Cross­over’s ad­van­tages big seller

The Maui News - - AUTO - By DEREK PRICE www.cargaz­

Al­tima, Sen­tra and Max­ima may be the Nis­sans with the best name recog­ni­tion, but their im­por­tance pales in com­par­i­son to the one I’m driv­ing this week.

The mid­size Rogue cross­over has risen to be­come Nis­san’s top selling ve­hi­cle, eas­ily sur­pass­ing the sedans that once served as the bread and but­ter for this Ja­panese brand. It’s been such a hit that Nis­san spun off an ev­erso-slightly smaller sib­ling, the Rogue Sport, last year to give buy­ers a sub­tly dif­fer­ent twist and juice its sales num­bers even fur­ther.

Why has the Rogue be­come such a hot seller?

Part of it is sheer luck, as buy­ers’ fickle tastes have switched away from sedans and to­ward crossovers. If you want a trendy car for the fam­ily in 2018, you’ll shop for some­thing like the Rogue with its SUV-in­spired looks, up­right stance and big honkin’ cargo door in back.

An­other part is more log­i­cal, though. The Rogue of­fers some key ad­van­tages and very few draw­backs, both com­pared to its com­pe­ti­tion and to other ve­hi­cles parked next to it on your Nis­san dealer’s lot.

For one, it doesn’t have much of a price or fuel-econ­omy down­side com­pared to a tra­di­tional sedan. Un­like the SUV craze of the 1990s, which was fo­cused on huge ve­hi­cles that guz­zle gas and cost a small for­tune, to­day’s crossovers are down­right sen­si­ble.

The Rogue’s base price of $24,800 is within spit­ting dis­tance of the Al­tima sedan, and its EPA fuel econ­omy rat­ings of 26 mpg in the city and 33 on the high­way are miserly for some­thing this roomy.

That’s not to say it’s per­fect. I wish it of­fered a power up­grade, see­ing how its 170horse­power, 2.5-liter, four-cylin­der en­gine feels merely ad­e­quate at times. Its medi­ocrity is high­lighted by the power go­ing through a con­tin­u­ously vari­able transmission (CVT), giv­ing its ac­cel­er­a­tion a markedly rub­ber­band-like sound and feel when you stomp on the gas pedal.

Granted — and con­sider this a huge com­pli­ment given my loathing of CVTs — the ver­sion in the Rogue isn’t too aw­ful. Many buy­ers won’t no­tice the dif­fer­ence be­cause it’s thought­fully tuned to mimic shift points like a tra­di­tional au­to­matic. It’s also a big rea­son for the Rogue’s im­pres­sive fuel-burn num­bers.

My picky car-nerd gripes about the driv­e­train are off­set by a new fea­ture avail­able this year: ProPilot As­sist.

In this class of ve­hi­cle, with an as-tested price around $36,000 thanks to all-wheel drive and op­tions that pumped the cost up, I’ve never driven a bet­ter semi-au­ton­o­mous sys­tem. ProPilot As­sist can brake and ac­cel­erate in stop-and-go traf­fic, main­tain a set dis­tance from the ve­hi­cle in front of you and keep it­self per­fectly cen­tered in a well­marked lane. It’s also easy to use, with only two but­tons needed to ac­ti­vate it.

I found it com­pa­ra­ble to sys­tems found on dra­mat­i­cally more ex­pen­sive Volvos and Cadil­lacs. It of­fers a re­fined, well-sorted semi-au­ton­o­mous driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that I didn’t ex­pect from a ve­hi­cle at this price point.

ProPilot As­sist is avail­able as part of the Plat­inum Pack­age, a $790 op­tion only avail­able on the up­scale SL trim level.

Other up­grades for the Rogue in 2018 in­clude stan­dard Nis­san-Con­nect smart­phone ca­pa­bil­ity fea­tur­ing Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto, along with a new Midnight Edi­tion that of­fers a villainous, blacked-out look to the grille and em­blems.

Pho­tos cour­tesy Nis­san Rogue

The Rogue out­sells more long-run­ning name­plates in­clud­ing the Al­tima, Max­ima and Sen­tra in Nis­san’s lineup

The Rogue’s in­te­rior fea­tures good vis­i­bil­ity, am­ple cargo space and a roomy cabin for pas­sen­gers.

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