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2017 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD - Road Trip To Nashville Review By Steve Purdy


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2017 NISSAN MURANO PLATINUM AWD TO NASHVILLE
Road Trip Review to Music City

By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau


Nashville is a city we visit often. There is so much to see and do and it is such an easy 8-hour drive from our mid-Michigan base. On this trip we’ll be traveling with my pretty wife’s brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Sue, from Northern Michigan, in the newest version of Nissan’s Murano mid-size, 5-passenger, upscale crossover. I considered Murano most improved when I reviewed it after its complete redesign about a year ago. It will be in its element, we think, transporting two couples on a nice, long road trip.

We easily filled the generous cargo area – 32.1 cubic-feet - with our stuff. We love traveling by car and staying in a condo with a full kitchen because we can take lots of extras, unlike when we fly. The Murano can swallow lots of cargo. For more serious hauling you can fold the rear seatbacks to get an impressive 67 cubic-feet of space. If that isn’t enough you can even tow a 1,500-pound trailer.

Our simple freeway route took us 550 miles south – I-69 to Indianapolis then I-65 to Nashville. Clear roads and light traffic made for one of the easiest sustained drives ever. We found this top-of-the-line Murano Platinum’s cabin a comfortable and luxurious place to spend time with full leather, a panoramic sunroof, unusual and attractive trim, reasonably simple controls and exceptionally well-designed seats, front and rear. Our rear seat riders gushed about the comfort back there, particularly the heated rear seats and handy fold-down armrest with cup holders. The cabin was not as quiet as some of the high-end competitors but still quiet enough for easy conversation on most road surfaces. Coarse surfaces like worn concrete with lumpy expansion strips caused tire noise to encroach on the cabin.


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The Murano’s powertrain offers plenty of power and sophistication. The normally aspirated, 3.5-liter V6 makes 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a most advanced CVT (continuously variable transmission). Invigorating acceleration gets us up to speed on the shortest freeway ramp and allows us to move as quickly as needed in and out of slower traffic. The CVT not only has artificial shift points programmed in but the talented Nissan engineers have added a neat throttle pause that makes it feel even more like a real shift. Road manners are excellent with good steering feedback, well-balanced suspension, a well-calibrated adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and all the driver assistance stuff you’ll want.


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We made it to our resort next to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel just after dark. Often in our travels we’ve found ourselves driving around looking for a place to eat eschewing any place with which we are already familiar (think Bob Evans to Cracker Barrel), or anything that looks like fast food. Nothing near the resort looked promising so we headed for the main drag a few miles to the south, US70/TN24. We were getting discouraged just as Sue spotted McNamara’s Irish Pub in a big old white house tucked away about a hundred yards down a side street called Old Lebanon Road. She had seen their ad in one of the resort brochures so the name rang a bell. And, what a find it was.


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We sat in what they called “the music room” where a darkened stage at one end awaited the traditional Irish music that would come later in the evening. The relatively simple menu had enough Irish favorites to inspire our appetites. I was particularly interested in the corned beef and cabbage but have oft been disappointed even in real Irish joints. Our charming server, Madeline, assured me the corned beef would be as tender as pot roast and the cabbage would not be overcooked. She was right. I ordered the Guinness onion rings as my side and savored all three. The others had Irish stew, steak and Guinness pie, an unusual chicken/basil/tomato soup and Irish nachos. Well done, McNamara’s! McNamamra’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on Old Lebanon Road (paula@mcnamarasirishpub.com)

The next morning we headed to downtown Nashville where the Convention and Visitors office at the Bridgestone Arena where the staff had city passes for us. The passes are available to the public and for one price provide admission to a couple dozen of the best-known attractions in and around the city. They can be a bargain if you’re going to visit more than just a few. Since our companions Sue and Jim have not been here before we wanted to help them explore some of our favorites. We’ll list them later in this narrative.

Along Broadway for about six blocks from 1ST Street to 6Th is what’s known as Honky Tonk Row. Live music flows out to the sidewalk through wide open doors at bar after bar all day every day into the evening as aspiring musicians ply and practice their art. Throngs of tourists and locals vie for sidewalk space and you may end up in a conversation with one of many engaging and harmless beggars or street people.


