The Nissan Murano's bulbous shape gives it the practicality of an SUV with
the feel of a sports sedan. It's a luxurious and refined SUV that doesn't even hint at
having off-road ambitions.
Inside the Murano has comfortable front and back seats with
high-quality materials. Standard features like a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat and
dual-zone climate control give it a surprisingly luxurious atmosphere.
Thanks to America's anti-minivan backlash, even the tiniest,
wimpiest SUVs are advertised as rugged and adventuresome today. They're shown on TV
covered in mud, perched on rocky trails, and packed with camping equipment.
Well, at least one mid-size SUV doesn't pretend to be a mountain
climber. At a time when the harshest conditions most SUVs face are potholes and
thunderstorms in the city, it's refreshing to see Nissan call the Murano an "urban
Indeed, the Murano is designed simply for driving around town in
comfort and style, not looking like a gussied-up piece of surplus military equipment that
could move Mount Rushmore.
On the contrary, it's a sleek and sophisticated vehicle with a quiet
cabin, smooth ride, refined engine, and cornering capability almost as good as that in a
sports sedan. It's as if Nissan started with a world-class sedan, stretched the body, and
lifted it a couple of inches off the ground. Really.
With a powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine - the same one used in Nissan's
terrific 350Z sports car and Infiniti's impressive G35 - the Murano is a very capable
performer. It routes 245 horsepower through a continuously variable transmission (CVT)
that never shifts like a traditional automatic transmission. Instead, it constantly
adjusts to provide the perfect combination of power delivery and fuel economy - up to 25
miles per gallon on the highway and 20 mpg in town.
Despite its stellar engine and transmission combo, the Murano's best
asset is its suspension. It provides one of the smoothest, quietest rides in any SUV, yet
it feels surprisingly controllable and light in corners. Unlike the solid-axle designs
some SUVs use to travel on rugged trails, Nissan picked a fully independent suspension
that favors passenger comfort over Jeep-like climbing ability. It was a good move.
Of course, the Murano doesn't just have to perform like an
"urban SUV." It also has to look like one both inside and out. To start with,
its overall shape and curvy styling is like nothing else on the road. It has a sloping
front end that's almost reminiscent of European sports cars, along with an aggressive roof
profile and a back end that's just plain funky. It's a very innovative and eye catching
Inside, it has loads of storage space and roomy seating - the kind
that made SUVs so appealing for families in the first place. There are cup holders and
cubbyholes sprinkled throughout the cabin, including a lockable center storage bin that's
big enough to hold a laptop computer.
Nissan designed the Murano's cabin to provide "first-class
seating" for two couples, but a total of five people can fit - if three of them don't
mind being squished into the back seat. In this respect, it's more like a sedan than an
SUV, which isn't a good thing for back-seat space.
Interior quality is second to none, with tight fitting trim pieces
and fancy-looking materials. It provides a sense of refinement that feels exactly like a
mid-size luxury car, something hard to find in its price range.
Speaking of price, the Murano is either awfully expensive or
remarkably cheap - depending on how you look at it. If you compare the Murano's $29,150
base price to a Ford Escape or Honda CRV - both of which are, like the Murano, popular
car-based SUVs with smooth rides - it looks about $8,000 too expensive. Ouch.
But a more accurate picture comes from comparing the Murano to
slightly larger and more luxurious SUVs like the Acura MDX or Lexus RX-330. While the base
Murano comes with a long list of high-end features at no cost, like a 10-way power
adjustable driver's seat and dual-zone climate control, it's at least $8,000 cheaper than
the SUVs with the fancy badges. Then its pricing is very nice.
In any event, the Murano impresses for its ability to mask sports
sedan performance with the utilitarian features of an SUV. It proves that SUVs don't have
to be macho - and probably shouldn't be.