2014 Nissan Rogue: Developing a Global Crossover
Taro Ueda, vice president, Nissan Design America, says that designing the second-generation Nissan Rogue crossover was a bit of a challenge for the design teams in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. That’s because the Rogue is truly a “world car,” with significant sales in other parts of the world. Since its introduction in the U.S. in September 2007, there have been more than 647,000 units sold. The vehicle, known as the X-Trail elsewhere, has had sales of over 800,000 units.
As is now the case in most design programs by global OEMs, there was a competition for the design of the Rogue (we’ll just use that name for simplicity). Although Ueda says “No particular design studio did it,” he also says that essentially, the European studio’s concept was the one that went forward, and, adds, “The Japanese team did significant improvements because it is a global product.”
He emphasizes that this isn’t a regional design by any stretch. “It is a Nissan design.” Ueda points out that other vehicles—like the Pathfinder, the bigger brother of the Rogue—is “more American. The Altima, too. But this vehicle is important in Japan and Europe, too, so it is more of a global product.”
From the point of view of the exterior, Ueda says that there were three themes: Visual Clarity, Dynamic Strength, and Smart Premium. As this is a vehicle that is more about suburban or urban driving than off-roading, efforts were made to make it have clean lines that evince an upscale product, yet there had to be cues—like the shoulders slightly bulging out above the wheel arches—that indicate this is a utility vehicle, not a station wagon. The front end has the strong center V-shape that is used both by the Pathfinder and the Murano, a significant shift from the egg-crate grille flanking a trapezoid with the badge in the middle. There are the now-obligatory LED daytime running lights up front and a hockey-stick-like light rear lamp signature.
There is a faster A-pillar which contributes to the overall improve-ment in coefficient of drag for the Rogue, which is 0.33, or about a 10% improvement compared with the first-generation vehicle.
Of course, sloping the windshield isn’t the complete way to decrease the drag counts for the vehicle. The side mirror shapes were redesigned; the forms of the rear roof spoiler, rear side spoiler, and rear combination lights were optimized; and the underbody gained a series of aero mods, including Nissan’s first muffler spoiler, a rear bumper closing panel, fuel tank deflector, rear suspension cover, engine under cover, and front tire deflectors.
One of the objectives for the new vehicle was to maximize occupant and cargo space. This was accomplished, in part, by modifying the overall dimensions of the vehicle. That is, the new model is 182.3 in. long, compared with 183.3 in. for gen-one . . . but the wheelbase for the 2014 Rogue is 106.5 in. vs. 105.9 in. for the previous, which means the wheels are pushed out farther for the new one. In addition to which, the 2014 is wider: 72.4 in. vs. 70.9 in. So, looked at in terms of occupant space, the results are:
It should be noted that the 2014 model, unlike the previous, is available with an optional third row seating. It should also be noted that in a vehicle with the dimensions of the Rogue, optional third row seating should be taken with an emphasis on the optional, because it is quite tight back there, as in leg room of 31.4 in., hip room of 42.0 in., and shoulder room of 49.3 in.
It should be noted that the 2014 Rogue is based on a new engineering architecture developed by the Renault-Nissan Alliance. It’s called a “Common Module Family” (CMF). According to the company, this is not a “platform” in the sense of being something that is a horizontal segmentation within a category, it is a “cross-sector concept,” meaning that it can be used for various types of vehicles. The CMF used for the Rogue is for the compact and large car segments—clearly “cross-sector.” This is the first application. It will be used for 11 Renault Group vehicles and three Nissan products. It will account for 1.6-million vehicles per year.
It consists of what they call “Big Modules,” which are the engine bay, cockpit, front underbody, rear underbody, and electrical/electronic architecture. Because there are common parts share, among a variety of models, there is anticipated to be significant savings for parts purchasing (~20 to 30%), as well as savings on engineering (~30 to 40%).
One of the initiatives that Nissan is undertaking can be considered “build-where-you-sell.” Bill Krueger, senior vice president, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Production Engineering, and Supply Chain Management, Nissan Americas, says that they’re working toward a goal of having 85% of the products Nissan sells in the U.S. built in North America.
The 2014 Rogue is part of achieving that goal. The previous model is built in Kyushu, Japan. The 2014 model is being built in Smyrna, Tennessee. Interesting to note that the Smyrna plant, which has been building vehicles since 1983, had five model launches in 18 months up to that of the Rogue. The other four are the Infiniti QX60 and Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, and LEAF. In addition to which, the Smyrna plant builds the Nissan Maxima. In the 30+ years of production, they’ve manufactured more than 10-million vehicles at the Smyrna plant. They’re running three shifts and two lines, and producing 60 jobs-per-hour on each line.
Although the 2014 Rogue is being built in Smyrna, the Kyushu plant is not losing a model. The Rogue will continue at the plant—the previous-generation model vehicle. According to Nissan, it “will continue in its lineup for the immediate future.” But it will have a (slightly) new name: “Rogue Select.” Scott Shirley, Chief Marketing Manager, Nissan, explains that the CUV segment has exploded in the last few years, and one consequence has been the addition of content so that the prices have risen. Given the popularity of the product in the company’s lineup (second to the Altima in sales), they’ve decided to keep the earlier version and price it below $20,000. The Rouge S FWD, the lowest priced 2014, starts at $22,490.
The Rogue has standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and VDC (vehicle dynamic control, a.k.a., electronic stability control). It has a new electric power steering system. It has independent struts in the front and an independent multi-link setup in the rear. There are front and rear stabilizer bars and standard twin-tube shocks.
And it has a suite of sensors and controls that add some functionality to all that. For example, there is what they’re calling “Active Trace Control,” which automatically engages the inner or outer brakes, depending on need, while turning to address understeer. There is “Active Engine Braking,” which, using the Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), applies engine torque to help slow the vehicle. (The CVT offers a 40% in friction loss compared to the previous CVT, which contributes to an overall 10% efficiency improvement compared to the earlier transmission.) “Active Ride Control” is something that might seem to be a function of the suspension setup, but which actually makes use of the engine torque and brakes to smooth out jarring motions. That is, when the vehicle is going faster than 25 mph and it is riding on an uneven surface, the brakes are automatically applied and engine torque adjusted so that there is better bounce damping than is otherwise achieved through the suspension alone.
(Having mentioned the engine: one is being used in all models. It is a 170-hp, 2.5-liter four with continuously variable valve timing control. The front-drive model is EPA rated at 26 mpg city /33 mpg highway/28 mpg combined. The numbers for the all-wheel drive models: 25/32/28 mpg.)