A 170-Horsepower Shrink?

Driving as a form of therapy? Sure, a pedal-to-the-metal run down an open road with the stereo blasting can get many a person out of a funk, but we’re not quite talking about that. We’re talking about what Nissan VP and GM Bill Bosley means when he states that the new Nissan Rogue CUV was designed to satisfy “both the functional needs of the buyer and his emotional needs.”

This 170-horsepower shrink means to keep you off the couch and in its “driver-oriented cockpit” (Nissan’s term). The crossover had better have a good list of unique qualities in order to stand out from its competitors (e.g. the Toyota RAV4 and the Hyundai Santa Fe) and its own Nissan siblings. The carmaker already has the Xterra, the Murano, and the Pathfinder in its lineup.

The Rogue, which made its debut at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is most obviously different from those other utility vehicles in that it’s not as large as any of them nor as well-appointed as the latter two. Its sticker price is closest to the Xterra’s, a vehicle blatantly aimed at a demographic that’s not only young and active but relishes getting wet and dirty. The Rogue is smaller and not as evidently utility-oriented as the Xterra – for instance, you have to discover its storage spaces, whereas the Xterra comes right at you with a basket on its roof and that signature first-aid kit bump barely disguised on the tailgate. The Rogue is also aimed at an ever-so-slightly older crowd: people in their early 30s vs. 20-somethings purchasing their first new SUV.

Nissan consciously means to satisfy those who still wish to live an Xterra-type lifestyle, while they acknowledge the increased responsibilities that a few more years of living has brought. And while this crowd was previously fine with the somewhat spartan equipment list – standard and available – that the Xterra offered, they’re now ready for more refined style and additional amenities. The Rogue’s optional heated seats, for example, might be very soothing to a back made sore by years of extreme sports.

Built on the Sentra’s C platform (that’s a 105.9-inch wheelbase), the Rogue is 182.9 inches in overall length and will come standard as FWD with AWD available. The cute-ute’s manufacturer prefers that it be known for its performance, which is fairly impressive considering it’s only available with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. The inline four’s 175 lb-ft of torque put it near the beginning of the pack of four-cylinder crossovers, and it comes close to the 2.7-liter V6 Santa Fe’s 185 hp and 183 lb-ft of torque.

The sole transmission in the Rogue’s two trims, the S and the SL, will be the Nissan Xtronic CVT, featuring adaptive logic control. Other standouts on its list of standard features include traction control, a complete system of airbags (including side-impact supplementals and roof-mounted curtains), active head restraints, and a seven-speaker Bose audio system with a 6-CD changer (plus a subwoofer and set-up for satellite radio). The Zone Body design will maximize occupant protection, thanks to its deformation zones.

The ride is kept in check by a front independent-strut suspension with large diameter stabilizer bar and a rear multi-link independent suspension, each with high-performance shocks with rebound springs. Nissan’s choice of the latter type of suspension left a little more room for cargo.

Some of the options you’ll be able to add to your chosen Rogue are AWD with yaw control, leather seats (heaters are available), a leather steering wheel and shifter knob, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, heated side mirrors, a roof rail system with detachable cross bars, a power sunroof, Xenon headlights, halogen fog lamps, the Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System, and the HomeLink Universal Transceiver.

It’s scheduled to go on sale in September 2007 at Nissan dealers nationwide. The price will start around $20,000 when it goes on sale in the fall of 2007, but Nissan will offer a long list of high-tech options for those who aren’t afraid to edge closer to the $25K mark.

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