Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

After a total redesign last year, the Nissan Rogue returns for 2015 with some minor enhancements: a new fuel-saving driver-selectable Eco driving mode, the addition of standard automatic headlights to base mid-level SV and top-level SL trims, optional Forward Collision Warning on top SL trims, and a new Arctic Blue Metallic exterior colour replacing Graphite Blue.

It’s difficult to describe this as a compact SUV any more – it seems more mid-size now.

2015 MSRPs have risen anywhere from $300 to $900, depending on the trim level. The base prices of the 2015 Rogue S FWD ($23,798) and S AWD ($25,798) have each gone up by $300. The Rogue SV FWD ($27,648) and SV AWD ($29,648) have increased by $900, and the top-of-the-line Rogue SL AWD ($34,098) shows a $400 increase. There seems little justification for this as there haven’t been any major upgrades to the standard equipment list. Perhaps the tumbling value of the Loonie vs the US dollar is responsible (the Rogue is assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee). The good news is that the Rogue S and SL models are still less expensive than the previous generation 2013 Rogue S and SL trims were. And compared to major competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Ford Escape, the 2015 Rogue is often priced lower.

As we reported in our First Drive and Test Drives of the 2014 Rogue, this second generation compact SUV is bigger, roomier and shapelier than the first generation Rogue which was sold from 2008 through 2013. Though it’s a bit shorter overall, the new Rogue is 40 mm wider, 30 mm taller (without roof rack), with a wheelbase that is 15 mm longer. The increased dimensions provide considerably more passenger and cargo room making it one of the roomiest SUVs in it class. In fact, it’s difficult to describe this as a compact SUV any more – it seems more mid-size now.

Up front, the driver and front passenger have large, contoured, supportive seats with multiple adjustments and seat heaters. The Rogue’s unique seat heaters are supposed to warm your thighs first and then your back, but like tester, Paul Williams, I found that they took a bit too long to warm up my posterior. In our top-of-the-line SL AWD tester, the driver’s seat has power fore-aft, height, tilt, recline and lumbar adjustments while the front passenger seat (as part of the $2,800 Premium Package) offers power fore-aft and power recline functions. Base S models have manual adjustments including a driver’s manual height adjuster. A padded centre armrest and padded door armrests are a nice touch. Legroom, hiproom and headroom are generous, but some of the latter is taken up by the large panoramic moonroof housing.

The Rogues stylish instrument panel includes soft-touch plastics and a tasteful blend of silver, faux carbon fibre, and piano black trim. Personally, I don’t like glossy, piano-black trim: it attracts dust and scratches easily when cleaned. Care needs to be taken to keep it looking good.

The Rogue’s bright, illuminated instruments are clearly visible day and night, and the colour display between the gauges provides a library of information including outside temperature, time, compass, gear indicator, trip odometer, average fuel economy, instant fuel economy, range, average speed, audio channel and artist, and driving aids (forward collision warning, blind spot warning, etc.). A button on the steering wheel allows the driver to switch between items.

Even more information is available in the centre touchscreen which serves as a display for audio, navigation, phone and rear-view camera functions. A five-inch touchscreen and six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system are standard in the Rogue, but our tester had the optional seven-inch touchscreen and nine-speaker Bose audio system with voice recognition, part of the optional Premium Package. The powerful Bose sound system includes two subwoofers and I enjoyed the clarity of the sound along with the many commercial-free radio stations on the Rogue’s standard SiriusXM satellite radio.

In addition to a rear-view camera, the optional Around View monitor (part of the optional Premium Package) allows the driver a top-down view of the area around the Rogue. I found this handy when backing into tight parking spaces or when moving between low objects like concrete barriers and shrubs which can’t be seen through the side windows. Warning sounds alert the driver when the Rogue gets too close to an obstacle. The Rogue also includes a front-view camera that displays the view ahead while stopped. I’m not sure how this differs from looking through the windscreen.

