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  • Roger Witherspoon

Rambling Rogue

By Roger Witherspoon


The sky was dark grey, the rain was steady and hard and the potholes in the

roadway were like land mines planted at scattered intervals waiting to blow out the

unexpected tire or bend the errant axel.

There was little traffic, which was a good thing because the road conditions did

not give one a lot of time to spot the potholes, and some were difficult to avoid without

swerving outside the designated driving lane. For many cars, SUVs or trucks, this would

be the kind of road to either avoid entirely or drive at 20 miles per hour with the flashers


But this wasn’t just any vehicle. I was rambling through the countryside in a

Rogue, the smaller version of Nissan’s popular Murano SUV which was intended to offer

some of the amenities of an SUV and some of the fun of a roving Jeep Wrangler while

coming closest to providing the feel of a sedan. And while the Rogue is not going to

chase a Jeep off road, it is designed for moderate rough riding – like swerving and

maneuvering around a slalom course composed of potholes. Which made the trip over the

pothole-riddled, New York roadway interesting instead of nerve wracking since the

combination of traction control and balance makes the Rogue maneuverable and sure on

virtually any surface.

The Rogue, which Nissan bills as a “whole new crossover,” is stylish, compact,

efficient, comfortable crossover which could provide some competition for the revamped

Toyota Rav 4 and lure a younger set of buyers into Nissan showrooms. In styling, it is

similar to its popular big brother, the Murano. Both feature a broad, rounded front –

though the Rogue’s grill is far less aggressive than the Murano’s – and a looping, curving

profile accentuated by exaggerated wheel wells which, in this case, feature 17-inch

aluminum alloy wheels. But, like a good little brother, the Rogue is shorter and smaller

than the Murano, and its price tag, around $26,000, is a good $10,000 less.

It also has a smaller engine. The Rogue sports only a four-cylinder, 170-

horsepower engine. But on a vehicle this small, that is more than enough to rev it up to

triple digits if you’ve a mind to. While the pickup in automatic mode is adequate, shifting

into manual mode and using the paddle shifts on the steering wheel to boost the torque

makes the Rogue much more responsive and quick, acting more like an Audi 4 than a

typical, small SUV.

Inside, the Rogue offers a lot for a car on the starter end of a performance line,

particularly in its electronics. The steering wheel, which tilts but does not telescope,

features fingertip controls for the phone, audio system and cruise control – as well as

housing the paddle shifts. But Bluetooth system is easy to pair with any cell phone. There

is no navigation system, which is not uncommon for a vehicle costing under $30,000.

But Nissan did not cut corners with the entertainment system. There is AM/FM

and XM satellite radio, as well as an in-dash, six-disc, CD and MP3 player producing

sounds over a Bose surround-sound system featuring seven speakers and a sub woofer

capable of lulling you to sleep to soft ‘Trane or waking up the neighborhood with Usher.

The seats are cloth rather than leather – which is typical in cars in this price range

– and the front pair are manually adjusted. But the seats are wide, well padded, and

comfortable, and there is enough leg and head room in the rear for a passenger pushing

six and a half feet to ride cross country comfortably. In addition, the rear and front

passenger seats fold flat to enlarge the storage area, which has a set of sunken bins

designed to hold packages such as groceries or potted plants upright, even when swerving

around potholes.

Nissan’s ads may exaggerate a bit when billing the Rogue as a whole new breed

of SUV. But in the category of crossovers packing a lot of performance and goodies into

a small package, the Rogue may race to the front of pack.

2008 Nissan Rogue SL

MSRP: $25,725

EPA Mileage: 21 MPG City 26 MPG Highway

As Tested Mileage: 19 MPG Mixed

Towing Capacity: 1,500 Pounds

Performance/ Safety:

2.5-Liter, 4-cylinder aluminum DOHC engine producing 170 horsepower and 175

pound/feet of torque; continuously variable transmission; all wheel drive; automatic with

electronic manual mode using gear or paddle shift; 4-wheel disc brakes; anti-lock

brakes; independent front and rear suspensions; xenon headlights and halogen fog lamps;

traction control; dual-stage front airbags; front seat-mounted, side impact airbags; roof

mounted curtain airbags for front and rear with rollover detection; 17-inch alloy wheels.

Interior/ Comfort:

AM/FM/ XM satellite radio; Bose premium audio system with 7 speakers; 6-disc, in-dash

CD and MP3 player; roof rails; power moon roof; cloth, manually operated front seats;

fold flat rear and front passenger seats; steering wheel mounted audio, telephone, and

cruise controls; Bluetooth connection; tilt steering wheel; foldable cargo organizer.


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