First drive: 2017 Nissan Rogue [Review]

Nissan\'s compact crossover gets a refresher.

Would you believe that the Nissan Rogue is nearly a decade old? The first generation was introduced in 2007 as a 2008. The current Rogue dates to 2013 (2014 MY) and the 2017 model represents the crossover's first significant update since that clean-sheet redesign. The 2017 Rogue is Nissan's latest rollout in its "Year of the Truck" overhaul push. Like the Pathfinder, it's merely a refresh rather than a redesign, but it's no less important to the company's product strategy.

How much does this matter? Nissan invited us down to Greensboro, Georgia, to see for ourselves.

FundamentalsThe Rogue is Nissan's entry in the hyper-competitive compact crossover segment. It competes with the likes of the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4, the Mazda CX-5 and the Chevy Equinox (among many others). Unlike its principle competition, however, the Rogue has been offered in a three-row configuration since its 2014-model-year overhaul. Nissan admits the take rate is low (one Nissan representative claimed it's only around 7 percent), but the option is there for those who want it.

That shines through in the Rogue's wheelbase (nearly two inches longer than a RAV4's) and overall length, but while it's large for the class, it's not even remotely in the same league as a midsize SUV.

Under the hood, you'll find a 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder that makes 175lb-ft of torque. It's mated to Nissan's ubiquitous Xtronic CVT. Per Nissan's estimates, that combo is good for an estimated 26 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway and 29 combined in the standard front-wheel-drive configuration. All-wheel-drop bumps that down to 25 city, 32 highway and 28 combined.

The changesThe Rogue's exterior overhaul was fairly minor. The front and rear bumpers received attention, along with the grille and exterior lighting. Most notably, the Rogue's LED lighting "signature" was inverted for a new (and in our view, more attractive) look. The 2017 Rogue also gets new wheel designs for all three available sizes.

Nissan also took the opportunity to add several new comfort, safety and convenience features. Highlights include the availability of a heated steering wheel, a motion-activated liftgate, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. SL-package cars also get access to advanced high beam control.

Inside, the cloth seats received new upholstery and memory seats and mirrors are now available. The center console and trim finishers were also redesigned to help freshen up the interior.

Two directions

While the compact crossover segment may be thriving, the expansion of hybrid technology within the class is surprisingly stagnant. Since the departure of the Escape Hybrid with that car's redesign in 2012, the only major automaker to take a swing at the affordable hybrid crossover formula has been Toyota, who introduced the RAV4 Hybrid just a year ago.

Yes, that's the roundabout way of saying Nissan decided to throw its hat in the ring with the 2017 Rogue refresh. And while Rogue Hybrids were on hand for evaluation during this event, you'll have to wait until later in the month for driving impressions, so stay tuned.

On the roadFrom a behind-the-wheel perspective, the gasoline-powered 2017 Rogue is unchanged. Sure, the view is a little better (the new, sportier steering wheel is nice to look at and feels just as pleasant), but the driving experience is the same.

We've always found the Rogue to have above-average steering for the class. It should come as no surprise that such remains the case. In terms of the typical consumer experience, this manifests itself most obviously with the Rogue's willingness to hold a steady line down even a crowned country road, never once wandering without warning. This isn't the sort of car where a half-second's distraction from the road will result in a meandering drift into a neighboring lane.

From an enthusiast's perspective, it means you can toss the Rogue into corners predictably and consistently. This isn't a sporty car, but it's not just a rolling lounge chair either. It's not quick; a glance at the numbers is all it really takes to arrive at that conclusion. 170 horsepower and 3,600lbs (in AWD guise) is not a formula for sprightly acceleration, but the power is adequate for most day-to-day situations. A CVT is rarely our first choice for driving excitement; Nissan's Xtronic meets our expectations in that regard, but we do find it a more pleasant companion here than in, say, the Sentra, where despite various measures taken to improve the car's NVH, its mass simply doesn't keep the vibrations at bay.

Our time with the conventional Rogue left us eager to sample the Hybrid model. Look for our review of that in a few weeks when Nissan lifts the embargo on driving impressions.

Leftlane's bottom lineThe Rogue is a surprisingly versatile entry in a class of entirely conventional crossovers. Its third row gives it a practicality edge on its competitors, but if you care more about driving dynamics than the ability to occasionally carry an extra child or two, there are sportier options out there.

2017 Nissan Rogue SL AWD, base price $TBD.

Exterior photos by Byron Hurd. Interior photos courtesy of Nissan.

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