Nissan's Rogue offers style and the security of available all-wheel drive for harsh New England winters.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we can’t ignore it. Anyone who stepped outside last week at, oh, about 6 o’clock in the morning already felt the cold weather coming. Snow will descend, probably, less than one full season from today. It’s time to talk about all-wheel drive.

The Nissan Rogue is a good place to begin the conversation.

With a starting list price of $23,650, the Rogue is a compact crossover wagon. A standard version features front-wheel drive. But an additional $1,350 adds all-wheel drive. Around here, that’s all anyone buys.

“We have never sold a front-wheel-drive Rogue,” said Bret Chavaree, who co-owns and co-manages Salem Nissan, in Salem, N.H., along with partner Dan Forget.

A few weeks from now, around mid September, the seasonal warnings will grow so strong that car shoppers will rush the dealership to prepare for winter by purchasing an all-wheel-drive Rogue, Chavaree expects.

I don’t think they’ll be disappointed. When I test-drove a comfortable, versatile Rogue last week, I recalled an experience in another Rogue last winter, when I ventured out during a light, early snowfall.

The roads were untreated, with about a half inch of slick, airy power covering the pavement. That can make driving more difficult than the deep stuff, because the thin, icy coating acts like microscopic ball bearings beneath the tires. Cars slide.

Sure enough, I could make the Rogue break traction when I pushed it to accelerate around curves. But it always recovered its balance promptly and returned me to a safe trajectory. I was impressed, and concluded that I could drive a Rogue with confidence through a Merrimack Valley winter.

Of course, with only a hint of cold last week, I couldn’t put my 2014 evaluation model through similar trials. But with two grandchildren visiting, I made car trips with 1-year-old Casey and 3-year-old Allie that thoroughly tested Rogue’s other big asset: its family-hauling capacity.

As a compact crossover utility vehicle, Rogue shades on the smaller side of wagons built to drive like cars, yet offer the ride height, cabin capacity and all-wheel traction of sport-utilities. But my test model handily accommodated an infant seat and a toddler’s booster on the back bench. Because Rogue’s rear doors are designed to open wide, loading Allie and Casey wasn’t a challenge. The backward travel of the front seat ahead of the bulky infant chair was limited, but not enough to cause any discomfort to an average-sized rider. In fact, the Rogue carried the two children plus two adults to Hampton Beach and, on another day, to Plum Island in easy-going comfort. Its rear cargo area was ample enough to keep a couple of chairs, boogie board, lunch cooler and totes holding towels and beach togs from intruding into the passenger area.

If the Rogue challenged anyone during those trips, it was Madeleine, another grandchild. She felt a little squeezed, but petite at age 14, Maddie still fit between the two bulky kid’s seats in back. On beach days last week, my Rogue performed as a full-fledged family vehicle.

At Salem Nissan, families account for the primary buyers of Rogue, according to owner and manager Chavaree. The model is primarily popular with young families, with smaller children who don’t yet need the extra hauling capacity of a full-size SUV.

One year ago, Nissan brought out the 2014 version of Rogue as a redesigned and re-engineered, next-generation version of the popular vehicle, which was first introduced as a 2008 model. Beneath a bold, crisply sculpted exterior, the new-edition Rogue delivers improved passenger accommodations, technological travel aids and engineering improvements that increase its appeal, said Chavaree.

“It’s been extremely successful,” he noted. “We can’t keep them in stock.”

Many shoppers are drawn by the model’s fuel economy, he said. Rogue is well propelled by a 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The new, 2014 model utilizes a next-generation continuously variable automatic transmission that is 10 percent more efficient than the transmission it replaces. Together, that driving gear delivers a government fuel-economy rating of 25 miles per gallon in city driving, and 32 mpg on the highway, in a all-wheel-drive Rogue. (The front-drive version does slightly better, at 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway.)

Another asset in the redesigned Rogue are its new front seats, said Chavaree. They use what Nissan calls a zero-gravity design. Based on studies of the human body when weightless, the seats are engineered to provide optimal comfort and support, with reduced bulk. Chavaree reported that seat comfort tips many shoppers to favor the Rogue.

The technology available in the car is another positive influence, he noted. Advanced gear, available on extra-cost versions, includes blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and front-collision warning. Fully equipped models utilize Nissan’s “around-view monitor,” which gives a 360-degree view of the Rogue when backing up. Shown on a dash-mounted display screen, the all-around image comes from four concealed, super wide-angle cameras on the front, side and rear of the wagon, creating a bird’s-eye view of the area around Rogue. It is combined with a moving-object detection system that sounds alarms when another vehicle threatens a slow-rolling Rogue in, say, a parking lot.

Combining comfort, efficiency, practical hauling capacity and a useful array of advanced driving aids, the redesigned Nissan Rogue appeals to drivers for an array of reasons. But in just a few weeks, local motorists will elevate all-wheel traction as its most desirable trait.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at


Redesigned as a next-generation model for 2014, the new Nissan Rogue is capturing car buyers with its combination of comfort, efficiency, and advanced travel technology.

2014 Nissan Rogue

Vehicle type: 4-door, 5- passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive compact crossover utility vehicle

Price range: $23,650 to $30,490 (plus options)

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty

Engine: 2.5-liter I4

Power: 170 horsepower at 6,000 rpm; 175 lb.-ft. torque at 4,400 rpm

Transmission: continuously variable automatic

Fuel economy: 25 mpg city; 32 mpg highway (with AWD)

Wheelbase: 107 inches

Length: 182 inches

Width: 72 inches

Height: 66 inches

Weight: 3,532 pounds

Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons

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