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A Day on the Road with the 2014 Nissan Rogue

by Paul Strauss

The Nissan Rogue SUV was introduced back in 2007, and has since become one of Nissan’s best selling vehicles. The first generation Rogue was made in Japan, and while a solid small utility vehicle, it didn’t exactly thrill with its styling. The 2014 model aims to change that, and I’m pleased to say that I think it’s accomplished its mission.

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I recently had the opportunity to put the brand-spanking new 2014 Nissan Rogue through its paces in and around Nashville, Tennessee. This is only appropriate, as the new Rogue is the first model to be manufactured in the U.S., at Nissan’s massive Smyrna, Tennessee plant – which also produces the Altima, Maxima, Pathfinder, LEAF, and the Infiniti QX60.

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My first impressions of the Rogue were very positive, as the new styling offers a much more dynamic visual sensibility than past models, with more pronounced curves that start on the hood and head down the side of the body towards the rear wheel wells.

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That, combined with a longer wheelbase, wider stance, and slightly shorter overall length, make the new Rogue just seem like a more desirable vehicle than its strictly utilitarian older sister.

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It’s also got a much more appealing front-end and grill design than previous Rogues, with more streamlined headlights, and a black grill mesh flanking the Nissan “V” and mid-bumper.

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The improvements to the Rogue don’t end with body styling. The new model sports LED daytime running lights, mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, and doors that now open much wider than the previous model. Inside, there are major upgrades, with premium materials throughout, including soft touch surfaces on the dash, doors and center console, LED map lights, and comfy new seats which get their design from NASA research on reducing body fatigue.

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In the back of the Rogue, you’ll find either a 3rd row of seats (for 7 passenger seating – S and SV models only), or a large storage area. Personally, I think the back is too small for the 7-passenger variant, and you’re better off going with something large like the Pathfinder if you need to transport that many kids.

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On the other hand, the 5-passenger configuration is plenty comfortable – even for adults in the back seats. Oh, and speaking about the back seat, it splits into 40/20/40 sections, and the front passenger seat can fold down, so you can transport really long items with ease. Plus, you’re really going to want to take advantage of the flexible storage system, which offers 18 different configurations for transporting items. There’s even the ability to separate wet and dry items.

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Under the hood of the Rogue, there’s the same 2.5 liter DOHC I-4 engine found in the 2013 model, offering 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. of torque. In my drive, this offered smooth, responsive acceleration, though its continuously variable transmission does get a bit whiny as it hits higher revs. Still CVT is here to stay, as it offers greater fuel efficiency than traditional transmissions. In fact, the Rogue pushes out a best in class 33mpg on the highway. During my drive through Tennessee , we did around 27mpg, but that was on mixed city streets and country roads.

Driving dynamics were solid, and I felt that the Rogue did equally well in busy urban areas and on wide-open country roads. I was also pleasantly surprised by the relatively limited body roll, which is a rarity in SUVs. The Rogue also has some nifty tech bells and whistles which improve ride, including Active Trace Control, which selectively applies brake force to improve cornering and tight turns, Active Engine Braking which downshifts to help slow the vehicle more aggressively than brakes alone, and Active Ride Control, which uses braking trickery to help smooth the ride on major bumps.

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In my experience, all three of these features improved ride quality, though the Active Trace Control was most impressive – significantly decreasing the level of effort required to keep the Rogue on a clean path around tight corners in the rain.

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I found the cockpit of the Rogue SV model I drove to be extremely comfortable, placing me a height that made me feel in command, and visibility is good through all windows. Both the S and SV model come with a rear-facing camera, but if you opt for the SL model, you can benefit from Nissan’s “Around-View” video monitor, which provides a top-down view of the entire car. Previously found only in Infiniti models, it’s a great technology for navigating tight garage spaces.

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Controls are thoughtfully placed on the dashboard, and the controls for the dual-zone climate control system (on SV and SL models) are intuitive and easy to use. Between the RPM gauge and speedometer, you’ll find a large 5-inch LCD screen which offers easy access to information on mileage, media playback, tire pressure monitoring, and safety features. The steering wheel offers quick access to menu, media and phone controls. All models include Bluetooth hands-free phone and media playback. The SL model also has a 7-inch color touchscreen with navigation and NissanConnect app integration with services including Facebook and Google Search.

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Prices for the Rogue start at $22,490 for the front-wheel drive base model S, with the top-of-the-line Rogue SL AWD going for $29,420. I also highly recommend going for the absolutely massive panoramic moonroof option which comes standalone for the Rogue SV for $1,320, or as part of the premium package for the SL for $1,990, along with LED headlights, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and moving object detection safety features.

With its styling, storage and technological improvements, the 2014 Nissan Rogue feels like a vehicle that has finally grown into its skin. If you’re in the market for a small, reasonably priced SUV, it’s definitely worth checking out.

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