So much more information is now available to today’s connected drivers. In the Rogue, a SiriusXM NavTraffic feature shows a list of traffic tie-ups in your area, while a Travel app shows a weather forecast for your area, and even a radar map showing areas of precipitation. You can also get fuel prices nearby, movie listings, and stocks info! There are also apps for Facebook and Google, but in order to access them, the Rogue driver has to have an owner’s account with Nissan and register with NissanConnect online. Many of these functions can be controlled by specific voice commands which are programmed into the system. A Help screen can display and read them to you.

The Rogue’s standard dual-zone automatic climate control has a separate small screen that displays temperature, fan speed, and ventilation choices. It’s easy to operate with dials for adjusting temperature and buttons for adjusting fan speed, ventilation, and air conditioning. The Rogue’s climate control system does not use voice commands.

Interior storage options include a deep box under the centre armrest with a 12-volt charger inside, and an open bin with 12-volt, USB, and auxiliary ports for phones ahead of the shift lever. There are also door pockets, a glovebox and map pockets on the back of the front seats.

The second row seats in the Rogue are almost as comfortable as the first. They slide fore and aft up to nine inches allowing passengers to maximize legroom or move the split rear seats forward to increase cargo space behind the seats. The second row seats include reclining backrests and a folding centre armrest with two cupholders. As usual, the outboard seats are more comfortable than the centre seat, but the rear floor is almost flat and there are three rear head restraints, the centre one lower for better driver visibility. The second-gen Rogue has wider rear door openings and rear doors that open out 77 degrees to allow easy access to the rear seats (and easier walk-thru to the third row if equipped).

The availability of a two-person third row 50/50 split seat (available only in the SV AWD as part of the $2,050 Family Tech Package) adds to the Rogue’s appeal as a family vehicle. Parents with large families or extended families, and parents who carpool will find that extra rear seat handy for the little ones. I say “little ones” because the third row seat isn’t really comfortable for adults even though the second row seats can be slid forwards (individually) to increase legroom. The reason is the third row floor height is higher, the cushion is lower and headroom is reduced, and the seat cushions aren’t as comfortable.

Cargo space behind the optional third row seat is limited (266L), but when it is folded down, cargo area behind the second row seats is generous (906). And with the second and third row seatbacks folded down, the cargo area is a cavernous 1,982L though not the best in its class. The Rogue also features a front passenger seatback that reclines almost flat, creating a long load floor up to eight feet long. But it’s a pity that there are no levers in the cargo area to drop the rear seatbacks – it must be done by pulling up on levers on top of the seatbacks.

Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide cargo system is pure genius. Available in Rogues with two rows of seats, removable rear cargo floor panels can be arranged in various configurations. They can be lowered a couple of inches to increase cargo volume or placed in dedicated slots at a higher level, creating a two-level cargo compartment. As well, the cargo floor panels can also be positioned at an angle or positioned vertically to act as a barrier to keep items from sliding around. The Rogue’s cargo area also includes a 12-volt power outlet, cargo hooks, and a sliding privacy cover that can be removed if necessary for tall items. There is a temporary spare tire under the cargo floor. My only criticism of the cargo area is that the plastic side walls are not protected from damage by solid objects that may be sliding around the trunk.

The rear cargo opening is large and has a low loading height. Our SL AWD tester had the power tailgate which can be opened and closed remotely with the keyfob or closed by pressing a button on the inside of the tailgate. The rear bumper is body coloured and I would recommend a plastic sill guard to avoid scratching the paint when loading cargo.

Powering the Rogue is Nissan’s familiar 170 hp 2.5L four cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. The Rogue’s horsepower and torque figures are comparable with its four-cylinder competitors and performance could be described as “adequate”’, but the Rogue’s engine sounds thrashy under hard acceleration. That’s due in part to the CVT’s need to maintain constant revving while accelerating, but it’s also because the Rogue’s engine is noisier than some of its competitors engines, notably the Honda CR-V’s. Still, under light acceleration and when cruising, the Rogue’s powertrain is very quiet because of the engine’s low revs. At 100 km/h, the engine turns over just 2,000 rpm.

