2011 Nissan Rogue Driving Impressions

Rogue's 2.5-liter engine makes 170 horsepower and is one of the better four-cylinder engines available today. The Honda CR-V has a 5-hp advantage but notably less torque, which is more important in daily driving. The engine has the low-end punch to propel the Rogue from a stop and decent midrange. At higher speeds it falls off, however, so planning and momentum are needed for higher-speed passing maneuvers.

Fuel economy is quite good, with an EPA-estimated 22/28 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive; the AWD models are rated 22/26 mpg. The federal government classifies the front-drive models as cars, the rear-drive models as trucks.

The continuously variable transmission works well with the engine, quickly switching to an appropriate ratio for the driving conditions. The only way to tell that it's not a standard automatic is to floor the accelerator and keep it there. The transmission reacts by picking the ratio to put the engine in its optimum rev range and keeping it there. Since the transmission allows the engine to rev only as high as needed, it aids in fuel economy, particularly in the city. The transmission is also a bonus in hilly driving or slowing in snow or ice where you might like to avoid the brake pedal because selecting L will easily bring speed down to 10-15 mph on level ground.

The Rogue is not built for towing, with a maximum capacity of only 1,500 pounds (with the dealer-installed towing package) similar to many four-cylinder crossovers. Nor is it intended for off-road duty.

The Rogue is based on an economy car platform and those roots show through in more ways than one. While it is among the better handling compact SUVs, it is not sporty. It drives more like a car than an SUV, but it has more body lean in turns than most cars. The electric-assist steering requires only a light effort, but it feels natural and direct with good road feel and front bite when you turn the wheel. In our opinion, the Rogue transmits more road feel to the driver through the steering wheel than most compact SUVs.

The ride is generally comfortable, but the same suspension firmness that makes the Rogue handle well makes it busy on bumpy pavement, and sharp ruts can give passengers a jolt. Perhaps the biggest drawback is interior noise. The noise from rough pavement, bumps and potholes sounds like the soundtrack of an economy car. Ditto the sound of the engine. The Rogue seems like it could use more body insulation, though we realize that would add weight, which can reduce fuel economy.

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