Spending three straight hours in stop and go traffic made me appreciate the need for an automatic transmission. Thankfully, I was in a Rogue SL front-wheel drive that featured Nissan's Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). Nissan's CVT is pleasant to drive. It's not jerky and it has a great responses time, and seems a perfect match with the 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine with 170-horses and 175 lb-ft of torque. The throttle response and pickup seem pretty good for a little four-cylinder. It accelerates smoothly and has the power to work around heavy traffic.
I second-guessed myself when planning to make a right-hand lane change. No matter how much I turned my head to look over my right shoulder, I couldn't see smaller vehicles due to the upward swoop of the far rear window. The window design lines look great on the exterior of the Rogue but caused a huge blind spot behind the C-pillar for the driver. Wouldn't hurt to have larger sideview mirrors either.
The interior dash buttons for the radio or climate controls are easy to see and clearly labeled. It's laid out simple and clean with just a few big buttons with big labels that tell you what they are used for. There's no need to guess when you want to jump from CD to FM radio. I did have a problem finding a comfortable seating position angle with the six-way manual driver's seat. I'm a short person with short legs, and I couldn't find a setting that allowed me to rest my right heal in the right spot. The way the brake and gas pedals are offset by an inch or so forced me to twist my bad knee when switching from one pedal to the other.
As to the color, I normally love vehicles that scream "Look at me!" but I didn't want people looking at me because of the Nissan's diaper-colored "Orange Alloy" exterior. This really is a shame because Nissan produced an amazing shade of orange called "Lamas Sunset" that was available on the 2003 Nissan 350Z that would have popped and looked great on the flat surfaces and curves of the Rogue -- would have made it look sportier and richer too.
How Much: Base price, $20,790; as tested, $22,520
What's Hot: The dash isn't too busy, 27 Highway MPG, large-ish rear cargo area
What's Not: The "Orange Alloy" color, limited rear visibility, off-angle pedals
Like this? Try These: Jeep Patriot, Toyota RAV-4, Saturn Vue
Bottom Line: The Nissan Rogue has all the right parts and pieces to make life good on the open road. And it's got a lot of bang for the buck.