While the Murano doesn’t qualify as small now, it looked almost infantile next to the normal body-on-frame SUV that roamed the streets when it launched. It also stood out because it wasn’t shaped like the others.
|1. Priced from $31,295 the top-trim Murano LE can slip above $43,000.
2. EPA estimated fuel economy returns are 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway for front-wheel drive models, and 18/23 mpg for AWD.
3. Nissan’s 3.5-liter V6 makes 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque.
4. Nissan added blind spot monitoring, moving object detection and lane departure warning for 2013.
Now well into its life, the Murano has remained much the same while many other vehicles have borrowed a leaf or two from Nissan’s book.
Little changed this year with the Murano, but what did will make a big difference to its target audience. It gets a host of available safety technology features that help to mitigate its poor visibility while putting it more in line with other modern luxury-ish family vehicles.
Those features include moving object detection, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. Any seasoned driver worth their license will tell you blind spots are about as real as unicorns, but the Murano’s funky shape still means seeing out can be a task of its own.
Whether you believe in blind spots or not, the little warning light is helpful to have.
Nissan takes a one-size-fits-all approach to powering many of its cars through its well-loved 3.5-liter V6. Tuned to a variety of uses, the engine has more than proven its worth.
Competitors to the Murano often rely on V6 engines to power their larger bodies without feeling sluggish. Those competitors also generally use automatic transmissions, but the Murano took a different tack with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the start and it’s stayed the course.
Low and behold, other automakers are following suit. CVTs are often maligned for being dull and unimpressive to drive with, but Nissan manages to mask their rubber band feeling.
Most people driving the Murano won’t even realize the difference between their car’s transmission and a traditional automatic. While the Murano likely loses some punch by skipping the slush box, its 260 hp engine is anything but a slouch.
Rated at 18/24 mpg with front-wheel drive it only sacrifices a single mile per gallon on the highway when equipped with all-wheel drive. Looking at those numbers the CVT decision becomes questionable as both the Venza and Crosstour offer higher digits while a turbocharged 4-cylinder Ford Edge claims up to 30 mpg on the highway. Even the larger Nissan Pathfinder offers 20/26 mpg in base trim.
Still, the car lived up its estimates during AutoGuide’s weeklong test, which involved a mix of both city and highway driving.
Priced from $31,295 including delivery, the Murano can come in a variety of trim levels, all of which are equipped with the same engine and transmission. Reasonably competitive in the entry level, people looking toward the higher trim levels will find there are other, better options.
Faux wood trim on the center console and door panel arm rests looks nice initially, but Nissan needs to focus on making them more convincing if it wants to justify the LE Platinum’s lofty price tag in the mid $40,000 range.
Similarly, the leather seat upholstery feels cheap, especially next to true luxury vehicles with richer feeling material. The seats have adjustable lumbar support, but they don’t feel as plush as a car priced this high really should.
At 36.3 inches, rear seat legroom isn’t cramped, but it won’t be claiming segment-best status either. Cargo room is solid at almost 32 cu-ft of room.
Those seats fold down quickly at the pull of a cord located at the hinge between the seat and high back, which comes in handy if you want to free up extra cargo space in a hurry.
As much as it feels like an awkward balance between luxury and value, the Murano still isn’t bad. The infotainment system and corresponding interface current Nissan and Infiniti vehicles get is a breeze to use.
Eight-way directional buttons are surrounded by an aluminum wheel that makes scrolling through lists and fiddling with the navigation system easy. It’s refreshing to use after so many others fail to nail the fundamentals.
Previous generations looked like automotive misfits and maybe that’s just because crossovers were still a burgeoning segment. Whatever the reason, the Murano managed to find itself in its current iteration. The grille might not mesh well with everyone, but it serves to compliment the car’s HID headlights and optional LED daytime running lights. Together, they help set the car’s looks off like a pocket square in a blazer.
If there’s a singular complaint with the Murano’s styling it has to be that it has a little too much in common with the smaller, less powerful Rogue.
With Nissan’s all-new Pathfinder offering more space at a better price, there’s little reason to recommend the Murano as a value option. Likewise at higher trim levels, where it’s hard not to look at the Murano as a big waste of money when a couple thousand more will put you in a comparably equipped all-wheel drive Lexus RX350.