In the cabin
Our 2008 Nissan Rogue was an SL version, a step up from the S model, fitted with the $1,900 Premium package, giving it as many amenities as are available in the two-wheel-drive version of the car. These amenities included paddle shifters, a trip computer, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and a seven speaker Bose audio system. Bluetooth is available, but only with the all-wheel-drive version of the car, while navigation isn't offered at all.
So the only real cabin tech in our Rogue was the stereo system. This stereo has an auxiliary jack mounted on its faceplate, XM satellite radio, and a six-disc in-dash changer. The changer plays MP3 CDs, letting you navigate discs using the same paradigm it uses for XM satellite radio. We found the interface easy to use--it made selecting music from a very full MP3 CD possible. We were also impressed that you could cycle through displays for artist, album, and song. We liked the audio controls on the steering wheel, which gave us a lot of flexibility for selecting music.
The seven-speaker Bose audio system sounded good, but not great. It produced strong bass, but the highs were muted with very little clarity. The car has a grille for a center-fill speaker, but it is small, suggesting that the speaker doesn't have much power. The standard stereo in the Rogue uses four speakers.
Under the hood
The 2008 Nissan Rogue uses a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with double overhead cams. Along with its horsepower, the engine produces 175 foot-pounds of torque. It's not exactly a rocket and can make for some hair-raising experiences merging onto the freeway. Nissan probably could have tuned the engine to produce a little more power, but that might have adversely affected fuel economy.
The continuously variable transmission does a good job of making up for the low power. With the throttle mashed, the transmission keeps the RPM needle hovering close to redline. And as we proved in our 60 mph test, you can improve on that by working the paddles in manual shift mode. The transmission is also supposed to give the car better mileage than a manual or automatic, as it can keep the engine at its peak operating efficiency. The EPA rates the Rogue at 22 mpg city and 27 mpg on the highway, while we saw an average of 23.2 mpg over our time with it. For a small SUV or crossover, these numbers are about average. Some Rogues are built with an emissions system that ranks as a LEV II from California's Air Resources Board, while others get the much better SULEV rating. The engine label 8NSXT02.585A marks the SULEV versions.
The steering is very responsive in the Rogue, and it stayed nice and even with an electric power steering system. But the car handles as you would expect of a small SUV. The ride quality is good, as the car uses independent struts in front and an independent multilink suspension in back. Overall, the Rogue feels like an able car that doesn't offer much driving inspiration.
Our 2008 Nissan Rogue SL, with front-wheel-drive, came in with a base price of $20,670. We felt the $1,900 Premium package was well worth it, as it brought in a big list of conveniences and better entertainment options, although we are disappointed that Bluetooth is available only on the all-wheel-drive version. Along with $110 floor mats and a $745 destination fee, our Rogue's tab totaled to $23,425.
The Rogue's minimal tech options kept its cabin score down, although we do give it credit for a really good implementation of its audio controls and interface. Performance also falls in the so-so category, as we would want better fuel economy in exchange for its lack of power. But the continuously variable transmission gives its score a little boost. Finally, we like its design. The car looks good and offers a lot of practical room inside.