I’m always thankful to get an early crack at a new vehicle to market, and that’s what I had with an early release 2017 Nissan Rogue SL hybrid.
Nissan has revamped the popular Rogue for 2017 with a new gloss black V-Motion grille, wider headlights and restyled taillights to freshen its look. Inside there’s a D-shaped steering wheel and now a hybrid model to put Nissan solidly in the hybrid market.
Rogue along with Altima are Nissan’s top-selling vehicles and Rogue has been a fine gas-powered model for years with its 2.5-liter I4 creating 170 horses and earning a reasonable 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg highway.
The hybrid model, which had not even had its price set when I drove it, features a 141-horse 2.0-liter I4 coupled with a 30 kW electric motor to create 176 horsepower. Nissan says its hybrid system will turn off the gasoline engine and run in electric mode even while on the highway if you keep accelerator pressure constant. With a slight increase of pressure the gas engine kicks back in.
An Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) is linked to the hybrid system aiming to further increase gas mileage. Preliminary EPA numbers put the hybrid Rogue at 31 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, right in line with a primary competitor, the Toyota RAV4 hybrid, which I drove earlier this year.
Still, here’s the main difference I found. The RAV4 feels peppy and eager to go, especially in its Sport mode, while the Rogue felt lackluster upon acceleration, even using its Sport mode. Never mind both have and Eco mode, as that further weakens acceleration to the point of stirring road rage from drivers behind you at you leave a stoplight.
There also is an automatic start/stop system that turns off the engine at idle. It engaged easily and didn’t cause much concern at a stop. Getting and staying stopped though was a bit more of a challenge in the hybrid as the vehicle tends to creep aggressively at idle. I had to keep my foot hard on the brake pedal to keep from moving forward at stoplights. All cars will creep, but the Rogue’s urge was stronger than most.
Rogue handles well and is easy to drive, but its CVT gives it little help when accelerating. Oh sure, it’s smooth enough and being a hybrid its overall operation is quiet too, but the CVT emphasizes the crossover’s underpowered nature. However, the Rogue is quieter during acceleration than the RAV4.
Ride is good too, not luxurious, but reasonable even on our roughest roads. There’s a little jostle, but nothing severe. Ride points go in Rogue’s favor.
However, and this could be a major point if you drive on highways a lot, road noise is high in the Rogue. In city driving I didn’t notice the noise transmitted from under the vehicle, but on a drive to Madison the tire noise and constant chirping of the tires over every tar strip and expansion joint became bothersome. Riders noticed and asked if this was normal. I’ve rarely heard such chatter in a vehicle.
Rogue is right in the middle of the crossover market with a 106.5-inch wheelbase and 184.5-inch long body. The RAV4, for instance, is slightly smaller.
Seating is comfortable with well-proportioned tan leather seats in the bright red test vehicle. The door’s and dash’s top are black but the rest of the dash, seats and doors were tan to give this a light, airy feel.
The driver’s seat was powered and had a power lumbar support, plus the front seats are heated, as is the steering wheel. The wheel didn’t get real hot, but was warm enough I could comfortably take off my gloves on the Madison drive.
Rear seats are roomy and comfortable, plus split and fold flat. Cargo room in back of the seat is good, but less than in the gas-powered Rogue by 4.7 cubic feet and smaller than the RAV4. Likewise with the rear seats folded room is a less than in the standard Rogue as the 200-lb. hybrid system and batteries to run it take up additional space below and raise the cargo floor.
Visually the dash is fine. Gauges behind the manual tilt/telescope steering wheel are easy to see. But the nav/radio screen is small at 5 inches and not terribly easy to use. It features six tiny channel select buttons on its left side and they do not work if you are wearing gloves. Even with gloves off I found myself pressing the buttons several times to get them to change a channel. The navigation system was much less detailed and helpful than most these days too, like something from the early days of GPS.
Climate control knobs and buttons for the dual-zone system are fine and the Rogue’s heater is a strong one. It not only kept my feet warm on cold mornings, it heated the interior quickly. I had to turn the heat level down regularly in fact.
There also is an auxiliary power connection in an open cubby at the bottom of the dash’s center stack. While overhead is a panoramic sunroof and power roof screen plus and SOS button in case you need emergency assistance on the road.
A few other pluses include a motion-activated power hatch on this SL, plus heated mirrors, a blind-spot warning system, rearview camera and 360-degree camera to help when parking, forward collision warning and automatic braking system and rear cross-traffic alert. There was no lane departure system on this vehicle, which is no loss.
I can’t help you with final figures on the pre-production test unit. As the hybrid is just now being released to dealers there was no MSRP for this one, but it did list a $900 delivery fee.
Know that hybrids always cost a little more than the gas-powered models of the same model. The hybrid Rogue will only come in SV and SL models, the top two trim levels.
A base gas-powered Rogue S with front-wheel-drive lists at $24,760 including delivery while and AWD model lists at $26,110. Moving up to the top AWD SL with a gas engine puts the starting price at $32,250. So the hybrid will likely cost a bit more than that to match what I drove. SV models start a little lower.
FAST STATS: 2017 Nissan Rogue SL AWD HEV
Hits: Good handling and ride with decent mpg. Quiet interior with comfy heated seats, heated wheel, panoramic sunroof, strong heater and power hatch.
Misses: Lackluster acceleration, too much idle creep, road noise from under vehicle annoys on highway, tiny nav/radio screen, mediocre nav system, tiny on screen buttons.
Made in: Smyrna, Tenn.
Engine: 2.0-liter I4, 141 hp, 30 kW electric motor, 35 hp, 176 hp total
Transmission: Xtronic CVT
Weight: 3,827 lbs.
Length: 184.5 in.
Wheelbase: 106.5 in.
Cargo: 27.3 cu.ft., (61.4 cu.ft. rear seats down)
MPG: 31/34 (EPA)
MPG: 27.5 (tested)
Base Price: N.A.
Major Options: N.A.
Test vehicle: N.A. (pre-production)
Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage