Unexciting, loud acceleration from its carryover four-cylinder is the least appealing facet of the 2014 Nissan Rogue. Handling? It's gotten much more confident.
The Rogue returns with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and continuously variable transmission (CVT) found in the first-generation crossover. Power output's still fixed at 170 horsepower, though Nissan says 175 pound-feet of torque put the Rogue at the top of the compact-crossover niche.
Dip deeply into the gas, and the Rogue's CVT modulates the gaps between its pulleys to simulate an automatic with an infinite set of gears. It's quicker and smoother to do that, but the Rogue doesn't have fixed ratio points--"gears"--or shift paddles to reach them, like our current CVT favorite from the Subaru Forester. The result is mediocre, 8-second acceleration to 60 mph, and a noisy pause at the productive end of the Rogue's powerband. It's actually more refined in some ways than the prior Rogue, but compared to turbocharged four-cylinders and automatics in the Santa Fe, Escape, and others, it's less satisfying.
Where the Rogue makes up serious ground is in gas mileage and handling. The EPA rates both front-drive and all-wheel-drive Rogues at 28 mpg combined, with the front-drive model earning a 33-mpg highway rating.
Just as impressive is the Rogue's transformed road feel, more secure and substantial than it had been. Electric power steering isn't the curse here that it is in some compact cars: it doesn't wander and hunt on grooved concrete, and takes to changes with smooth responses. The suspension's independent all around, and ride quality is very controlled--bordering on firm.
It's augmented electronically with new stability-control logic. In one application, it damps the accelerator to smooth out the ride over bumps (instead of surging over them). In another, it clamps the inside front brake in corners to draw the Rogue through them more nimbly. The effects can't really be sensed without comparing the same Rogue, disabled, though.
Seventeen-inch wheels with all-season tires are standard; 18-inchers are an option on the top Rogue SL.