I’ve had no shortage of seat time in the 2015 Nissan Rogue.
More specifically, in the second-generation model which has improved in nearly every way since the company’s first effort debuted in 2008.
Some of these enhancements – like Active Trace Control and ‘quick comfort’ heated front seats – got my attention last January during the Rogue’s Canadian press launch near Mont Tremblant, Quebec, as we inched our way north of Montreal in -30C wind chill in near whiteout conditions.
Others, like Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats, made themselves known over a 4,000-kilometre trek from Chicago to Los Angeles along historic Route 66.
Compact SUVs have become a staple for Canadian families, with their high seating position, ample cargo capacity and available all-wheel-drive, not to mention thrifty four-cylinder engines.
It’s a formula that has worked well for the Rogue, but six years is a long time, and with the competition stepping up its game, so must Nissan.
For starters, its proven 2.5-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder (which produces 170 hp and 175 lb/ft of torque) is now mated to the next generation Xtronic CVT with sport mode.
This is a big deal as the previous transmission moaned loudly under hard acceleration and produced a “rubber-band” feel, which was a common complaint with early CVTs.
In the current Rogue, acceleration is smooth and linear and it feels more natural, with the CVT simulating shift points like an automatic. Takeoff is modest, but that’s no surprise when you consider the vehicle’s 1643 kg (3622 lb) curb weight.
Sport mode improves the experience, but the button is hard to find.
It’s tucked low and to the left of the steering wheel, along with a bunch of other buttons, but it’s worth the hunt. ‘Sport’ not only quickens throttle response but holds on to each virtual gear longer to squeeze more from its four-pot engine.
Another plus point is Rogue’s surefootedness in crappy weather. AWD is optional on the S and SV models (which start at $23,798 and $27,648 with FWD) and comes standard on the top-trim SL (as tested), which starts at $31,298.
In normal conditions, the system drives the front wheels for maximum fuel efficiency, sending power to the rear when extra traction is needed.
Also helping keep the Rogue pointed where you want it to go is Active Trace Control. It seamlessly applies inner and outer brakes to aid your turn, and works alongside vehicle dynamic control.
The new model is higher and wider than its predecessor, with a longer wheelbase and shorter front overhangs, not to mention rear doors that open wider for easier entry and exit – in particular for those getting in and out of the third row.
Yes, the Rogue is now capable of carrying seven passengers. Thanks to its larger dimensions (other than length), along with optimizing headrest and seat shapes, repositioning the centre console, lowering door trim and implementing a new sliding/reclining second-row seat design, engineers have been able to carve out a larger cabin.
The 50/50 split-fold third row is only available in SV trim as part of the $2,050 Family Tech Package, which also includes navigation, around-view monitor and power liftgate. It’s handy for occasional use, like when Grandma and Grandpa tag along. They get the spacious second row while the kids ride on the less commodious rear bench.
There’s still enough space behind it for several grocery bags, but drop the third row and 266 litres enlarges to a more reasonable 1,112. This is up from 818 litres in the previous model.
The reclining 40/20/40 second-row (with centre pass-through) also folds flat for a maximum cargo capacity of 1,982 litres (up from 1,639).
That’s more than Hyundai Tucson and a bit less than Toyota RAV4, but what’s cool is the way this space can be configured. Standard on all Rogues is the Divide-N-Hide cargo system that consists of two panels that can be positioned 18 ways to manage all your stuff.
These panels can either create a flat cargo floor, or one can be dropped for a deeper well (for taller items). They can be used to separate, for example, groceries from muddy gear, or be positioned to keep items out of sight.
Passengers are treated to an interior that looks less plasticky, with more soft-touch materials along with low-gloss micro graining to make surfaces less shiny. It’s the chrome rings, silver finishes and piano black surrounds on the centre stack and around the gear selector that helps create a more premium look.
Between the speedo and tach is the Advanced Driver Assist Display. This five-inch, full colour TFT monitor (with 3D rendering) provides info on tire pressure, fuel economy, audio, driver aid settings and more.
NissanConnect is also standard. Using your smart phone and vehicle display, this cloud-connected system will manage your tunes and your social network. It is also capable of hands-free texting. My first impression is that it would be easier just to phone, but perhaps I’m showing my age.
More useful is the ability to email your destination to the navigation system, rather than trying to peck it in on the touchscreen.
The base model in S trim provides plenty of standard content like power windows and locks, air conditioning, tilt/telescopic steering with audio and cruise controls, Bluetooth, rearview monitor, six-way/four-way manual adjustable driver and front passenger seats, and four-speaker audio system.
SV adds features like 17-inch alloys (instead of steel wheels with wheel covers), smart key with pushbutton start, upgraded audio, power driver’s seat, panoramic moonroof, and ‘Quick Comfort’ heated front seats that immediately start toasting the thighs and hips – areas that are most sensitive to heat (and icy cold upholstery).
My tester received the full SL treatment, adding leather seating, dual-zone climate control, larger 18-inch alloys and standard AWD. Also included was the $2,800 Premium Package, which tags on some more premium features like power liftgate, auto-leveling headlights, around view monitor, navigation, nine-speaker Bose audio and the full suite of Nissan safety nannies. These include moving object detection, along with warnings for blind spot, lane departure and forward collision.
All in, this bumped my top trim model to $34,098. But when you consider all the Rogue has to offer, this kind of coin isn’t out of line for comfortable, well-equipped and stylish family transport.