- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

Nissan hopes to widen the appeal of the fast-growing compact crossover segment when its all-new Rogue goes on sale in September.

Designed to compete directly with Honda’s CR-V and Toyota’s RAV-4, the Rogue bears a family resemblance to the Japanese manufacturer’s Murano SUV, but it is built from the same platform as the new Nissan Sentra. It will be formally introduced in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“This segment usually attracts empty-nest females,” said Mike Drongowski, regional product manager, “But we’re aiming at the young male in transition … a man in his 30s. He’s still hip and wants an attractive vehicle. But he needs more practical transportation.

“He needs to haul more stuff.”

Translation: The target customer is likely to be a married or soon-to-be married man who may be buying his first home and may be or may soon become a father.

Similar in size to the competition, the four-door Rogue will hold up to four adults in its two rows of seating and contain nearly 30 cubic feet of cargo space that can be accessed through the rear hatch.

The second-row seats can fold flat to more than double the vehicle’s cargo capacity.

Initially, the Rogue will have one engine available, a slightly less powerful version of the 2.5-liter, 175-horsepower, four-cylinder powerplant used in the base Nissan Altima. The only available transmission will be a continuously variable automatic.

However, the product manager did not rule out the future availability of additional engine choices, but said the limited space under the hood rules out a V-6.

Larry Dominique, vice president of product planning, said Nissan is studying a variety of powerplants throughout the Nissan lineup. He mentioned diesel power, a Nissan-developed hybrid powerplant and direct-injection gasoline engines.

The product manager noted that styling of the compact crossover segment has moved from an all-business boxiness to a more attractive, sleeker look. He believes the distinctive, Murano-like look of the Rogue will appeal to the male buyers.

Mr. Drongowski said pricing will be competitive with the same class of Honda and Toyota, and indicated that the base price will be about $20,000.

Although the vehicle is not designed for off-roading, purchasers will have a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Mr. Dominique expects about 56 percent of buyers to choose all-wheel drive, which will be bundled with additional features not standard on front-wheel-drive Rogues and will add about $1,600 to the vehicle’s price.

The suspension will have the same basic layout as the Sentra, an independent setup with stabilizer bar for the front wheels and a torsion bar with stabilizer bar at the rear.

All Rogues will have up-to-date safety equipment — front and side air bags for front-seat passengers, side-curtain air bags, side-impact beams, crumple zones and seat belts with pretensioners.

Standard equipment will include single-zone heating and air conditioning, power windows, a stereo sound system and remote, keyless entry.

Among the options will be steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, leather upholstery, upgraded sound system, sunroof and an “intelligent key” that will allow the motorist to lock and unlock the vehicle and turn the engine on and off without taking the key out of pocket or purse. A navigation system will not be offered. Mr. Drongowski sees the compact Rogue as a practical alternative to the larger, truck-based sport-utility vehicles, especially in urban areas. The company has not set a sales target for the new vehicles.

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