The second generation Rogue has the same engine as the first generation Rogue, but its towing capacity of 454 kg (1,000 lb) has been reduced from 680 kg (1,500 lb). This might be a drawback for some prospective owners who tow recreational trailers.

The Rogue’s CVT is improved from Nissan’s earlier versions. On take-off, it grips quickly and propels the Rogue with minimal slippage and droning unless you really floor it. The sensation is very smooth because there are no gearshifts. When descending steep hills, you will notice the engine speed up because the CVT “downshifts” for engine braking. A Sport mode can be activated to raise engine revs and increase throttle responsiveness thereby providing quicker acceleration; and new for 2015, an Eco mode button softens throttle responsiveness to improve fuel economy. But honestly, I didn’t notice much difference between Eco and Normal modes.

The EPA rates the Rogue AWD at 9.4 city/7.4 hwy which bests the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester, but not the thrifty Honda CR-V with 9.0 city/7.1 hwy. During my week with the Rogue AWD, I was seeing city and highway fuel economy numbers similar to the EPA’s. The Rogue with front-wheel drive is rated at 9.0 city/7.1 hwy.

The Rogue’s all-wheel drive system is basically invisible to the driver and passengers – up to 50 percent of the power can be diverted to the rear wheels when necessary to maintain traction and stability. In addition, Active Trace Control uses sensors to brake individual wheels to prevent understeer and oversteer when cornering. Combine that with standard traction and stability control, and you’ve got a lot of friends on your side should the roads get slippery.

The 2015 Rogue includes standard Hill Start Assist that keeps the Rogue from rolling back when starting out on steep hills, and a driver-selectable Hill Descent mode which automatically brakes the vehicle when descending a really steep grade. The latter is designed to prevent the driver from locking up the brakes and sliding out of control. As well, an AWD Lock button locks up the drive-train to provide maximum traction at slow speeds in severe conditions such as mud, gravel or deep snow. Both these latter features are well worth having when you need them and not every vehicle in this class has them.

To warn the driver of impending collisions, the Rogue is available with a number of safety systems in the optional Premium Package: Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Moving Object Detection and Forward Collision Warning. Blind Spot Warning will activate a warning light near the mirror if another vehicle is travelling in either blind spot, and an attempt to change lanes will activate a warning sound. If you drift or veer into another lane without signaling, Lane Departure Warning will issue a warning sound. If a vehicle is passing behind you while you are reversing, Moving Object Detection will warn you. And if you approach a vehicle in front too quickly, Forward Collision Warning will chastise you aurally and visually.

The Rogue is not an exciting vehicle to drive, but acceleration is adequate, it has a comfortable ride, the steering is nicely weighted for ease of parking, and it’s quiet on the freeway. Rogues include a fully independent suspension and standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist. 17-inch tires are standard on S and SV trims but our SL tester had beefy 225/60R18-inch Yokohama Ice Guard winter tires which offered a quiet ride and secure grip in rainy weather.

The 2015 Rogue is available in seven exterior colours: Brilliant Silver, Graphite Blue, Pearl White, Midnight Jade, Gun Metallic, Super Black and Cayenne Red. The interior is offered in two shades: Charcoal and Almond.

2015 Nissan Rogues are assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/60,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance
Model Tested 2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD
Base Price $31,298
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,750
Price as Tested $36,083
Optional Equipment
Premium Package (seven-inch colour touchscreen, navigation system, voice recognition for navigation and audio, Bose audio system with nine speakers; Sirius/XM satellite radio and Traffic; speed-sensitive volume control; Around-View monitor; LED headlights with automatic leveling; four-way power front passenger seat; welcome lighting; power liftgate; blind-spot warning, lane departure warning, moving object detection, forward collision warning )- $2,800, metallic pearl paint -$135.