Just shy of the 150,000 mile mark our beloved old Dodge Grand Caravan entered its final death throes. We bought the silver van, affectionately called “Shrek” because the side mirrors look like ogre ears when it casts a shadow, new back in 2007. Now, just a few weeks short of a decade later it was time to go car shopping again.
My wife was the primary driver of the minivan, and while it served us faithfully through years of car pools, soccer tournaments, and family road trips, this time around she wanted something a little sportier. So we started looking at SUVs. When it comes to car shopping, it’s tough to make a long story short, so I’ll spare you the sordid details and just tell you we bought a new pearl white over black leather 2016 Nissan Rogue SL AWD. It was the last new 2016 on the lot and we closed the deal on the last day of the month at a deep discount.
The real test of any family car, in my opinion, is the first road trip. My nine-year-old and I stuffed the Rogue full of camping gear and headed 200 miles west on our annual camping trip to the IMSA races at VIR. Our Rogue came with dealer installed roof bars, so we borrowed the cargo basket from our Jag and threw it up top to carry our generator, gas can, cooler, and folding table. The rest of our stuff fit in the back with the big half of the 60/40 rear bench seat folded down. The Nissan accommodated an impressive amount of luggage and gear, but it looks like we may need to add a hitch and cargo platform to carry some overflow before our whole family of four goes on vacation together.
On the road the Rogue felt great, as you’d expect of any brand new car with less than a thousand miles on the dash. The seats are comfortable, the ride is smooth and quiet, and the factory sound system is great. Most new cars these days include a host of electronic features and driving aids, and while most of those features were not high on our list of priorities I did find some of them helpful. I particularly appreciated the Nissan around view monitor, which shows you a 360 degree birds eye view of the vehicle in addition to the back up camera when you put the car in reverse. Though it’s not necessary in everyday situations, with the cargo area and half the rear seat packed to the ceiling, the added visibility was nice. It was also great to be able to pair my phone to the car via bluetooth for hands free calling – and my son could be a part of the conversation, as the call is broadcast in the car. I did find the Nissan navigation system to be a bit cumbersome and non-intuitive. Some of the in-car features also require the paired phone to be running the Nissan app, which also gave me some trouble.
We pulled down an average of 27.9 mpg heading west towards Danville on Route 58, with Eco mode on and cruise set to the speed limit which ranges from 45 to 60 mph. That could surely be improved without a load on the roof. When we arrived at our destination we were not met with rugged trails, but there are some dirt roads, rutted fields, and drop-offs that our XJ8 would not have been happy about. The Rogue had more than adequate clearance for all of it, and though I locked the AWD when we left the pavement, I didn’t really need to.
As far as first impressions go, I’m impressed with the Rogue following our first road trip. The only part of the car I’m not sure I’ll be able to get fully on board with is the continuously variable transmission. It’s not an issue with the Nissan CVT specifically, I just can’t get used to that feeling when I put my foot to the floor that I’m driving the crappy go-kart at the amusement park. You know the one I’m talking about. You stomp the gas, excited to blast out of the gate onto the track with your buddies, but the engine just revs up to redline and the worn out centrifugal clutch takes half a lap to fully engage. That’s pretty much what a CVT feels like in any rapid acceleration situation. I appreciate the positive engagement of a gear change and instant torque, and that’s missing in this car. My wife doesn’t seem to mind it though, and she’ll be putting most of the miles on the Rogue. If she’s happy, so am I, and frankly, there’s not much else to fault on this car.
Our mpg average dropped to 24 on the way home without the Eco setting, and driving a few mph over the limit. We arrived home safely after an awesome four days of adventure, wondering where the road will take us next. It doesn’t get much better than that.