If you like the modern looks of the Murano, you'll like the Rogue. All the journalists are calling it a mini Murano, and it's easy to see why. There's the same high kick up at the D-pillar, pronounced wheel arches, symmetrical eggcrate grille, and dual center crease lines on the hood. The Rogue has an aggressive silhouette, which is good since Nissan is aiming the cute ute at 30-something males who still want a vehicle that's fun to drive, but need more versatility since they're adding responsibilities like marriage and family.
The Rogue comes in two trim levels, S and SL, in AWD or 2WD, and with only a few packages that are available for the SL: Premium Package for either drivetrain, Moonroof Package, and Leather Package. The S comes standard with 16 x 6.5-inch steel wheels with full covers mounted with P215/70HR16 tires. The SL gets the bigger 17 x 70-inch 6-spoke alloy wheels with P225/60HR17 tires. Both offer a standard tire pressure monitoring system and a temporary spare.
Other exterior differences between the S and SL include body-colored mirrors, black privacy glass, and roof rails standard on the SL. Halogen headlamps are standard on both, with Xenon headlamps available as part of the Premium Package on the AWD SL model.
In the Driver's Seat
Nissan refers to the interior as having Stealth Ultra functionality; when you figure out what that means, let us know. We think it looks clean and functional, but maybe a little plain. The controls are easy to reach, and the optional steering-wheel-mounted buttons are always appreciated. The paddle shifters are well placed behind the steering wheel, and the driver's seat provides good comfort. A front passenger fold down seat is handy for carrying long items, but it's part of the extra-charge Premium Package; too bad it's not standard, or at least available on the S trim level.
Nissan's Intelligent Key system is a favorite option, but, again, you must get the Premium Package if you want it. Intelligent Key lets you keep the key fob in your pocket and still unlock, lock, and start the car.
We loved the rear cargo organizer system that's easy to open with a push of a button. It can hold lots of items and keeps things from rolling around in back. That also can't be ordered stand alone, which means if you choose the S model, you're out of luck. We would have liked to see it with a split cover so you could still utilize the 8.5' carrying length plus put cargo in that under floor storage area.
On the Road
The Rogue benefits from Nissan's talent for tuning a sporty ride. The four-wheel independent suspension features high-performance dampers and tuned rear suspension bushings with stabilizer bars at both ends to deliver a flat ride and sharp turning characteristics. We still don't get paddle shifters with a CVT, but if it makes a driver feel more involved, more power to him.
The two other packages are the Moonroof Package which is just a power moonroof, and a Leather Package that upgrades the seats to leather as well as the steering wheel cover and shift knob, and adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, one-touch up/down driver's window, and a few other items.
Overall, we like the looks and the handling, but just wish for a more socialistic approach to providing the richest features to the poorest.