2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD Review
For the past century plus 20 or so years the auto market has seen fits and starts of revolution, but a whole lot of evolution.
Electric cars seem revolutionary now, just as hybrids were 20+ years ago. But when a carmaker has a winner, it often turns first to evolution to keep it selling like Minecraft among pre-teens.
So it is with Nissan’s best-seller, the Rogue, a compact SUV or crossover, depending on who’s doing the defining. Look around at the next stoplight, or as you drive through your neighborhood. You’ll see a lot of Rogues.
That’s because Rogue has been a steady Eddie, an SUV that most families could afford and that delivered comfort, convenience, and reliability. It still does.
But for 2021 it has been upgraded, offering 11 more horsepower, much more cargo space, a skosh more rear seat room, a stiffer chassis, new rear suspension, upgraded seats and dash and a sharply restyled exterior. When you’re already prom queen all you probably need is a new bouquet. Rogue bought the florist.
Let’s start with the outer appearance because Rogue got a lot of compliments at the gas station and from friends and neighbors. The body was tweaked to be pleasantly boxy — muscular in today’s vernacular, but with a two-tone paint black roof option and a perfect amount of chrome accents this silvery gold test vehicle absolutely sparkled in the driveway.
Nissan has added chrome to the tallish V-Motion grille, some new HD headlights and turn signal lenses up front, along with black cladding over the wheels and down the sides’ rocker panels, again with chrome accents, and chrome side window trim. The look is much ritzier than the previous model!
Functionally Rogue now features a unibody chassis that is stiffer than before, making it easier to tune the suspension. Speaking of which, there’s now a multi-link rear unit that will help in any off-road excursions.
Aluminum doors and front fenders save some weight too and a revised automatic CVT helps improve fuel economy. The tested Premium AWD model, top of the line, is rated at 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. I got 29.4 mpg in about 60% highway driving. Excellent for a gas-powered SUV.
It’s especially impressive considering Nissan eeked out a 10% horsepower gain to 181 horses from its stout 2.5-liter I4.
Plus you can select from five drive modes for slippery or off-road trundling. Automatic is the main setting, but there’s Sport to boost acceleration and firm steering effort, Eco to do the opposite and save fuel, plus Off-Road and Snow, the latter being a Wisconsin favorite. This model came with AWD to help full-time in sloppy conditions. That adds $1,400 to any trim level.
Power was good too, making a scramble onto the freeway simple and confident. Likewise the Rogue handles well, the chassis stiffening no doubt a factor there, so not much body lean even in high-speed sharp turns. Ride was ok, nothing special and felt firmer to me than my past test drives. That may relax a bit with a full load of passengers. I never had more than two aboard.
Safety is well considered here too with standard blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic braking, a 360-degree camera, intelligent forward collision warning, intelligent lane intervention and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The ProPilot semi-autonomous safety system has been upgraded too. That includes smart cruise control and steering assist to keep you in your lane. Plus now Nissan tells us, it’ll slow you by braking one inside wheel if you enter a turn too quickly and will automatically slow the Rogue on a highway off-ramp. Remember, GPS knows exactly where you are!
Inside, the Rogue is as handsome and comfortable as any compact SUV, the Premium model featuring thick leather seating, and dash and door trim. This one was black over a butterscotch brown with that orange-tinted brown for the quilted seats and tastefully trimmed in black. There’s a bit of fake wood facing on the passenger’s side dash, textured black trim on the console with brown sides and repeated on the door armrests. Satin chrome trims the dash and air vents and door release panels. This looks classy!
Rogue’s dash is pretty special too with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver that is adjustable to show items most important to you. The Premium also includes a head-up display and a 9-inch infotainment screen that was extremely easy to see and use, including large volume and tuning knobs.
Below that screen are easily understood climate controls and two large temperature knobs for the dual system. Here’s where you’ll find the heated seat and steering wheel buttons too.
Nissan continues to offer a flat-bottomed steering wheel in Rogue, which makes entering and exiting just a tad easier for knees. Oh, and the five shift modes are managed simply via a knob on the console.
There’s also a couple plug-in outlets below the center stack, and a wireless phone charger. This one didn’t work, but I read that some early models did not get this feature as there was a shortage of some electronics due to Covid-related work slowdowns. Wireless charging will be on future Platinum models.
Seats are NASA-inspired Zero Gravity shaped, which means comfy with good hip and back support. Powered front seats include a driver’s adjustable lumbar support and two memory buttons on the door. Rear seats are more comfortable than most with oodles of head and legroom and the cushions are a soft comfortable leather that feels rather cushy. Ahhh!
In back the storage space has grown from 32 to 36.5 cu.ft., with the rear seats in place, and 74.1 cu.ft. with those split rear seats lowered. That’s up from 70, so a nice gain. Also, there is a split cargo floor with storage under the covers. The hatch is powered too and can be activated by waving your foot beneath the rear bumper, nice if your arms are loaded with groceries, boxes or kids.
Speaking of which, Nissan offers a small-child friendly feature that rocks, 90-degree opening rear doors. They open so wide a parent can easily strap a wee one in a child’s car seat. Plus, there are manual sun shade for the rear windows to keep bright light out of Baby’s eyes. Brilliant!
Pricing remains broad and value-oriented enough that families should be able to find a Rogue to meet their budget. A base front-drive S starts at $26,745, including delivery. The popular SV model goes for $28,435 and adds ProPilot Assist, 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8-way power driver’s seat and Nissan Connect.
Move up to the SL model and you get 19-inch wheels, a leather interior, panoramic sunroof, motion-activated hatch, tri-zone climate system, power passenger’s seat and memory function for the driver’s seat and steering wheel. List price is $33,095.
The tested Platinum model with virtually everything including AWD, lists at $37,925. This one added a two-tone paint job for $350, illuminated kick plates for $400, external ground lighting at $350, interior accent lighting for $350 and a frameless rearview mirror for $310. I could do without any of these add-ons, except maybe the paint scheme. Total was $39,685.
This is a crowded market with a lot of great choices from the Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. But Rogue has put itself back near the top of the heap with its restyled, much-improved model.
Overview: 2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD
Hits: Sharply restyled, stylish interior, good power and handling, plus AWD. OK ride, roomy cargo area, easy to see 12-inch digital instrument cluster, 9-inch info screen, heated front and rear seats and steering wheel, 5 drive modes, flat-bottom steering wheel, solid standard safety equipment and ProPilot upgraded.
Misses: Wireless phone charger didn’t work.
Made In: Smyrna, Tenn.
Engine: 2.5-liter I4, 181 hp / 181 torque
Transmission: Xtronic CVT automatic
Weight: 3,371 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.5 in.
Length: 183 in.
Cargo: 36.5-74.1 cu.ft.
Tow: 1,350 lbs.
MPG: 25/32, 29.4 (tested)
Base Price: $37,925 (includes delivery)
Major Options: External ground lighting, $350
Two-tone paint, $350
Illuminated kick plates, $400
Interior accent lighting, $350
Frameless rearview mirror w/remote, $310
Test Vehicle: $39,685
Editor's Note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.