New features for Nissan’s compact crossover in ‘11

Sometimes the mind takes a turn that’s not on the map.

When I was test driving the 2011 Nissan Rogue this week, out of the blue, I had this crazy idea of what kind of commercial Nissan’s ad agency would come up with had it approached “Going Rogue” author Sarah Palin to be the spokesperson for their compact crossover.

While trivial, the thought was entertaining, although the agency would have to make sure the former Alaska governor and new reality television star stayed away from the production of its Nissan Leaf commercials, which includes a live polar bear. That might be not be good.

But back to the road map. For the 2011 model year, the Rogue has been refreshened inside and out and includes a number of new technology and convenience features.

For the first time, Rogue buyers now have the availability of Nissan navigation system with rearview backup monitor, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, USB port for iPod and MP3 devices, automatic climate control and automatic headlamps.

Other available Rogue features include Nissan Intelligent Key, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, XM Satellite Radio and Bose audio system with seven speakers.

There is also a standard drive computer that includes displays for distance-to-empty, average fuel consumption, average speed, elapsed time and outside temperatures.

Available in front- or all-wheel drive configurations, the 2011 Rogue is offered in three trim levels — S, SV and S Krom Edition.

With a base price starting at $20,830 for the S FWD Rogue, all models are powered by a 2.5-liter I-4 engine rated at 170 horsepower and mated to a Nissan Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). Requiring regular unleaded gasoline, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway for front-wheel drive models (22/26 respectively for all-wheel drive platforms).

Standard safety features include vehicle dynamic control with traction control system, electric power-assisted steering, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, dual frontal airbags with seat belt and occupant classification sensors, front seat-mounted side impact airbags, roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental airbags with rollover sensor for front and rear seats, front seat active head restraints, 3-point safety belts for all seating positions, LATCH child seat anchor system, child safety rear door locks, Nissan Immobilizer system and anti-theft alarm system and tire pressure monitoring system.

I enjoyed driving the Rogue. It’s small enough to easily handle urban driving situations and an absolute snap to maneuver into tight parking spaces, yet it has quite a bit of room inside to comfortably fit five passengers.

I also enjoyed its cargo flexibility. With all seats in use, there is still 28.9 cubic feet of cargo area in back, and when the rear seats are folded flat, cargo area expands to nearly 58 cubic feet.

I found the 2.5-liter I-4 peppy and more than capable of handling everyday driving needs while still yielding decent EPA figures and saving money at the pump. For those in the market for a crossover utility, the 2011 Nissan Rogue is worth a test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

MODEL:

2011 Nissan Rogue

5-seat compact crossover 

Front-, or all-wheel drive

Trim packages:

S, SV, S Krom Edition

PRICE RANGE:

$21,000-$28,000

ENGINE:

2.5-L I4 (170 hp/175 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

CVT

EPA: 22/22 mpg city, 28/26 mpg highway (FWD/AWD)

FUEL: Regular unleaded

SUSPENSION:  Independent struts with coil springs and stabilizer bar (front); independent multi-link with stabilizer bar (rear).

TRACTION CONTROL:

Vehicle dynamic control with traction control system

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 183.3 inches

WHEELBASE: 105.9 inches

WIDTH: 70.9 inches

HEIGHT: 65.3 inches

WEIGHT: 3276-3479 lbs.

TRACK: 60.6/61

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 15.9 gallons

TIRES: 16-, 17-, or 18-inch

CARGO: 28.9/57.9 cubic feet (behind second/first seating rows)