The 2021 Nissan Rogue has fake roof rails

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I am reviewing the new Yakima CBX Solar roof rack. I’ve mounted it on a Subaru Outback and my own Audi Allroad, while a new Subaru Crosstrek Sport is next. Unfortunately, the 2021 Nissan Rogue SV currently in my driveway won’t get a chance to drive around with Spock’s crate on its back.

You see, the Rogue has fake roof rails. Although they are seemingly rails, they are in fact made of plastic and lack the grooves needed to clamp rack towers. Instead, there are small plastic covers that come off with a flat screwdriver to reveal static mounting points. These vaguely resemble what you can find on various BMW sedans and even the Porsche 911 hidden behind small doors in their roofs.

I’ve never seen anything like it so I contacted the Yakima Fit team. Apparently the Nissan Murano has the same thing, but it fits heavily, as it were. “Nissan is rarely nice to us,” said fit engineer Taylor Thompson. Indeed, the Yakima website states that none of its rack systems are compatible with the Murano (Yakima has yet to “fit” the new Rogue).

While Yakima says it’s working on a suitable solution for the Rogue, Nissan will likely sell some of its own crossbars like on the Murano for a reasonable $ 370 (although dealers tend to charge accessories). The fact that there are two screw-in points, instead of the ones you find in those Yakima-compatible BMWs and Porsches, seems to be the compatibility issue. Now, no matter where the joists come from, at least the Murano offers a variety of Yakima racks that can be attached to them. I assume that will also be the case with the Rogue.

For its part, Yakima’s main competitor, Thule, needs a “Rapid Podium Foot Pack” needed for fixed or other unusual mounting points, and then an additional “Fit Kit 3141” designed specifically for the Murano. This is likely similar to the solution the Yakima fit team is working on for the Rogue. Together, that’s $ 338, with racks costing $ 459, $ 559, or $ 619 depending on the design. That’s clearly more expensive than Nissan’s, but they’ll also be more versatile, particularly in terms of their wider width allowing for more gear to be fitted on board.

In all honesty, it’s hard to imagine that many Nissan Rogue buyers will notice. Like the Murano, it is one of the least outdoor crossovers in terms of looks, character and capabilities. People who really intend to mount something on the roof seem more likely to be looking down Subaru’s aisle or perhaps the new, more robust Toyota RAV4 (bottom left).

That said, the fake rails are still curious. Part of the reason flush rails are becoming more popular (versus elevated ones like on my Allroad pictured above right) is because they’re lower, slimmer, and therefore more appealing to auto designers who don’t like to slap things on their beautiful creations ( see side view mirrors on concept cars). It’s curious, therefore, that Nissan effectively puts them on the Murano and Rogue, even though they’re not really functional … well, except they help create the look of a traditional roof rack when you pay extra for the accessory cross bars. It’s just weird.

In contrast, most versions of the Mazda CX-5, another decidedly non-outdoor crossover, have a “naked roof.” You have to pay extra for real flush rails. Those cost $ 400 and you would have to pay more for joists. You’re not as limited in choice or positioning as with the Rogue, but you’d lose less money. Maybe that’s the appeal in the end.