SKIATOOK, Okla. -- On the Oklahoma prairie state highway 20 cuts through the Osage Indian Reservation northwest of Tulsa, and we're following this two-laner while steering Nissan's tricked-out crossover utility vehicle (CUV) in the compact class.
It's the streamlined Rogue for model-year 2011 in sporty new Krom (say "chrome") edition.
The Rogue S Krom issue wears a unique front grille and bumper with integrated foglamps, special fascia at the tail with a sport-tuned exhaust mounted below-deck center, a rear spoiler and body-colored power outside mirrors plus 18-inch brilliant-finish aluminum alloy wheels capped by 225/55R18 Dunlop SP Sport 7000 tires.
All Rogue editions for 2011 score new exterior styling points, cabin upgrades with added comfort items, audio and entertainment system enhancements and revised model names and equipment options.
Rogue 2011 skews to two trim levels, S and SV, with two variations: Rogue S Krom and Rogue SV with SL Package.
Each version is available with front-wheel-drive (FWD) orientation or Nissan's electronically controlled all-wheel-drive (AWD) equipment for dependable tire grip on wet or slippery pavement.
The AWD system normally operates in FWD mode, although if front treads begin to slip, this smart rig can divert some the engine's muscle to turn the wheels in back.
For locomotion Nissan drops into Rogue's engine compartment a juicy dual-cam 2.5-liter in-line-four plant coupled to a continuously variable timing control system (CVTCS).
Output reaches to 170 hp at 6000 rpm, with torque running up to 175 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.
The engine operates through an advanced continuously variable transmission (CVT) which Nissan labels Xtronic.
This CVT never shifts from one gear to another because the CVT eliminates step-ratio gears of a conventional automatic transmission as well as the resultant shift shock. Instead, two variable diameter pulleys and a strong steel belt work to match the engine's output with the vehicle's speed, ultimately producing seamless acceleration.
There are paddle shifters offered, and they work to shift six simulated gears.
Using the Xtronic CVT, Rogue with FWD traction achieves good fuel consumption numbers like 22 miles per gallon for in-town driving and 28 mpg at speed on a highway.
Like a small-scale sport utility vehicle (SUV), Rogue presents the format of a wagon with four flank doors for passengers and a liftgate at the tail for accessing the rear cargo bay.
However, the boxy parameters of a SUV have been disguised by a fluid sculptural treatment of body panels plus the raked face and a forward-tilting tail which collectively diffuse all rectangular hard corners.
Pushing wheels to edges of the chassis brings stability to the stance and enhances Rogue's agility when cornering.
Roll over pavement expansion creases and the independent suspension -- struts in front and a multi-link arrangement in back with aluminum-alloy upper links and high-performance shock absorbers plus stabilizer bars at both ends tuned to check excessive lateral roll of the body -- blips the tires in exacting up-down motions and makes a firm ride quality.
Crank the steering wheel and Rogue cuts with direct action, thanks to a rack and pinion system with electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and adds to the efficiency of Rogue's forceful four-cylinder engine.
A vented disc brake stands at every wheel -- with 11.84-inch front rotors and 11.68-inch rear rotors.
All tie by computerized links to a sophisticated anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA), plus a traction control system (TCS) and vehicle dynamic control (VDC) device which checks lateral skidding.
All of these mechanical components combine to provide precise linear control of what becomes a fun-to-drive vehicle that may resemble a SUV but behaves more like an enthusiastic little sporty car.
Rogue's rigid structure whittles out a rather spacious cabin and a utilitarian cargo bay.
Door sills are set low like the sills on a car so you can slip aboard easily.
Rogue's cabin layout pitches a pair of bolstered buckets in front flanking a versatile console with a deep bin and removable tray for two levels for storage.
On the second row a bench is designed to seat two comfortably but hold three riders if necessary. The seatback splits and folds down to expand the cargo area.
The storage area is generous at 28.9 cubic feet but with rear seatbacks folded it grows to 57.9 cubic feet.
Rogue's cockpit turns into a creative exercise of form following function with an innovative design that extends a theme of circles in satin metal finish. The silvery circles show up at cupholders recessed in the center console, various round air vents on the dashboard, even arcs in the steering wheel and handles on the door panels.
Also, there are plenty of air bags concealed in the passenger compartment. The collection includes dual-stage frontal air bags plus side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags mounted in the roof above front and rear outboard seats.
Entry issue Rogue S stocks an air conditioner, tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery with four-way adjustable front seats, 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat, power controls for windows and door locks and mirrors, a remote keyless entry device, cruise control, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers, and 16-inch steel wheels with 215/70R16 Continental all-season tires.
New optional technology features for the 2011 Rogue range from the Nissan Intelligent Key and Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System to XM Satellite Radio, Nissan Navigation System, RearView Monitor, Xenon HID headlamps and a Bose-designed audio system.
Nissan sets the 2011 MSRP points at $20,810 for Rogue S FWD, $24,410 for Rogue S Krom FWD and $23,220 for the Rogue SV FWD.