the gearless transmission only rears its head if you firmly plant the accelerator to the floorboard.
Yes, dark plastics are the norm in a $20,000-dollar interior, but designers have done a good job of placing soft textures where passengers are most likely to actually touch them. The upper door panels and dash surfaces have a soft, finely grained plastic, while each door is treated to a padded fabric armrest. The seats have an attractive fabric pattern; the front bucket's cushions are nicely bolstered, but the backs are lacking in lateral support.
Suspension tuning is rather soft, and there's a noticeable amount of body roll. On the plus side, the ride is compliant and never choppy, and the steering is well weighted and fairly direct. Buyers wanting something firmer may need to check out the sport-tuned Rogue Krom model or check out Kia's super-stiff 2011 Sportage SX.
I'm perhaps most impressed with the price tag -- $22,500 isn't unreasonable for an all-wheel-drive CUV, and the $1040 360 Value Package adds some surprising content, notably the self-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated rear camera. Those longing for more luxuries can always step up to the decked-out SL model, but the Rogue S strikes an attractive (and affordable) chord.
- Evan McCausland, Web Producer