Not so long ago, someone at Nissan Canada had a brilliant idea: to invite a dozen automobile journalists for a drive down Route 66, all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica, which is just outside of Los Angeles.
For the choice of vehicles, Nissan had plenty of options. It could have been the Micra, but few people would actually want to spend seven days covering 4,000 kilometres at its wheel. The 370Z? Maybe. The Juke? That certainly would have made Middle America giggle. The GT-R? It seems like a good choice at first, but after three or four days, enthusiasm would definitely wane. The Leaf? Not possible for technical reasons. The Maxima? Since it’s approaching the end of its career, it’s not strategic from a marketing point of view. The Murano? It hasn’t arrived yet. The XTerra, Titan or Armada? That would have blown Nissan Canada’s gas budget for the next two years. Versa Note or Sentra? Meh. Pathfinder? An Infiniti Model? Oh, that might have been nice. And yet, the Altima and Rogue were the two models chosen for the event, cleverly dubbed “The Altimate Rogue Trip.”
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When you spend many consecutive hours inside a car, as the driver or as the passenger, you learn a lot more about it. Seeing it in a new light can be positive... or negative. Fortunately, for the Rogue, our experience was positive. Click here to read more about the Altima.
All good (or almost)
The Rogue is part of a very popular category. It rivals the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan and Subaru Forester. And, believe me, it does a good job keeping pace. Its 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine is not the feistiest. In fact, it’s even less powerful than the Altima’s engine, despite the fact that the Rogue is about 100 kilograms heavier. But the engine is nonetheless decent. In contrast, I didn’t find the continually variable transmission to be very exciting, as it seemed less responsive in this vehicle than in the Altima. The vehicle’s extra weight is probably a factor, as are the 18-inch wheels (the Altima has 17-inchers). But let’s not blow this out of proportion. I’m guessing that 99% of Rogue owners (or Altima owners for that matter) won’t notice any problems with it.
I spent three days with the Nissan convoy, but just one day driving the Rogue. That said, it was a 10-hour day, so that makes up for it. By the end of that long day spent on country lanes, secondary roads, near-deserted highways and jam-packed freeways, we had recorded an average fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres, which is seriously impressive. Results like this quickly make you forgive a vehicle for the subtle shortcomings of its transmission. I’ll temper that by pointing out that the fuel consumption was calculated by the same onboard computer that proved to be “optimistic” during two other Rogue test drives in the last year.
Utility vehicle, yes. Sporty, not so much.
The Rogue’s handling isn’t going to make you tingle all over. But like the CVT, it’s just fine for your average driver. The steering is not particularly lively or communicative, which makes the ride a little blah. You’d think this might have annoyed me as the kilometres flew past, but it didn’t. Am I getting older or just resigned to such matters? (My vote is for the latter, thank you.) The suspension offers great comfort, even in rougher sections. My stint in the driver’s seat included the winding road through the mountains between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona. Some of the journalists in our group suggested that this road (which is pompously called the Oatman-Topock Highway in Google Maps!) would make a great rally track, but to be honest I never felt the urge to push the Rogue any harder.
You know what really impressed me? The seats. Developed by NASA, the Zero Gravity seats are absolutely fantastic. Oftentimes, my back and backside complain, but they didn’t act up at all during the Altimate Rogue Trip—despite the hours upon hours spent in the Rogue and the Altima!
The Rogue is a compact SUV with an optional third row. However, I don’t really see the point of this add-on bench, unless you’re absolutely desperate. Fortunately, the Rogues brought in by Nissan Canada for our trip didn’t have the third bench. It goes without saying that there’s significantly more cargo space in the Rogue than in the Altima, and our videographer/photographer Yohan Leduc was glad to be able to ditch his gear in the Rogue. Even still, he had to use some of his Tetris skills to get it all in. My colleague and I didn’t use the Divide ‘N Hide system, which Nissan claims provides 18 adjustable configurations. At the very least, you could spend hours fiddling with the system.
It grows on you
On the topic of storing your stuff, I must say that there are numerous compartments surrounding the driver and passenger. That said, I would have preferred if the ones in the centre console had been positioned a little further forward. As it stands, you have to twist your wrist to grab your coffee cup. Try that in city traffic!
The Nissan Rogue is an even-tempered vehicle with modern lines, proven mechanics and good fuel economy. Its interior is supremely comfortable—especially the seats! If you need to cover thousands of kilometres per year and want something more spacious than a sedan, the Rogue could be for you. Should I ever drive Route 66 again (the whole thing next time), the Rogue will be high on my list. I’d even take it for a shorter jaunt, like a trip to Toronto or Moncton.