The base for the 2008 Nissan Rogue small SUV is called the “Alliance C” platform; it also underpins the Renault Mégane II/Scenic, and Nissan’s Lafesta minivan, Sentra, Qashqai, and X-Trail. Despite the fact that the Rogue and its European cousin the Qashqai look similar, they are not the same vehicle—or even the same size. “The Rogue is built on the same platform as the Qashqai,” says Ken Kcomt, director of Truck/SUV/LCV Planning, Nissan North America Product Planning Dept. Common platform notwithstanding, says Kcomt, “the Rogue has a nearly three inches longer wheelbase, is slightly [0.8-in.] wider, and is 13-in. longer than the Qashqai.” The reasons for this disparity, he explained, are that Asians and Europeans prefer a more nimble vehicle, and that Americans like a bit more interior room.
That’s not to say that the Rogue is the roomiest competitor in the small SUV market. It isn’t. According to Anita MacFadden, manager, Competitive Analysis and Vehicle Program Development, Nissan Technical Center North America, “The Rogue is slightly smaller in terms of passenger and cargo volume because Nissan buyers favor style and dynamics over ultimate utility.” That and the fact that the Rogue does not—and, according to Kcomt and MacFadden, will not—have a third-row seat allowed engineers to shift both the front and rear seat passengers back for more leg room. This permitted the use of the space for other things, like an underfloor cargo organizer with detachable partitions and washable bins.
Though slightly smaller on the inside than its competition (the RAV4 has 5.1 ft3 more passenger room, while the CR-V has 2.9-ft3 more interior space), the Rogue has a lot of interior storage. In addition to the rear cargo organizer, there is a dual-level center console with multiple storage areas and four cupholders, and a massive glovebox with a removable partition. It’s as large as it is because Nissan engineers used a center-mount HVAC unit that doesn’t impinge on the space behind the glovebox door. In addition, the instrument panel—which is shared with the Qashqai—has large upright air vents to “ensure adequate air distribution to the torso and lap of front seat passengers,” something Kcomt and others within Nissan admit was a problem in the previous generation Altima.
Another thing missing from the Rogue is an optional V6 engine. “We pulled the powertrain from the base Altima,” says Kcomt, “to get the most efficient combination of power and fuel economy possible.” The 2.5-liter QR25DE engine (170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque) is coupled to the second generation X-Tronic CVT, and all-wheel-drive models add viscous couplings to shift drive rearward when slip is detected. However, it is designed to initially distribute torque evenly to each axle for better standing-start acceleration before reverting to front-drive under normal conditions. In addition, all Rogues have standard traction and vehicle stability control, ABS, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, and electronic power steering.
Though Kcomt and MacFadden would not be drawn on the subject, they don’t deny that many of the pieces used on the Sentra SE-R could be adapted to a performance version of the Rogue. Although the paddle shifters, engine, and transmission are in place, Kcomt says there is a bigger challenge: “It would be necessary to reduce the ride height and alter the suspension tuning to get the proper performance and feel. It’s really a question of whether or not there is demand for that type of vehicle.” When he alludes to the tuner-focused SEMA show, it suggests he already knows the answer to that question, and that Nissan will expand the Rogue’s reach beyond that of its competitors’.
Production plant: Kyushu, Japan - Total program time: 40 months - Clay freeze to Job One: 24 months - Design responsibility: Nissan Design Japan - Engineering responsibility: Nissan