October 27 2016, Southside Nissan



Just one look and it's easy to understand why Nissan's Rogue has become so popular. It's an especially attractive compact SUV from front to back, and even more sharply dressed in my tester's optional Pearl White paint scheme; lighter hues making the sporty black body cladding stand out all the more.

My loaner came equipped in SL Premium AWD trim, which means that LED auto on/off headlights join the standard LED daytime running lights, with fog lamps getting pulled up from mid-grade trims. Additionally, the otherwise white roof receives a shiny black patch across its mid-section that not so subtly hints at the panoramic glass sunroof lighting up the cabin below. The SL Premium also gets some extra chrome and aluminum to brighten key exterior details, as well as sporty multi-spoke grey metallic 18-inch alloys. What's more, the body-colour mirror caps are infused with LED turn signals, as well as approach lights that shine down on the road, but like the LED DRLs these powered and heatable side mirrors are standard, as are roof rails up top and splash guards below.

rogue sl premium - front detail

You really notice the change wrought by SL Premium trim inside, where an already nicely designed and well-built cabin is upgraded with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone auto climate control, a seven-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system integrating a 360-degree Around View monitor, navigation with mapping, SiriusXM Traffic, and nine-speaker Bose audio featuring speed-sensitive volume and RDS artist and song info. A leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, leather-clad shift knob, and leather upholstery add to the rich ambiance, while a powered liftgate makes accessing the cargo compartment ultra-convenient.

The Rogue's already well-endowed standard safety kit gets upgraded too, with blind spot warning, lane departure warning, forward collision warning with moving object detection, and forward emergency braking, these features earning a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS when equipped. As already noted, AWD is standard with the SL Premium, as is hill descent control. All this is available for $35,548 plus freight and fees, which incidentally is thousands less than a number of similarly equipped competitors. This is reason enough for its popularity, although it doesn't hurt that the base Rogue S FWD starts at just $24,948.

Back to the SL Premium, proximity-sensing access lets you inside and pushbutton ignition gets things going, but these features get pulled up to top-line trim from the Rogue's mid-range, as does its six-way powered driver's seat with power lumbar, four-way powered front passenger's seat, Quick Comfort heatable front cushions, rear privacy glass, retractable cargo cover, etcetera.

rogue sl premium - console

Of course, there's more to the Rogue than loads of features and great pricing. The cabin is nicely finished too, with a soft-touch dash top and door uppers made from the same luxurious pliable synthetic material, while just below are nicely padded leatherette armrests with French-stitched seams. The centre armrest is covered in comfortable padded leatherette, whereas the stylish front seats are surfaced in genuine leather with perforated inserts to keep you cooler in summer's heat. Satin-silver trim adorns key accent trim, while the gearshift panel and the centre stack interface are covered in a glossy piano black lacquered treatment. Lastly, high-gloss carbon-fibre patterned grey inlays highlight the dash and door panels.

Ahead of the driver is an attractive chrome-trimmed primary gauge package featuring a large highly functional colour TFT multi-information display, while over on the centre stack a full-colour infotainment display incorporates the aforementioned 360-degree surround camera that makes parking a breeze, as well as a smarter than average navigation system with good clear mapping.

As you might expect, the upgraded Bose audio system sounds fabulous, with nice deep bass and bright highs, the perfect complement to Maroon 5's Sugar or any other dance track. It's good for most music genres actually, from classical to jazz, new wave to '90s grunge, and even harder rock, while talk radio comes through loud and clear as well. You listen to your own tunes or podcasts via wireless Bluetooth audio streaming, or plug your personal devices into the Rogue's USB or aux ports.

Additionally, the auto climate control interface is nicely laid out with a large LCD display and the benefit of two front zones, some of the Rogue's competitors only offering single-zone auto HVAC in top trims.

As noted earlier, a large panoramic glass roof is included, adding an airy, upscale ambience throughout, but during colder months you'll appreciate the powered sunshade that fully encloses and insulates the glass; a best of both worlds' scenario.

rogue sl premium -  interior detail

The rear passenger compartment offers loads of legroom and comfortable seats with good lower back support. Additionally, a centre armrest flips down from centre, exposing two cupholders within. The seatbacks fold in the usual 60/40-design, providing a flat load floor and ample space for gear. By the numbers, the Rogue can accommodate 1,112 litres of cargo when the rear seats are upright and 1,982 litres when lowered. Compare these figures to others in the compact SUV class and you'll quickly appreciate that Nissan's entry is larger than many, plus the Rogue goes further by including an innovative standard cargo system dubbed Divide-N-Hide featuring a split movable/removable carpeted load floor that adds two-tier shelving when needed. I should also mention that a third row is available, this reducing rear cargo capacity to 266 litres when all seats are in use, but allowing for seven occupants has its own advantages.

Out on the road the Rogue's ride quality is very good, with ample suspension travel to minimize intrusions from pavement irregularities. It balances ride comfort with impressive handling as well, while highway stability is excellent.

rogue sl premium - side details

The Rogue's straight-line performance is also strong, with plenty of pull off the line and decent passing power on the highway. Its 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine makes 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, which is easily enough after factoring in its relatively low as-tested 1,643-kilo curb weight. An efficient continuously variable transmission also aids performance, while helping the Rogue to achieve excellent fuel economy that's rated at 8.4 L/100km combined city/highway with AWD, or 8.1 combined with FWD.

The CVT delivers convincingly real shifts too, and even features an electronic overdrive button located on the shifter knob so you can drop a "gear" when needed, plus there's a low setting to enhance traction when driving at slower speeds over slippery surfaces. With Sport mode engaged revs are allowed to climb almost completely to redline before shifts rapidly occur, making for a sportier driving experience. Still, I left the Rogue's transmission in Drive so it could do its own thing more often than not, as there isn't a smoother way to get around town or enjoy highway cruising.

rogue sl premium - trunk and wheel

Smooth is the way I'd sum up the Rogue, especially when outfitted in SL Premium trim. So equipped it comes pretty close to a luxury utility, while still incorporating all the capability, efficiency, performance, value, and downright good looks the rest of the lineup embodies, a certain recipe for continued success.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann and Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.