Here's a surprise -- Nissan managed to cram a third-row of seats into the 2014 Rogue. And it accomplished this feat while simultaneously making the new Rogue an inch shorter than the previous generation. Along with this bit of TARDISian engineering, Nissan offers LED headlights, Google destination search, four-wheel-drive, and even innovative handling tech to make the new Rogue kind of the Swiss Army knife of crossovers.
The Rogue fits between the Juke and Murano among Nissan's crossovers, and at just over 15 feet long, it's on the small end of its segment. A base model goes for $22,790, but the fully loaded SL model I tested, with all-wheel drive, rung in at $32,915. If you look at the Nissan website, you will also see a model called the Rogue Select, with a base price of $20,150. That model is actually the previous generation Rogue, which Nissan said was so popular it will continue offering. Although the engine specs look the same for Rogue and Rogue Select, the new generation pulls in significantly better fuel economy.
In the UK and Australia, the Rogue goes by the name X-Trail, with prices starting at £22,995 and AU$31,276, respectively.
As typical with crossovers, the Rogue offers a comfortably high seating position for good visibility, a rear bench that can hold three passengers, and cargo area of 32 cubic feet. Increasing its utility, however, is an optional third row, although this feature is not available in the SL trim. That third row is going to be small, and will likely take a youthful body to squirm back into it. Without the third-row seating, this Rogue came with a variety of smuggler compartments under the cargo floor. With the middle row folded down, cargo area increases to 70 cubic feet.
LED headlights, which came as part of the SL Premium package, are rare at this price point and, up until now, unheard of in the segment. These lamps occupy angular new casings rimmed by LED daytime running lights. At night, the LED headlights illuminated the surroundings with a well-defined bright white light pattern. Given LED technology, those lamps will have a limited draw on the battery and rarely need replacement. While these headlights include auto-leveling, to keep them from blinding traffic in front when going up hills, they don't actively illuminate turns.
Every time I parked the Rogue, I appreciated the surround-view cameras, which come standard in the SL trim. Putting the car into reverse, the dashboard LCD not only showed the view out the back with a trajectory overlay, but also a top-down look, so I could see how close my wheels were to the curb. The head unit included a button labeled 'Camera' that activated the surround view when the Rogue was moving forward at slow speeds. Although I am a veteran at parallel parking, the camera let me accomplish the whole task faster, without touching other cars or curbs.
The camera view showed up on a 7-inch touchscreen LCD, also standard for the SL trim. The lesser trims, S and SV, come with a 5-inch display, primarily for audio information. The touchscreen's graphics, showing the interface for navigation, stereo, and phone systems, weren't pretty. However, I liked the quick response and the haptic feedback from the interface. Whenever I touched one of the button areas on the display, I could hear a palpable click, useful when I was on the highway and keeping my eyes on the road.
I thought the flash memory-stored navigation system was a bit rudimentary until I started using it. The maps were clear and easy-to-read, but nothing special. However, when using route guidance, the system showed lane guidance and larger graphics for freeway junctions. Traffic data, brought in through satellite radio, offered more extensive highway coverage than I have seen previously.
The most advanced feature in the navigation system came through NissanConnect, an app integration feature in the Rogue. With the NissanConnect app running on my phone, I could access Google local search, either through voice or manual entry, on the Rogue's touchscreen. The system let me select any result and set it as a destination.
Typical with app integration in cars these days, Google search is buried under a few menus rather than included as an option under the navigation system's destination entry options. And rather than letting me access voice entry for Google search using the car's general voice command system, activated by a button on the steering wheel, I had to find the Google search feature on the LCD and start voice entry from a touch icon.
NissanConnect offers a number of other apps, such as iHeartRadio, Slacker, TuneIn, and Facebook, with more coming. My iPhone had to be plugged into the Rogue's USB port to run NissanConnect, but Android phones will work over the Bluetooth connection.
The Rogue's main voice-command system proved very advanced, as it let me request music by name when my iPhone was plugged into the USB port, enter addresses for navigation as a complete string, rather than step-by-step, or initiate phone calls by saying the name of a contact in my phone. Helpfully, the car's LCD showed a list of available commands.
Beyond the USB port and Internet-based streaming, the Rogue's head unit handled satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming, but no HD radio. The Bluetooth streaming interface was limited, not letting my select music through the car's interface.
Music played through a nine-speaker Bose audio system, another standard feature with the Rogue's SL trim. I liked the audio clarity from this system, and how well it handled higher volumes, but bass wasn't particularly strong, lessening its punch and audio depth. The SV trim Rogue gets stuck with a non-branded six-speaker system, while the S trim only gets four speakers, with neither offering options to upgrade.
The Rogue's drivetrain remains the same at all trims, and four-wheel-drive comes as a $1,350 option in the US. That means a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT). The specs, 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, are the same for the 2014 Rogue and the previous generation Rogue Select. However, the new Rogue earns EPA fuel economy figures of 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, when configured with four-wheel drive, about 4 mpg better on average than the Rogue Select.
