First Test: 2008 Nissan Rogue SL

In the ever-blurring spectrum of small SUVs and tiny crossovers, there now seems to be a car for every possible whim. Don't believe it? Okay, say you're young, kids are a long (long) way off, you rather fancy yourself a square peg in a round-hole world, and, most crucial, you're the sporty type who might spontaneously head to the mountains one weekend and to a rock concert in the desert the next. Which car?2008 Nissan Rogue SL

Hmmm...you sound like the Rogue type to us. No, not you personally, but the Nissan Rogue. We might not be analyzing 29 parameters of compatibility here, but we're seasoned people/car matchmakers, so trust us. All right, as Ronald Reagan wisely said, "Trust but verify" -- so here's some substantiation, too.

For starters, the Rogue is a heck of a value, important to young folks saddled with student loans and expensive jeans to pay for. Rogue prices range from $19,995 for the front-drive version in base S trim to $22,735 for an SL-equipped AWD. Both are a steal, with the AWD, in particular, representing a lot of capability for the money. Value argument? Check.

Next, it's sporty. With a 0-to-60-mph sprint in 8.0 seconds flat and handling that can howl-up 0.78 g at the cornering limit, it's the brisk little 'ute that can. In fact, the Rogue's performance numbers border on physics-defying -- or at least expectations-challenging -- given that it's working with no more than a middling 170 hp from its 2.5L, four-cylinder engine against a fairly typical curb weight in this category -- 3359 lb. So why is it a second to a second-and-a-half quicker to 60 mph than virtually all of its competition? We can only point to its transmission, a CVT.

2008 Nissan Rogue

If you're not familiar with Continuously Variable Transmissions, the big idea is that they're stepless -- instead of the familiar first gear, second gear, third gear stuff, any ratio you care to name is available (within limits). The upshot is near ideal matching of the engine's characteristics to your acceleration, cruising, or hill-climbing, needs. It's a better powertrain matchmaker, so to speak.

Strangely, Nissan appears to be the planet's sole car company to have figured out CVTs. Although our Rogue didn't include the cool shifter paddles that are optional on S and SL versions (providing what amounts to "virtual gears" for those suffering from conventional-transmission withdrawals), you can still pop it into "low" for extra poop and all the rest of the time reap all those CVT World-of-Tomorrow wonders. Without the groaning and rubber-banding they typically inflict.

The Rogue's handling is another data point way off the curve. Despite its tall stance, it turns in enthusiastically with little of the listing its competitors exhibit -- just the thing for impatient young drivers threading through traffic trying to get to the Radiohead concert. Ah, but there's a downside to a short-length, tall vehicle possessing lighting reflexes.

It's ride quality. If you're older than about 26, having inelastic portions of your body paint-shakered into a quivering blur is no longer amusing. Worse, your Red Bull gets all frothy. Warning: Any occupant needing either a child seat or reading glasses has no business in this car. The ride is simply brutal.

The Rogue also turns the hooligan trait of trading functionality for sporty looks into a perverse art form. The stern is all angled eye candy from the outside, frustrating packaging from the inside. And how about its peek-a-boo, tapering side-window treatment? Let's agree that it's a good thing you're young enough to have no reason to be backing up in any preschool parking lots any time soon.

And that's just the point: Someone like you wouldn't be caught dead at Twinkle-Time Preschool, or for that matter, hitting Home Depot for appliances any time soon, either. The Rogue's about being seen in, not seeing out of. Showing up with snowboards on the roof, surfboards in the back, and fun in mind. If any of this makes you furiously nod your head in agreement, the Rogue's for you. Pretty good matchmaker, eh?

2008 Nissan Rogue 2008 Nissan Rogue 2008 Nissan Rogue

Nissan Cars in Autoshows Blog:
+ New York 2008 Preview: Nissan to unveil all-electric concept
+ Nissan at 2008 Tokyo Auto Salon
+ Nissan’s Mixim concept looks to the future with an electric powerplant and appealing styling
+ Tokyo Motor Show 2007: Nissan R.D:B.X Concept
+ 2007 Tokyo Motor Show: Live shots of the Nissan GT-R!
+ First official pics of Nissan GT-R?Nissan GT-R targets record
+ Tokyo Motor Show 2007: Nissan GT-R to Debut in Gran Turismo 5 - Jalopnik
+ 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show Preview: Nissan's Micra Colour + Concept
+ Nissan will bring the Mixim Concept in the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show
+ Comparison: 2007 Honda Civic vs 2007 Hyundai Elantra vs 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer vs 2007 Nissan Sentra
+ Car Reviews:Nissan Qashqai
+ Nissan 350Z GT
+ First Drive: 2009 Nissan GT-R

No comments: