SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Steering the streamlined Rogue, Nissan's new crossover utility vehicle (CUV) in the compact class, we're moving on multi-lane freeways lacing through suburban expanses of San Diego.
Like a small-scale sport utility vehicle (SUV), Rogue shows the format of a wagon with four cabin doors for riders 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.
And like a curve-craving sports sedan, Rogue rides on the front-wheel-drive (FWD) chassis of a car.
The platform, which also underpins Nissan's Sentra sedan, supports the 105.9-inch wheelbase of Rogue and a track width of 60.6 inches up front and 61 in back.
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 17-inch all-season tires in exacting up-down motions and makes a firm ride quality.
Now head down a twisty road, like California 79 pointing east from San Diego in a climb through the Laguna Mountains, and all of Rogue's mechanical systems come together in concert to produce superior handling traits.
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 vehicle dynamic control (VDC) device which checks lateral skidding.
For locomotion Nissan drops into Rogue's engine compartment a juicy dual-cam 2.5-liter in-line-four plant with CVTCS (continuously variable timing control system).
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 dubs Xtronic.
This CVT -- accounting for the third generation of the high-tech Xtronic design -- 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 achieves good fuel consumption numbers like 22 miles per gallon for in-town driving and 37 mpg at speed on a highway.
Rogue also offers Nissan's electronically controlled all-wheel-drive (AWD) equipment with yaw moment control for dependable grip on 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.
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 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.
Seats are tall so you sit up for good visibility.
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.
And the cargo bay can be outfitted with an optional foldable cargo organizer, plus a removable tray that tucks below deck and a tonneau cover.
Instruments are clustered below an arching brow with the round analog tachometer and speedometer ringed with chrome rims.
Ahead of the console a panel seems to float against the dashboard clustering controls for audio and climate systems.
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.
Nissan offers two trim levels -- Rogue S and Rogue SL -- with each available in FWD or AWD mode.
Several optional packages apply more equipment.
The Premium Package installs a Bose deluxe audio system with seven speakers and subwoofer plus a six-disc CD changer, audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, the paddle shifters, a flat-folding front passenger seat, cabin mood lighting and foglamps for the front fascia.
A Leather Package puts leather upholstery on the seats and leather wrapping the steering wheel and shifter knob, as well as six-way power controls for the driver's seat with power lumbar support.
And the Moonroof Package adds a power glass moonroof with a manually sliding sunshade.
Expect MSRP points for Rogue to begin around $20,000.