BALTIMORE - Although it's called the Rogue, Nissan's first entry into the small crossover market was a bundle of refinement. Its styling was sleek and aggressive. The vehicle was very functional and it wasn't too bad to drive either.
We found the Rogue a capable crossover, well suited to the driving needs of Urban Americans who are the target buyers. The Rogue was powered by a four cylinder 170 horsepower engine that made 175 pounds-feet of torque.
Our only gripe was the Rogue had a CVT or continual variable transmission which is the only gearbox available. Although CVTs have better fuel efficiency than automatic transmissions, they're inherently loud and their driving characteristics (they don't shift gears because there are no gears) can be quite unnerving.
Thus, manufacturers are making CVTs respond and sound as though they are shifting gears. In the case of the Rogue, Nissan has given its CVT six artificial gears.
On a test drive from here to Gettysburg, PA., we found the Rogue itself to be relatively quiet. There wasn't too much wind or road noise. The vehicle accelerated smartly but it was important to note that the vehicle wasn't responded the way the transmission sounded.
In other words, although the Rogue sounded like it wasn't accelerating quickly, the speedometer told a different story. On Interstates and two lane highways, our test vehicle was more than quick enough not to make us a traffic obstacle to get around. Cruising was pleasant and the Rogue was very easy to drive.
The Rogue's highway manners weren't bad either. The ride was firm without being too harsh. Dampening as good and the Rogue stayed relatively level while cornering and in the curves. Still, we didn't get a lot of seat time on the urban streets here.
Our test vehicle had a cloth interior that we found quite comfortable. Unless, you've got kids and need the easy to clean surface of leather, real or otherwise, cloth seats can do the job quite admirably.
The driving environment was really pleasant. The Rogue's cockpit was user friendly. Knobs and buttons were easy to reach and to read. And there was plenty of functionality.
The center console included a 12 volt outlet, multiple cupholders, cell phone holder, CD holder and bunch of slots and crevices for other stuff like coins, pens and wallets. Remove the partition from the dual glove box and it could hold a small folding umbrella was well as the owner's manual.
Audio equipment included satellite radio, an in dash six disc CD changer with MP3 capability and Bluetooth that turns compatible cell phones into hands free car phones.
All-wheel-drive was available, as well as two-wheel-drive. Under the normal road conditions the AWD system sends all of the torque to the front wheels. But when the system detects slippage, it is capable of sending up to 50 percent of the Rogue's torque to the rear wheels. The system can also be locked into the 50-50 split torque set up.
There was also plenty of safety equipment that included side air bags, roof mounted side curtain air bags, child safety rear door locks and a tire pressure monitoring system.
For a first impression, we thought Nissan 2008 rogue was pretty good. We'd like to get in a tougher environment to see how it handles some real traffic, some real streets, some dangerous parking lots, driveways and the general mundane day-today life of an urban automobile.
Prices start at less than $19,250.