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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
“the CVT feels like it's partially constructed of rubber bands”
“a bit raspy at high revs”
CVT is “one of the best we've driven”
“keeps the noise to a murmur”
Car and Driver
New technology will please some and annoy others. In the case of the 2009 Nissan Rogue, the efficient CVT is the point of contention for many.
All Rogues come outfitted with a single engine/transmission combination. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 170 horsepower. Edmunds tests the Rogue with the optional all-wheel-drive system and “accelerated to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, which is on par with other four-cylinder-powered compact crossovers.” Consumer Reports says the engine “gets a bit raspy at high revs.” Cars.com feels that the Rogue’s four-cylinder “outdoes both the [Honda] CR-V and four-cylinder [Toyota] RAV4 in terms of horsepower, and you'll feel it when you stomp on the accelerator.” The Toyota does have a V-6 option, though.
The Rogue gets power to the wheels through a continuously variable transmission, a unique setup that uses a belt and pulleys to create a transmission with no fixed gears and an infinite amount of gear ratios. These CVTs get better fuel economy than a conventional automatic but are designed to run the engine at its most efficient RPM—which often can be its noise peak, too. However, Automobile calls the Rogue’s CVT “one of the best we've driven,” and Cars.com points out that shift paddles allow drivers to choose one of six CVT positions that simulate a six-speed automatic. They find this feature “extremely beneficial.” Car and Driver says the Rogue “keeps the noise to a murmur.” The transmission can feel rubbery and lack quick responses, which Edmunds notes in the Rogue: “Feeling like it's partially constructed of rubber bands, the CVT can get maddening on the freeway, constantly raising and dropping revs like a yo-yo whenever the driver moves on or off the gas.”
Fuel economy is a big positive for the 2009 Nissan Rogue; it’s rated at 21/26 mpg (city/highway) with all-wheel drive; front-wheel-drive models get 22/27 mpg (city/highway).
The 2009 Nissan Rogue features electric power steering rather than the more traditional hydraulic-assisted steering. Edmunds considers it “vague,” but appreciates the Rogue’s “all-independent long-travel suspension that smoothly gobbles up road imperfections.” Automobile says it’s “commendably conventional-feeling, with just-right efforts.” Cars.com feels the “suspension provided a soft ride, which many 'sporty' SUVs abandon for a firmer one,” while Kelley Blue Book remarks, “the suspension kept body roll well under control.” However, ConsumerGuide notes that “washboard freeway surfaces can bring about annoying pitching and bobbing.”
TheCarConnection.com’s experience in the 2009 Nissan Rogue shows the engine to be willing enough, but the combination of the CVT and the paddle shifters lack the sporty nature that they imply. The Rogue's steering is noticeably sharper and more accurate than the Nissan Sentra on which it is based, but it's still not as progressive as hydraulic units. The right-sized Rogue does handle better than most small crossovers.
The 2009 Nissan Rogue’s unconventional transmission takes a little getting used to, but it has credentials strong enough for most.