GOING ROGUE AGAIN
2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Fri, Jul 10, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Brian Kennedy, PhD
Is this a cheap Infinity or an extra-nice Nissan? That’s the question rolling around in my head during the week I drove a 2015 Rogue SL AWD around LA. Silver gray with a perforated-leather interior, the car-truck-wagon-crossover took me from place to place with a sense of purpose and coddled me with electronic doodads that made the driving experience easy.
Fit and finish on this Nissan are excellent. The interior is leathered-up beautifully, from the seats to the steering wheel. Every stitch is square, and all the body seams outside are even. Nissan obviously takes care when screwing these things together. The car I had had about 4000 miles on it, and nothing was loose or ill-fitting. The Rogue was factory fresh, and looking at how it is constructed, I see no reason to think the car wouldn’t feel that same way in another 10- or 20-thousand miles.
One interior detail I love is the driver’s armrest. It’s kind of squishy-spongy, which sounds weird, but it is comfy. Draw that word out as you pronounce it, and you’ve got the nuance. To put it in sensory terms, the armrest makes you feel like mac and cheese does—like all’s right with the world. Why is it so seldom that car makers get this kind of thing correct? Nissan nailed it.
The exterior styling is generic, but it’s less so than the prior Rogue model, which had no shape to its slab sides. The new Rogue is able to blend into the woodwork of CR-Vs, RAV4s, and whatever else is out there in this segment, but it’s got at least a touch of aggressiveness in its curviness. You might not buy the new Rogue entirely for its styling, but buying one, you’ll get at least a little more funk than if you buy the competitors (or hold onto your old Rogue model).
The exterior has a few upscale cues, like cool taillights and a chrome grille surround and lower lip. The grille itself doesn’t tend toward the grotesque like some of the competition does. So if what you want is handsome but not outrageous, this vehicle might just suit you.
Back inside, the electronic displays are wonderfully fun. There’s a chart, for example, which shows you tire pressures. There’s another that shows you the average MPG and how you’re doing at the moment, with a sliding bar that goes back and forth as you get on and off the pedal. There’s also a warning function that tells you how far you can go on the gas you have. These reside in the panel directly in front of the driver. And if you’re wondering about gas mileage, the vehicle I have is listed at 28 mpg combined EPA, with 32 on the highway. I did 500 miles mostly at 55-65mph, with little city driving but some traffic, and got 26 mpg combined.
The radio tuning has a really cool scale of stations, with orange bubbles marking which one you’re listening to at a given moment.
In short, everything that takes design effort on this vehicle has had a deft touch applied. The net result is a feeling that the car is luxe (and well it should at a sticker of $32,505). On the downside, the radio itself doesn’t have great sound, unfortunately, though there is Bose badging on it. Disappointing.
The climate control is well designed, with a dual-zone function that really makes life easier. The seats are heated, but the problem here is that the switches are right about where your elbow falls, and it’s easy to turn the feature on by accident. Not funny in the summertime.
The cruise control is digital, and super-accurate and easy to use.
This car, like most new vehicles, has a bunch of (optional) nannies. These include blind-spot detection, rearview camera, and forward collision warning (which works only above 10 mph). I ought to be down on these, as one of those “drive it yourself” journos, but I’m not. This is a large vehicle, and the helpers do make it more confident to drive. I never felt intruded upon. You can turn these off anyway, if you choose. One thing I really liked is the blindspot warning system, which illuminated a tiny orange light on the inside of where the sideview mirror is mounted. Very useful.
The downside to these nanny goodies is the marketing angle. To get the above-mentioned safety features, you have to buy the Premium Package, which includes those and the panoramic moonroof. This doesn’t make any sense to me. Actually, it does, and I don’t like the approach of forcing incompatible extras to be taken as a group.
The driving experience is about what you might think it would be—not fast, not quick, but not sluggish. The Rogue leans some in turns, but what else is it going to do given its size? You drive it like a wagon, not a sports coupe, and expect nothing different. For those with sporting pretentions, there is a “Sport” mode button. (There’s also an “Eco” button, but if you are reading this, you probably like cars, so we’ll leave eco to the weenies who buy certain fashionable hybrids.)
The engine is kind of growly when it starts up, a little truck-like, and it’s not a feeling or sound that says “power.” More like “lack of refinement,” and anyone who remembers GM’s “Iron Duke” 4-cylinder engine of the 1980s will be reminded of it by the 2.5-litre Nissan’s sound. It’s just not tuned like a Japanese engine (okay, okay, Honda engine) typically is. Perhaps this is where the “I bought a Nissan, not an Infinity” message is brought most closely home.
The CVT (constantly variable transmission) is also not for everyone. Some competitors use it, some don’t. The Honda has one, but the Toyota RAV4 uses a six-speed automatic. I didn’t mind the CVT, being used to the one in our Nissan Cube. But for cross-shoppers, it might be worth driving and listening-feeling the tranny out before a decision is made.
