The word "rogue" is usually applied to people and things that break from convention and do the unexpected. Rogues catch you off guard with their speed and stealth. However, the vehicle that Nissan calls "rogue"--the 2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD, to be exact--is a decidedly average, small, crossover SUV. No surprises here.
The Rogue has enough power to feel competent, handles well enough to be described as adequate, and features styling that is utterly inoffensive--unlike its larger sibling, the Murano, which challenges you to love it or hate it with its in-your-face chrome nose. While we think the Rogue is a perfectly OK ride, nothing about it is outstanding or unexpected.
On the inside, the Rogue is equally middle-of-the-road, with a cabin composed of soft plastics that feel high quality when prodded, but certainly don't look the part. Meanwhile, the styling is sparse, but the not in the decidedly understated way that VWs and Audis manage to pull off. Instead, the Rogue's cabin is just dull.
Cabin ergonomics are good and all of the driving-related controls fall nicely into the hand. Unfortunately, the Rogue's seats are upholstered with padding that, while fine for short stints, just wasn't up to the job of cushioning our rumps for long journeys.
Cutting corners with cabin tech
Instead of Nissan's integrated navigation option, the Rogue gets a Garmin Nuvi 750 portable navigation device with a removable cradle hardwired for power. The 750 features text-to-speech reading of street and POI names and is preloaded with Nissan destinations, such as dealerships and service centers. However, the unit does not support traffic updates or any sort of voice command.
Unlike other Garmin integration options--such as the one we saw on the Suzuki SX4 Sport--Nissan's package isn't connected to the vehicle's audio system, so you will have to listen turn-by-turn directions through the Garmin's tiny, tinny speakers without the benefit of music attenuation.
Things don't get much better on the audio side of things. There are no digital audio input options (no iPod, no USB), so you will have to make due with the aux-input on the stereo's face or load MP3 CDs into the optional six-disc in-dash changer.
Fortunately, the audio is pumped through a seven-speaker Bose audio system that sounds pretty good, but not great. The system uses a CenterPoint fill speaker to improve front-stereo staging. A shallow subwoofer mounted in the spare tire well brings the total driver count to eight and adds the clean bass response that we've come to expect from Bose-branded car stereos.
Audio source information is displayed on a single line, monochromatic LCD display that, while quite visible in direct sunlight, can't display much information at the same time. For example, the user has to cycle between artist, album, song title, and the like using a display button.
The lack of a full color display on the Rogue's dash is a telltale sign that there's no rearview camera option available.
The Bose audio premium package also adds XM satellite radio, keyless entry and start, and Bluetooth hands-free calling. The Bluetooth system is completely voice controlled with relatively intuitive spoken commands. The system doesn't automatically pull your contacts when pairing a phone, necessitating individual contact addition and the assignment of voice tags.
A capable cruiser
The 2.5-liter QR-series, four-cylinder engine is the workhorse of Nissan's small car line, making appearances in the Sentra, the Altima, and here in the Rogue. In this incarnation, the engine makes 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque--unless you live in California, in which case emissions equipment chokes the power down to 167 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. In a compact car, that's a decent bit of power, but in a vehicle the size of the Rogue it's merely adequate.