The hill is way too steep. It’s the sort of hill usually featured in “Fail” videos on the internet, usually starring some hapless moron tumbling backwards down it either on his own or inside some crazy backyard-built off-road rig.
If you tripped at the top, you’d wake up… in hospital. But here we are, chugging up the hill in the Nissan Rogue. And I’m seeing myself the butt of a Daniel Tosh joke as I roll several thousand dollars’ worth of Nissan Rogue down a cliff face.
Not just any Rogue mind you. This one has been assaulted and reimagined by the folks at Motorsports In Action – the same blokes behind the Micra Cup cars. MIA is sort of a de facto skunkworks for Nissan here in Canada. The Rogue Warrior is a classic skunkworks car.
It looks tough, from the tracks, to the yellow and black danger tape stickers, the massive wide flared arches and the hilarious stickers on the door, each one showing a different thing the Rogue Warrior “conquered” including an animated snowman you might remember from Nissan’s ad campaigns.
Its stance in the snow is electrifying. It is eye-bulging, heart-racing, madness-inducing stuff. It screams “come have fun” in a way no compact CUV has any real right to do.
Looks insane, surprisingly tame
But as wild as the Rogue Warrior looks, it’s surprisingly standard fare. The donor Rogue has been lifted by two inches courtesy of spacers between the spring mounts and the chassis both front and back, plus lengthened shock absorbers have been installed. The traction control is turned off and the AWD lock on – it’s the same regular computer controlled viscous coupling, not a mechanical 4WD lock.
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Fenders, rocker panels cut away slightly, steering lock added to limit turning radius for clearance. Otherwise this Rogue is completely bone stock. And that’s how the Rogue Warrior surprised me.
“I think I can, I think I can”
The long, steep hill allowed us to see a side of the Rogue’s CVT I hadn’t seen before. When under load, at one point the engine noise faded and the urgent tones from the transmission all of a sudden stopped. I thought we were bogging now, about to stall, but a glance down showed us still trucking along at 3,000 rpm, making steady progress up the ascent. The CVT had found the right ratio and was now just sitting there, constant revs, constant effort. It’s what CVTs are supposed to be good for, but that often doesn’t translate to the stop-start herky-jerk of day-to-day driving. Given a constant load though, the CVT hits the 2.5L engine’s sweet spot and stays there.
Sliding, steering: same-same
Making our way back down the hill in the fresh powder the Rogue’s tracks became challenging. Not used to the way tracks grip and hold the snow I found myself using way more steering wheel than needed, which actually made the tracks skim across the surface and not turn. Better to keep the tracks as close to your travel direction as possible. The grip is phenomenal once you get your head around the steering, it’s a learning curve driving a car like this – and you definitely can’t use the throttle to steer. The tracks simply don’t spin up like regular wheels.
No, really. Why on earth would Nissan build this? Because why not, that’s why. In the words of Nissan Senior Manager for Corporate Communications Director Didier Marsaud, “This is fun.” The car isn’t designed to highlight the Rogue’s AWD prowess, nor the CVT – that one was just a happy accident. This is a pure “fun” marketing masterstroke. The sort of thing you get when you let crazy car-mad people tinker with things just “because it’s fun”.
So what did we learn?
Nothing really. And that’s why this project is so endearing. It’s joyful, playful and frankly ridiculous, and by being this way adds more personality and charm to the Rogue than you might otherwise get.
Sure, I learned that the CVT has more going for it than I ever give credit for, but other than that we learned just that you can bolt tracks onto a Rogue if you want to. But that’s not really the point either. Nissan has no plans to offer this as an upgrade, though if you speak to the folks at MIA – they might be able to hook you up.
It’s fun. We like fun. I had fun.