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Just a block off Broadway at 4th Street our first visit was to the famous Ryman Auditorium, original home to the Grand Ole Opry, and what they call the “Soul of Nashville.” Music is a huge part of the soul of the city and the Ryman was the most historic and prolific venue for a century and a half. The original building had been abandoned and ready to be torn down when it was brought back to life to be both a museum and continue as one of the most important music venues in the city.


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Nashville is also known for its eclectic culinary culture. I’m typically skeptical of anything ultra-trendy, particularly anything so trendy one must wait in line. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is one of those. Foodies rave about this historic spicy fried chicken place and, as a result, it is notorious for long lines. Fortunately, when we swung by Broadway and 19th Avenue, next to the Vanderbilt University campus, and saw no line we decided to find out what all the hype is about.


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Hattie B’s is an informal joint where you order at the counter then try to find a seat in the much-too-small, oppressively loud dining area with tent-style walls while you wait inordinately long for your food to be delivered. But, I must say, when it arrived it was exceptionally good. Sue and I chose the ‘hot’ variety - third of four heat levels - with some of the country-style sides, including greens, beans and grits, to compliment the ultra-crisp fried chicken. I don’t remember the last time I had a chicken breast that was still this moist inside or one with such an inspiring level of flavorful heat. We would surely recommend Hattie B’s, but try to find a less-busy time.

We had to park around the corner and way down the street. We approached the Murano as the daylight waned. That’s a good lookin’ CUV, for sure. This most recent redesign resulted in a much more dramatic style with sculpting more angular and distinct than anything in its class except perhaps the new Lexus RX. Our test car is a lovely dark blue but the intermittent rain on the way down has dulled it a bit. The big, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels, cool floating roofline and striking LED taillights set it off as something special.


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Another element of the soul of Nashville revolves around cultural themes – not just a mid-south country theme, but a cosmopolitan, multi-faceted, aesthetic theme. Around the turn of the 20th century the city was known as the Athens of the South. An huge, pull-out-all-the-stops centennial exposition in 1897 included a full-size replica of the Greek Parthenon to support that image. It survives today and houses a remarkable art museum as well as a 30-foot high statue of Athena. We found another fine art museum at the Cheekwood Mansion and Botanical Gardens where an impressive holiday light display (a million lights, they claim) cover the 55-acre grounds.


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History buffs will love the Nashville area featuring major interpretive centers like Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage where that larger-than-life general and president’s rich and controversial story is told along with that of his slaves. Just south of Nashville around the gentrified small town of Franklin (home of Nissan’s U.S. headquarters, by the way) we found the estate home called Carnton Plantation that was used as a battlefield hospital by the Confederate Army. We can still see bloodstains in the wood floors where frantic surgery was performed. Nearby the restored Carter House was at the very center of the Battle of Franklin with bullet holes in the buildings still evident. And, we later toured the mansion and barns at the Belle Meade Plantation where the pure-bred race horse business essentially began.

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More museums dedicated to music and musicians dot the area, from the huge, world-renowned Country Music Hall of Fame to the Johnny Cash Museum, to the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, to other artist-specific museums. For all our vintage car fans we highly recommend the Lane Automotive Museum where Jeff lane has amassed hundreds of odd-ball, mostly European cars that attempted to solve some transportation need in an unusual way.

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Another “must-see” attraction in Nashville is the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Conference center where they have acres and acres of gardens under glass and spare no expense in decorating for the holidays. Just be sure to save the exorbitant parking fees by parking at the shopping center to the south and walking through the events center.


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Our top-of-the-line Murano Platinum with all-wheel drive shows a bottom line on the sticker of $44,165 including the $900 destination charge. That’s about the same as the entry level Lexus RX. The base Murano will cost you just under 30 grand and comes with the same powertrain but considerably less luxury content. It is still a competent mid-size CUV equal to anything in its class.

The EPA estimates you’ll be able to get around 21-mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 24-mpg combined on regular fuel. We managed a consistent 25-mpg on the highway at speeds just extra-legal enough to keep up with traffic, and 22-mpg around town.

Our trip happened to be the week after Thanksgiving, an ideal time to be in Nashville to avoid the oppressive heat of summer and take advantage of the over-the-top holiday decorations at the Cheekwood and Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Get all the information you need at: www.visitmusiccity.com.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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