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2014 Nissan Rogue SL AWD certainly handsome>

When Nissan changed the looks of its Rogue mid-size crossover utility vehicle (CUV) last year for the first time since the model’s 2008 introduction, they shot product photography close to where I live. I had a first look and thought the new Rogue was certainly handsome, albeit larger than the departing model.

The 2014 Nissan Rogue SL AWD is modestly bigger, giving it sizing similar to Ford’s Explorer and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee – I thought Nissan’s larger Murano was intended to compete against those two, while the Rogue fights the smaller CUVs out there? Intended for growing families, there’s more space in the rear of the cabin and, for the first time Nissan is able to offer a third-row of seats with its family package.

This 3552-pound Rogue SL AWD, equipped with all-wheel-drive has a single engine available: a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder 16-valve unit with 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4400; redline is 6400 rpm. The only transmission is a CVT. Nissan has relied on these units for years and improved its Xtronic CVT, but this type of transmission is satisfying only in providing superior mileage to a standard automatic transmission.
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The very capable independent strut and multi-link suspensions handle all road imperfections without complaint and deliver a forgiving ride that does allow the driver good road feel. Its speed-sensitive electric power steering is one of the better units available. Nissan fits Dunlop 225/60R 18-inch rubber on 10-spoke windmill wheels.

This Brilliant Silver on charcoal leather Rogue SL AWD went from Long Beach to Sonoma, CA and back and yes, it’s got wonderful road manners. The Rogue remains in front-wheel-drive mode except as needed for AWD; a light tap on the Lock button helps in slippery conditions (which we never saw in mid-summer). In nearly 1000 miles in a week and a day, we averaged close to 29 mpg in mostly highway driving; the Rogue SL AWD is rated at 25/32/28 mpg from its 14.5-gallon tank.
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There were a few options on the Rogue that took its $30,490 (including destination) start price to $32,990. The Smyrna, TN-produced Rogue has a rear bumper protector, roof rail cross bars, floor mats front and rear and an SL premium package that includes a panoramic, one-touch moonroof, LED auto-leveling headlights, blind spot, lane departure, forward collision and moving object warnings and detection. While I’m not a big fan of “nanny” systems, they work on this vehicle – even with its reasonable rearward vision.

Cargo space is enlightening: with rear seats upright there’s 39.3 cubic feet and with them folded that increases to 70 cubic feet. There is no cargo cover but dark rear glass offers plenty of privacy. Rear seats are comfy and elevated, seatback pockets are provided along with airflow vents.
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Nissan uses a proximity key for the Rogue that opens all doors; the hatch is power-driven and released by touch, fob or remote release. The moonroof’s shade retracts when the roof is tilted or opened and returns when closed. Seams and closures are excellent; I love that Nissan fits large sun visors for those early morning/late afternoon glare times.

Cup holders abound through the massive interior cabin space, and the driver gets full power seating including lumbar while the front passenger has manual settings. Front seats offer very good support for long trips; I wasn’t bent after 3-4 hours behind the wheel. Only the driver’s window has one-touch settings.

The steering wheel has audio and trip computer on the left, cruise and phone on the right. The cruise control can easily ratchet up and down by small amounts to suit traffic. At the base of the central stack there’s a good grippy area with 12-volt, USB and aux plugs, while the covered bi-level central storage has a grippy upper level and carpeted area below with a second 12-volt plug.

I liked the very crisp rearward camera and the fact that the blind-spot notification is on the door pillars where it’s easier to see, rather than in the mirrors.

The 2014 Nissan Rogue SL AWD isn’t the sportiest CUV on the market, nor is it the biggest, the smallest or even the just rightest. But Goldilocks’ three bears will fit in the rear seat along with all of their honey in the cargo hold, traveling comfortably wherever they want to go. If your family warrants a mid-size CUV and AWD is an important feature, this could be the vehicle for you.

Words and photos by Anne Proffit