We finally got the opportunity to get our hands on the Nissan Rogue Warrior, the SUV that had the Montreal Auto Show buzzing. What had all those tongues wagging was the fact that instead of wheels, it had caterpillar tracks, like a tank!
However, is the simple addition of this accessory really all it takes to create a true all-terrain vehicle? The capacity of the original automatic CVT gearbox to operate this mechanism has been called into question, and don’t even get me started on the 2.5-litre, 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
Nissan Canada is behind this idea, and they specified right away that this vehicle would never see the light of day. Give credit where credit is due, from a purely marketing point of view, the Rogue Warrior made headlines around the globe.
Public relations coup notwithstanding, the Rogue Warrior remains a working vehicle that, as we saw in the promotional video, is even able to climb a ski hill.
Nissan Canada was so confident in their product that they invited a handful of journalists to test drive this vehicle in the same conditions seen in the video. We were among the privileged few, so we headed to Quebec’s Saguenay region to see it with our own eyes.
So long, SUV!
My first impressions driving the Nissan Rogue Warrior were not entirely positive, but before getting into anything else, let’s list the modifications made to the SUV.
It was prepared by MIA Motorsport, based in Saint-Eustache, Quebec. Among other things, this company prepares the Micra units used in the Nissan Micra Cup.
The conventional wheels were replaced by caterpillar tracks made by American Track Truck. We’re talking $15,000 for four caterpillar systems.
Although several companies make caterpillars, MIA chose these ones in particular because they are among the lightest on the market and offer good clearance in snow.
The suspension was raised two inches to give the caterpillars all the clearance they needed, and several body elements were filed down to make more room. Finally, the turning radius was limited right at the steering rack so that the caterpillars wouldn’t cause any damage to the engine compartment.
The first 30 metres at the wheel of the Rogue Warrior were, uh, different, to say the least. Firstly, you can only turn the steering wheel if the vehicle is in motion; otherwise you run the risk of damaging the assisted steering, which wasn’t designed to combat the enormous traction of the caterpillars.
So firm is the new suspension that any semblance of comfort is gone. Every minor imperfection in the road surface is transmitted, often amplified, to the vehicle’s occupants. Considering that you buy a sport utility vehicle partly for comfort, the Nissan Rogue Warrior seems less like an “SUV” and more like a “UV.”
Show of force
Then again, the Nissan Rogue Warrior’s mission was never to offer you a comfortable ride to visit your uncle who lives alone on the tundra.
Driving it is similar to driving a conventional car: put the transmission in “D,” press the accelerator and point it where you want to go with the steering wheel.
To say that nothing stops the Rogue Warrior would be an understatement. It never once got stuck, not even on cross-country ski trails that hadn’t been cleared for a long time. Note that in the Saguenay region, there was a lot more snow than in Montreal this year.
Driving in the snow is one thing, but what about defying gravity?
The most ambitious test was mounting a ski hill. People may not realize it, but they are very steep.
To make it happen, you need to build some momentum. Put the pedal to the metal and pray!
The first several metres went well, but the engine dropped quickly to 2,500 rpm, and then to 2,000 rpm. Every second, it felt like the vehicle was going to stop, that the engine was moaning so much that it was going to shut down – but it didn’t. The Rogue, propelled by its 175-horsepower mill, chugged up the hill slowly, like a tank.
The CVT really rose to the occasion. Think of a snowmobile. In conditions like these, the advantage of a CVT is that it will always choose the right gear ratio, and with an infinite amount of them at its disposal. Since it never disengages, unlike other kinds of gearboxes, it ensures uninterrupted power.
After several consecutive ascents, the Rogue got very hot and needed a rest before resuming its show.
Of course, it was never designed to be an off-road vehicle, but the fact that an SUV like this can climb a ski hill with the only modifications being a caterpillar tread kit and a higher suspension are a testament to the quality of the mechanics of the original vehicle.
I will never again test drive the Nissan Rogue Warrior. It’s nothing but a passing fancy, a crazy idea that will never see the light of day. Eventually, it will end up in a warehouse somewhere or in the garage of one of the brand’s major shareholders.
That said, I came away from the experience with a lot more respect for the Rogue. It had big boots to fill, and it did it with flying colours.
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