Lifestyle

Nissan Goes Rogue


This mini-Murano is entering a crowded crossover field. But its good looks and smart engineering could get it noticed

Toyota's had a record run in the small crossover SUV category for several years with its Rav 4. Honda's done well with its CRV too. But records are made to be broken and the new Rogue from Nissan could well be a serious, viable contender in the ever-increasing crowded category of small crossover sport utility vehicles.

After four years of planning, designing and engineering the Rogue is starting to hit dealer showrooms next month with sophisticated styling, interesting interiors and arresting attributes: at a starting price beginning at under $20,000.

The Rogue is obviously an homage to the breakthrough styling of the original Murano (an all-new Murano is scheduled for a Los Angeles Auto Show reveal) with, as the presentation detailed, "sleek lines, aggressive silhouette, sculpted roof and a dynamic arch." Take away the design-speak...it translates to good looking.

After several hours of seat time on a scenic ride and drive from Baltimore, MD to Gettysburg, PA, I give the interior design and comfort high marks. The ride up was in the "well equipped" model with leather seats with power controls and other goodies -- it was very roomy and very comfortable. The return was in the entry-level model with two color cloth seats and fewer goodies.

Both models have a big center console and huge glove box. The info-panel is well designed and easy to read during the day. Some day I hope to drive a new model at night to see how the aging baby boomers will see gauges and instruments.

Even as a non-techy, it was the mechanical features, the hidden attributes and assets of the Rogue, which I found most interesting and important. The 4-cylider engine is responsive and quick with good fuel economy. Nissan's Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) was silky smooth. The Rouge's electric power steering is intuitive and reactive to driving conditions. Add computer-assisted vehicle dynamic control and traction control to the other mechanical benefits, and that's a nice package.

The list of comfort and convenience features is lengthy too for all four models of the Rogue: the S class with 2 WD and AWD, and the SL with 2WD and AWD. Naturally, there are option packages as well.

Usually I don't delve into the name given a model, but the Rogue moniker really seems inappropriate. It doesn't fit the dictionary definition of rogue, which is defined as, "an unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal." But then, if they capture some of the small crossover SUV market from their competitors, it could well be a rogue, couldn't it?

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