Sabtu, 31 Mei 2008

Nissan Rogue Review

2008 Nissan Rogue

By Michael Martineck

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time: introduce American car buyers to Nissan’s new cute ‘ute in an episode of NBC’s hit show Heroes. And so we see the Rogue in the hands of a world saving high school cheerleader– ensuring its chick-car status for all eternity. And then rogue crooks swipe the CUV and drive it to Mexico. Demonstrating what? The car is easy to boost? Why didn’t technopath Micah Sanders get a booster seat, take the wheel and show Ford the true meaning of “sync my ride?” All of which leaves me wondering: is the Rogue good enough to survive its own marketing?

From the looks of it, yes. Although the upward kinked rear window is a Murano cue without which I could do, the Rogue’s swoopy lines are generally as fresh as a pair of Puma sneakers. The height vs. width solution makes the vehicle look decidedly skinny from certain angles, but that may be part of the appeal (you can’t be too tall or too thin). And cheers to the designers for realizing nobody wants to see your spare tire.

The Rogue’s design loses coherence at the front. If the crossover’s grill actually made French fries at least they’d be an excuse. As it is, the monochromatic prow lacks a dramatic focal point or expression. To bad the varsity team from Infiniti didn’t do more coaching; their similarly proportioned EX has a far more appealing Cheshire cat grin.

The Rogue’s righteous cabin screams “give me a Z!” And so it does, cowled instruments, air vents and all. The Rogue’s minimalist collection of round, friendly gauges and sensibly designed and positioned controls create a handsome, business-like space that seems built for the long haul. The same can’t be said for the seats, whose comfort lacks highway compatibility. The base radio sports an Aux jack for iPoditude and delivers sound. (You’ll need to upgrade to BOSE for a flattering adjective.)

Nissan’s svelte utility vehicle has one engine option: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The powerplant’s 170 horses and 175 lb-ft of torque fit the demographic remit: not being slow and not sucking gas. Bonus! Floor it and the Rogue will charge-up on-ramps with growly, thrashy abandon. Around the corners, at speed, the Rogue should not go; the tires and chassis will tell you so. If you don’t listen, four-wheel anti-lock braking, Electronic Brake force Distribution, Vehicle Dynamic Control and Traction Control will remind you.

Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) is perfect for urban work, but a genuine pain on the highway, where the slightest throttle input sends the revs soaring or falling. The Rogue's CVT’s not as good as the best systems (usually married to larger engines) and not as bad as the worst. Opting for paddle shifters is like putting Peyton Manning in a pleated skirt and sweater; it’s not the right gear for the game.

By the same token, if you think Nissan’s [optional] Intuitive All-wheel Drive is designed for hard core off-roading, you’re wrong. But there are advantages…

The Rogue’s system uses all four wheels to get going, cruises in front wheel-drive, and engages the rear wheels in corners or slips. So you get torque steer-free starts, front-wheel drive economy, rear wheel drive handling in the corners, and all wheel-drive security. As the Rogue is neither sports car nor genuine mud plugger, it all adds up to extra prowess on wet and snowy roads.

That said, driving dynamics help set the Rogue apart from its formidable competition– emphasis on “help.” Just about every brand’s got one of these little cute utes– Toyota’s RAV-4 and Honda’s CRV are on their third-generation– and they all drive with ever-increasing "car-like" aplomb. Nissan’s blend of tech makes it the least rut-going of the top CUVs, but arguably the best on the boulevard. To stand out, though, the Rouge needs to, well, be a rogue. It’s not.

In terms of size, weight, engine output and gas mileage, the three CUVs cited above are virtually identical. The Rogue loses 15 cubic feet of cargo area due to its sleek lines. It does have The Mother of All Gloveboxes, and lots of clever cubbies for iPods, laptops and meal cards. The back has a very cool tray-size nook that, left open, separates pom-poms from Evian bottles from your backpack. And…?

The Nissan Rogue seems like it’s still in high school, trying to fit in, afraid to be really different. (You remember what happened to the deeply dorky Quest minivan?) The Rogue’s cuter than most of the other cute utes, but that’s a subjective judgment that doesn’t guarantee the model a seat at the CUV table. To be Nissan’s hero, the Rogue would have to exhibit some really extraordinary ability. That it doesn’t.