2015 Nissan Rogue road test: More mild-mannered than the name suggests

2015 Nissan Rogue SV

2015 Nissan Rogue SV

It seems as if the automotive planners sometimes get carried away when naming their new vehicles. Really, now, was there anything haughty about the hapless Chevy Cavalier? Does bullish come to mind when you are cruising along in a Ford Taurus? And what about the 2015 Nissan Rogue?

Spend only a short time behind the wheel of this Japanese-built compact crossover and you are not likely to think of it as mischievous, uncontrollable, unpredictable, disobedient or any of the other definitions of its name.

If complete truth in advertising were mandatory —- and we all know it isn’t —- the Rogue would more aptly be named the Nissan Pleasant, the Nissan Practical, or the Nissan Convenient.

Still, I admit that I prefer simply named vehicles to those identified by a mishmash of letters and/or numbers (alphanumerics in auto speak). Quick, how many of you know the difference between an MDX 3.5 and an MKZ 2.0. (Answer later).

Nissan Rogue instruments

Nissan Rogue instruments

But, names aside, the real key to success in any business venture is having the right product at the right time. And that is why you might see some Nissan executives walking around with smiles on their faces these days.

Judging by the flurry of new models due to hit the road in the coming months, manufacturers are expecting small crossovers and sport-utility vehicles to be one of the hottest niches in the marketplace.

And right in the middle of all that activity sits the second-generation Rogue, which was redesigned for the 2014 model year. Reasonably priced, reasonably economical and reasonably versatile, it is alreadyNissan’s second-best selling vehicle in the United States.

The specific car provided for my inspection was a mid-level 2015 Rogue SV with front-wheel drive, two-row seating and a base price of $24,490. Snow-belt motorists would no doubt want to chip in an extra $1,350 for an all-wheel-drive model, but the test car was in Arizona, where there was no threat of slippery weather.

That Rogue will seat four adults comfortably, five when necessary, and still have 32 cubic feet of cargo room available. Fold the second-row seatbacks forward and a generous 70 cubic feet of space is available.

Nissan Rogue front seats

Nissan Rogue front seats

The second-row seatbacks are split 40/20/40 and can be folded forward in any combination depending on cargo requirements. Thee seats can also slide backward up to 9 inches with the seatbacks raised to accommodate tall travelers. The seatbacks are also adjustable.

Third-row seating is an option on certain models, but the third row is suitably roomy only for small children and there is a meager 9.4 cubic feet of room behind it.

The 5-passenger Rogue also has Nissan’s adjustable Divide-N-Hide Cargo System, which features storage compartments and two shelves that provide 18 different configurations for carrying and/or hiding belongings

All Rogues get their power from a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine that generates 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The engine is teamed with a continuously variable automatic transmission with switches for the more aggressive Sport mode and the most economical Eco mode.

Nissan Rogue rear seats

Nissan Rogue rear seats

The EPA estimates that a gallon of regular-grade fuel will take the passengers 26 miles around town and 33 miles on the open road. I averaged about 30 mpg in a week of mild-mannered motoring on the mostly level roads in and around Scottsdale, AZ.

Acceleration and top-speed figures are unlikely to be of great importance to a Rogue buyer, but I’ll pass them along to provide some understanding of the vehicle’s driving dynamics. Zero to 60 mph can be accomplished in about 9 seconds and the top speed, which no buyer will probably attempt, has been track-tested at about 120 mph.

To put that in perspective, the Rogue performed adequately on the smooth, level Arizona roads. However, when I encountered the occasional steep grade. the Rogue turned pokey while the engine raced along noisily at high rpms waiting for the transmission to choose the proper gear ratios.

The suspension —- independent struts with coil springs up front and an independent multi-link set-up at the rear —-offered a comfortable ride throughout my stay in the Southwest, but I must admit that I wasn’t challenged by the kind of roads one would encounter in the Great Lakes area or parts of the Northeast.

Nissan Rogue cargo space

Nissan Rogue cargo space

Even on the smooth and level Arizona roads it was obvious that the Rogue was designed with practicality and passenger comfort first. The chassis and steering are a bit slow to respond and the soft suspension  does not encourage spirited romps on the two-lane back roads.

Still, the Rogue features some electronic assists that help the driver control the vehicle. Active Trace Control improves cornering capability, Active Engine Braking helps to slow the Rogue when the driver applies the brakes and Active Ride Control smooths body motions when the vehicle hits a bump.
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The refined Rogue cabin is a pleasant place for the passengers, with comfortable seats (power adjusters for the driver), soft-touch materials, adequate sound damping and a 6-speaker sound system.

The test vehicle came with lots of safety features, including a full complement of seat belts, airbags and side curtains, traction control, stability control and a rear-view camera.. The anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes feature electronic brake distribution and emergency brake assist.

Blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and moving-object detection were included in the optional Premium Package, which also included a navigation system, satellite radio capability, an around-view monitor that detects objects on all sides of the vehicle, heated front seats and a power liftgate.

The Premium Package adds $1,590 and the delivery charge adds $860 to the $24,490 base price, bringing the total to $26,940.

Now, back to the name game. For those of you uninspired by alphanumerics, and I suspect there are many, an MDX is an Acura sport-utility vehicle and an MKZ is a Lincoln mid-size luxury sedan.

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