2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD review: Top or not

2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

A dilemma some car shoppers face is whether to buy a particular car model and stay at a lower trim level, resisting the premium trim and optional luxury features because they make a car too expensive. Or to buy that same model and load it up, getting all the extra features that they wouldn’t on the base trim level of a more expensive make and model.

For example, you can buy a base 2016 Nissan Rogue S FWD for $23,920 (plus destination, and minus what kind of cash off you can get out of the dealer and special deals from the manufacturer, which at time this was written was $500 and zero percent interest), or at the other end, a 2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD starting at $29,890 to start, then adding floor mats and “cargo area protector” ($210) and the SL Premium package ($2,190), plus the destination fee of $885 for a bottom line of $33,175.

What’s the better deal? Hang tough with the base model, or load it up? Or somewhere in between. Buzzard Nick Yost tested a 2015 Nissan Rogue SV FWD, and that particular model (with last year’s prices—and we’ve seen prices such as on our test 2016 Rogue’s window sticker that don’t coincide with Nissan’s consumer website) had a bottom line of $26,940.

2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD headlghts

The LED running lights are standard on all 2016 Nissan Rogue models, but LED headlights are available–and standard–on the SL trim level. (click to enlarge)

But let’s look at what you get for the various trim levels. First, the engine on all Rogues is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. The transmission on all Rogues is Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. All models have a Sport Mode and Eco switches. The Eco changes “acceleration pedal feel”—more pedal movement is needed for the same acceleration. To us it makes the engine feel less responsive. Sport does the opposite, and also holds a “lower gear” longer to keep the revs higher when driving on winding roads.

Mechanically identical, all 2016 Rogues get the same fuel mileage, EPA rated at 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined for front-wheel drive CVT-equipped models. The Rogue with all-wheel drive is rated at 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined. Nick saw 30.0 mpg overall driving the 2015 Rogue FWD (same as the 2016). With the 2016 all-wheel drive Rogue, we recorded 26.2 mpg. We’ll credit the difference between the venues—the front-driver tested in a flat coastal terrain while we drove the AWD Rogue in a hilly area. That and that our AWD driver has a notoriously heavy foot.

2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD interior

The 2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD has a lineup of organ stops on the left side of the steering wheel. (click to enlarge)

There’s an excuse for the latter. The 2016 Nissan Rogue SR AWD weighs in at 3,618 pounds, and while that’s a tidy sum, it’s still a lot for 170 horses/175 lb-ft to motivate, especially uphill. It’s quick enough, but add in several or more adults and the four, despite its relatively large 2.5-liter displacement. Merging takes planning.

The front seats—Nissan’s “zero gravity” seats—were noticeably comfortable. They’re bolstered for good support for long days in the saddle.

The Rogue can be configured with two or three rows of seating, for five or seven passengers respectively. The third row, judging by the space available, can’t be anything but snug, but it’s an option on the S and SV only and not available on the SL. If there’s logic behind this it’s because people who spend more on a vehicle have less money left over for the people who ride along (and considering the size of the back seat, those are likely to be non-financially productive children, child labor laws being what they are).

2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD cargo area

The 2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD cargo area has a shelf that can be set in slots on either side of cargo area to make a two-level trunk. (click to enlarge)

The three trim levels have only minor differences in exterior decoration. The Nissan “U”-shaped grille is the same on all three, and even the Rogue S has LED daytime running lights, something usually reserved for the top trim level. But even identifiers like black door handles can be changed to chrome with an appearance package that also puts turn signals on the rearview mirrors. On the other hand, the wheel covers over steel wheels are a sure giveaway, and there’s not factory option to replace them.

Our test 2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD top trim level replaces the SV’s 17-inch alloy wheels with 18-inch alloys and gets fog lights and LED turn signals in the outside rearview mirrors as exterior identifiers. The SL also comes with “Around View Monitor”—which gives a bird’s eye view of the car’s surroundings via minicams in the rear (backup camera is standard in all Rogues), grille and underside of the side rearview mirrors. The view can include overhead and front in neutral and drive, overhead and rear, to right front wheel and rear, to make parking easier.

2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD (click to enlarge)

The list of standard equipment for even the base Rogue is long, including  SiriusXM satellite radio, “Fine Vision” electroluminescent gauges, power windows with driver’s auto up/down, 5.0-inch center, five-inch color driver information screen between the tachometer and speedometer, air conditioning with microfilter, USB port, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, and hands-free text messaging assistant.

Nissan Connect with navigation and apps is standard on the Rogue SL. The center stack multi-information display has a large 7.0-inch color touch-screen display—one neat feature that Nissan adds is a hard button alongside the screen for flipping between day and night screen brightness—and with intuitive audio and navigation operation. Nissan Connect, which requires SiriusXM subscription, includes automatic collision notification, emergency call, stolen vehicle locator and dealer service scheduling and maintenance alerts. And it can also ride shotgun with nanny alerts for speed, curfew and boundary notifications. It’s almost intrusive as being noticed around town by your parents’ friends.

Leather seating is also standard in the Rogue SL, and the Rogue’s heated seats are noticably quick to warm up, which on those cold winter morning is important, no doubt a benefit of Nissan moving its headquarters from sunny California to Tennessee, where they actually have winter weather.