Saguenay, QC – Nissan has always been known to do some crazy things. Last year, the Rogue was their bestselling vehicle in Canada, selling over 35,000 units through 2015. Marking the beginning of 2016 though, Nissan decided to go heavy on a marketing campaign. Initially built solely for advertising and auto show purposes, the 2016 Nissan Rogue Warrior was made to pay tribute to the already-existent Winter Warrior campaign. This campaign originated in Canada but was later picked up by Nissan’s American division as well. I was flown up to frigid northern Québec for a unique look and special test drive of this one-off product.
Starting with a regular Rogue crossover (see review), the Warrior is raised 2” or 50mm, which is the most height increase it can take without messing with the suspension geometry. The rocker panels, fenders, and front bumper are also modified to take on the extra duty. The most obvious thing here though is the fitment of tank tracks, provided by American Track Truck. This kit is commercially available and costs about $18,000. What’s also interesting is that Nissan ships this Rogue Warrior around the country for various marketing purposes, and it’s transported on regular wheels rather than tracks. The tracks only take about an hour to swap out, making for a particularly simple experience.
I was given my initial walkaround by Carl Hermez of Motorsports in Action, and also caretaker of the Rogue Warrior. He briefed me on the truck’s behaviour, and how to successfully boogie it up the steep ski hills effortlessly. Despite the tracks and other heavy-duty gear, the Warrior is still powered by the same 2.5L inline four-cylinder as the regular Rogue. Nissan’s Xtronic CVT is equipped here, and as much as I’ve complained about it in other applications, it’s really in its element on this machine.
The tracks are 20” tall, and have a considerable impact on the maneuverability in small spaces such as parking lots. Out on the ski slopes of Saguenay though, the Rogue Warrior is an absolute beast. Its tracks coddle the soft, powdery snow like it’s nobody’s business, and the compact crossover powers through effortlessly. The traction control is disengaged, and the CVT actually pulls the Rogue up an extremely steep slope without getting stuck even for a second. I was told that it’s essential to hold momentum and power through without stopping, in order to ensure that you don’t get stuck. It’s a surreal feeling to witness the transmission working its magic as the tracks haul you up and down the slopes.
The only thing I was instructed to be extremely careful about is to not turn the steering wheel unless the Rogue is in motion. The tracks (48 inches long by 14 inches wide) would inflict stress on the tie rods and damage the steering system, so it must be done only while moving. When out on the snow though, the steering is actually quite light – it’s obviously heavier than a regular Rogue but not so much that it’s particularly difficult. The Warrior is no harder to navigate than a snow-prepped Jeep, just eons more capable in every regard.
Motorsports in Action is a race shop that did the conversion on this particular pre-production Rogue, and Carl insists that no expenses were spared. It’s worth mentioning that this is the same shop that prepared the cars for the Micra Cup. All of the Rogue’s powertrain and safety features are left intact, including the airbags, leather interior, and infotainment. Getting into the cockpit, the only noticeable difference between the Warrior and the Rogue we recently reviewed is the additional height. Due to all of the collected and packed snow stuck to the bottom of the truck, there are a few warning lights displayed – this is normal.
Nissan built the Rogue Warrior for marketing use, and to generate more interest in their crossover. The goal of this concept product is to get enough people intrigued and ultimately increase sales of their bestselling vehicle. However, for under $60,000 including the cost of the vehicle, it’s theoretically possible for Rogue buyers to do this conversion if they so desire. Driving this one-off amazed me and had me pondering a new thought. What’s the point in gearing up to the nines in winter wear to ride a snowmobile, when just as much fun can be had in a converted crossover?
First Drive: 2016 Nissan Rogue Warrior Gallery