Nissan gives credit for the improved fuel economy to a new CVT, which offers a wider gear ratio and more efficiency over the outgoing CVT. I have long felt that Nissan's CVT was the best in the business, and this one responded as well as past versions I have driven. However, instead of programmed shift points, as I had seen previously, this one merely included a low range and a sport setting.
My fuel economy average dropped below the official city mpg, to 24.8. The trip computer told me I was getting above 30 mpg on the highway, but it dropped precipitously in city driving, bringing my average way down.
There isn't much special about the engine itself, unless you want to get into Nissan's variable valve timing for the double overhead cams. The power figures are pretty typical for this engine configuration, and enough to adequately get the Rogue down the road. The CVT was the true star here, making for smooth acceleration and bringing forth the power when I needed it. On a flat-out run, the CVT let the engine rev and hold up around 6,000.
In the day-to-day, I found the Rogue a comfortable and uncomplicated driver. A smooth-riding suspension and natural-feeling heft for the electric power steering system leant to comfort on rougher roads or in stop-and-go traffic. Although using a fixed suspension, Nissan implemented something it calls Active Ride Control, which apparently applies a little braking and throttle to smooth over bumps. I can't say I noticed that system working, except possibly in my positive regard for the ride quality.
With the CVT and the smart key, which unlocked the doors based on proximity and enabled the push-button start, the Rogue made for the type of transportation I didn't have to think much about.
However, the Rogue is ready for more than suburban errands. Nissan fits the Rogue model, at all trims, with a Sport button, affecting throttle and the CVT program. When I pushed it, not much seemed to happen. In fact, it took me a while to notice the very faint Sport label lit up on the speedometer face.
Pushing the Rogue hard along a twisty road, however, I noticed the CVT holding the engine speed up a bit higher than normal, holding in the 3,000 to 4,000 range and running higher when I got on the gas. It wasn't exactly a thrilling ride, as the engine's 170 horsepower didn't make for palpable thrust.
In tight turns I felt understeer, but the Rogue delivered a nice feeling of stability, likely due to what Nissan calls Active Trace Control. This system uses braking and engine torque to help pivot the Rogue in the turns. I mainly noticed this system working on the instrument cluster display, which has a neat screen called Chassis Control. In the turns, it showed when Active Trace Control was doing its job.
Ultimately, though, if I'm looking for an SUV to canyon carve, I'll turn to the Nissan Juke NISMO .
Nissan gives the Rogue some off-road capability with a locking differential for the four-wheel-drive system. Generally, the Rogue will bias torque to the front wheels to help fuel efficiency, but hit the AWD Lock button, and an electronic differential holds the torque split at 50 percent to the front and 50 percent to the rear wheels. That capability might keep you from getting stuck in snow drift.
I ended up driving the Rogue through some deep, soft dirt in a construction zone, but didn't have to resort to the AWD Lock. Instead, the car plowed along, cutting a trail through the dirt and doing a decent job of holding the course I set.
Nissan previously pushed driver-assistance technologies far in its Infiniti brand. The Rogue benefits from this work with lane-departure warning, collision warning, and a blind-spot monitor, all features that come with the SL Premium package.
For blind-spot monitoring, which alerts you if a car is in the next lane over, Nissan puts the warning lights at the base of the Rogue's A-pillars. I found this placement, and the dim illumination of the lights, to make the alerts virtually unnoticeable, defeating the purpose of the system. The Rogue alerted me to lane drift or if it thought I was approaching another traffic ahead too rapidly with a beeping alert, which could have been a little louder.
I'm surprised that Nissan did not tie any form of automatic braking to the collision-warning system, which might mitigate or prevent low speed accidents.
A multitude of innovative features puts the 2014 Nissan Rogue in the tech lead for the economy crossover segment, something that you can experience directly, and some that work under the surface. Tipping over $30,000 for a fully loaded example, the Rogue offers LED headlights, a surround-view camera system, and numerous driver-assistance technologies, all features you don't find at this price level.
The navigation head unit, while lacking an aesthetically-pleasing interface, works well and offers good app integration. The ability to run Google local searches and set the result as a destination is a key feature, while the many other apps integrated through NissanConnect will give the Rogue appeal to the always-connected driver.
The Rogue's driving character and utility are both excellent. The Sport mode will likely not get much use, but for general driving and errand-running, the Rogue has a lot to recommend it. The locking differential for four-wheel-drive versions makes a nice extra. I wasn't that impressed with my average fuel economy. If you drive in stop-and-go traffic frequently or dense urban environments, expect to get less than the EPA estimates.
|Model||2014 Nissan Rogue|
|Powertrain||2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||25 mpg city/32 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||24.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Internet-based streaming, Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Bose nine-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Surround-view cameras, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, collision warning|
|Price as tested||$32,915|