The auto-opening lift gate is probably a good idea, but I found it a pain. It goes up too slowly, with you standing there watching it and holding whatever it is you’re about to stow. Happily, you can turn it off with a switch handy to the driver.
Interior storage is lacking, too. In the cargo area, there are two under-floor storage areas, but neither was deep enough for our digital SLR, for instance. And when you do put stuff there, it will slide way to the front of the compartment as you drive, leaving you to fish it out when you arrive at your destination. A small compartment for valuables in the cargo area would be much appreciated. There is a large bin between the front seats, note.
The Biggest Failing
The navigation system would really bug me if I put more than $30 grand into this vehicle. The screen is all but unreadable during the daytime. (You do have a mini display in the console in front of you, but it doesn’t give you ETA or any of that full information that the central screen shows.) And the programming, at least for LA freeways, is horrible.
You want examples? The car calculated the best route home from Honda Center (to Pasadena area) on Sunday night, running me right into a closed road (I-5) and a half-hour long traffic jam. Then when it finally detoured me around the mess and got me back on the 5 to the 710, it announced,“710 is closed ahead.” No, it wasn’t.
The same kind of traffic disaster happened going down the I-5 towards San Diego. We were headed inland to Julian, and it seemed like the nav made the wrong decision every time it had a choice.
As a test, we took our Garmin along one day and programmed it and the Rogue’s navigation for the same destination (on the West Side of LA). The two machines differed in their routing, and the Garmin appeared to be the more efficient travel planner.
In short, you’d be better off investing in tulip futures (look it up) than putting $$$$ into this on-board nav system, but if you want the SL AWD model, you have no choice. It’s part of the trim level. So go down a trim and skip this, buy yourself a $200 aftermarket unit, and be happy that you’ve saved some cash and avoided what you have to believe would be a lot of disappointments.
Rogue on the Shopping List If you tote kids or sports equipment or big-box store purchases, the Rogue might be right for you. The rear seats fold down easily, and the driving and seating positions, when you do haul passengers, are comfortable and supportive. Personally, I have no real use for this car. It’s too big for one person to drive to work, in my opinion. (Tell 90 percent of my neighbors that, though, and they’ll laugh you off the block. Everyone drives something like this.) I don’t haul stuff. But if you do, the Rogue is worth looking at. If you do decide to buy one, don’t spend the money on an AWD model unless you live in snowy country (Boise, Boston) or, if you’re in So Cal, you ski or snowboard and thus need AWD to get up the mountains during the winter. Why do I say this? There’s a nifty little display of where the torque is going that you can see as you drive, and almost all the time, the bias was directed entirely at the front tires. On hard launches, the shift went maybe ten percent to the rear, but I couldn’t feel the difference, and I can’t see any sense paying for a system that I would almost never use. The Rogue in this new body design is a worthy competitor to the offerings of the rest of the car-making planet. It’s a bit distinct in styling, and it’s built well. Buying a Rogue and showing it off to your colleagues would elicit comments on this line, I think: “Oh. I didn’t know Nissan made one of these.” In the end, the decision to go Nissan rather than do what everyone else is doing (Honda, Toyota) comes down to your perception of value for what you get. Not to harp too much on it, but we bought our Cube because for twenty thousand bucks, they sold us a car with every possible option, an amazing stereo (far better than the Rogue’s), and great electronics. From day one, we’ve loved the car, its utility, and its features, and we still curse Nissan for failing to support the model with marketing and, ultimately, erasing it from the US market. The business model the Cube represents is what Nissan should be after, and what I’d recommend you try to replicate in your purchase if the Rogue is the right vehicle for you. That said, I’d have a hard time putting sticker price ($32 large) into the Rogue model I drove, but if you got it for a decent price, you’d be pretty happy. One internet car-buying service I checked has the model I drove for $30,800 and change. Hmm. I’d tend to say that that’s still too much, especially given that the nav is not worth whatever they’re figuring it to command as a premium. If you could pry one of these out of a dealer for $27 thousand or $28, you’d be doing well. About right is an SV Premium model two-wheel drive, which would net you in somewhere around $25,500. That’d be a lot of vehicle for the price. For more information about Nissan products, go to nissanusa.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD with Premium Package Prices: $22,790 (base) $24,490 (SV) $28,280 (SL) $29,630 (SL AWD) $32,000+ (SL AWD with Premium Package, as tested) EPA fuel economy rating: 25 city/32 highway miles per gallon Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve four-in-line Horsepower: 170 @ 6000 rpm Torque: 175 pound-feet @ 4400 rpm Transmission: Continuously variable speed automatic Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Drive configuration: All-wheel drive (as tested) Suspension Four-wheel independent, with front and rear stabilizer bars Dimensions Length: 182.3 inches Width: 72.4 inches Height: 67.5 inches Curb weight: 3545 pounds