2015 Nissan Murano Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
An honest and useful family crossover, now with more panache.
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide
When it debuted for 2003, the Nissan Murano was notable for not even pretending to be a rough-and-tough truck SUV. Introduced with an "adventures in on-roading" theme, in direct to the offroad-ready image and marketing still being used by competitors, it was just what many people wanted -- a stylish, comfortable, and versatile vehicle with plenty of space inside a footprint that was still small enough to be easily maneuverable and parkable in tight urban and suburban environments.
Model year 2009 saw the second generation, which took advantage of improvements to the underlying chassis structure and development of Nissan's 3.5-liter V6 engine and "Xtronic" continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Externally, it looked almost unchanged, although all body panels were new.
The third-generation 2015 Murano will not be mistaken for an older example. Or for anything else this side of a prop in a science-fiction movie. Its styling is even more revolutionary than that of the 2003 model was in its day, and is little-changed from Nissan's Resonance concept vehicle shown at the 2013 North American International Auto Show.
Futuristic exterior styling and the "social lounge" interior, both with most all of currently-available technology either standard or available, grab immediate attention. Underneath, the newest Murano is more conventional. The unibody structure is the latest iteration of Nissan's "D" platform, a development of what was under the second-generation Murano. And power is still from a 3.5-liter V6, still producing 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque to the front or all wheels through a CVT. The Murano was always designed expressly for the North American market, although the previous generations were built in Japan. The 2015 Murano is assembled in a Nissan facility in Canton, MS.
The Murano S is the "base" model. The SV adds navigation, power front seats, an eight-inch color touchscreen, roof rails, and more. SL gets you leather and an 11-speaker Bose® audio system, blind-spot warning, the Around View® monitor, and further upscale amenities. At the top is the Platinum, with 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate-controlled front and heated outboard rear seats, a heated power steering wheel, power-folding rear seats, and more. All are offered with front- or all-wheel drive.
As is usual, my test example was a fully-equipped, top-of-the-line AWD platinum in the signature "Pacific Sunset" metallic orange scheme . It attracted attention wherever I went. Yes, it looks radically different, from anything on wheels in this country, at least, but over the road it is far more familiar. It's still a Nissan Murano, with all of the comfort and convenience that implies. Yes, there's less ground clearance -- now 6.9 inches, down from 7.4 -- but you weren't really going to do the Rubicon, were you? Wheelbase is the same, but overall length has grown a few inches -- and that is put to use in the cargo area. I'm more than a bit jaded by all of the gizmos and gadgets in the cars, but the Around View system was very useful -- especially when going from bright sunshine and windshield glare into a dark, steep driveway into an underground parking garage. No worries, and no need to poke my head out the side window and try to see in difficult lighting. Just use the camera in the grille to see what's in there, and no painful scrapes or gouges. It also works in tight parallel parking situations.
The new Murano may look wildly different -- as did the original in its day -- but underneath, it's familiar and has everything that has made it a class standard.
APPEARANCE: You want presence? Here, you get Presence, capital P. "Future flight" was allegedly the main influence on the styling, with the "V-Motion" grille, 370Z-inspired "boomerang" head- and tail-lights, thin, sculpted, piano-black B-, C-, and D-pillars making for the "floating" roof. It's complex but cohesive, combining both sports car and SUV cues with recognizable Nissan design elements. Attention to detail, including underbody airflow, means slippery aerodynamics, and the coefficient of drag has decreased from the previous 0.37 to 0.31. Which helps reduce fuel consumption. As a bonus, stability in strong winds is very good.
COMFORT: Interior design fits well with the exterior, but does not sacrifice functionality and comfort to style. Complex flowing forms and multiple textures and materials provide visual interest without distraction. The dark textured anti-glare material used for the top of the dash and doors is not unusual. Nor are the lighter materials used for lower trim, including leather on the seats and steering wheel. Or the metal-look trim around the vents, instruments, and center stack. But where other cars in this class use faux wood, faux carbon fiber, or piano black glossy trim, Nissan uses… so that's where the Duncan Mardi Gras yo-yo that I had as a kid ended up? Charmingly different! The high-eyepoint seating position is familiar, and Nissan claims the front and outboard rear seats were inspired by NASA research. They do provide high levels of comfort. Here, both fronts are power-adjustable, as is the steering wheel. Sections of the 60/40 rear seatback are power-up, but not down. A flat floor and reasonable width mean the rear seat is more than acceptable for three, and rear passengers get the best view through the panoramic moonroof.
Back up front, instrumentation is complete and then some, with bright "Fine Vision" gauges separated by an information display. The center stack is dominated by a large touchscreen, which is surrounded by well-marked hard buttons for its various functions. And yes, here that means map & navigation, audio, phone, information, vehicle settings and the like. Further controls are on the steering wheel. Useful storage spaces are found throughout the cabin, and a space-saver spare tire and subwoofer live underneath the rear cargo area. Access is easy with the power tailgate.
SAFETY: The Murano's unibody structure was designed and built with Nissan's Zone Body Construction, to protect occupants with front and rear crumple zones and a safety cage around the passenger compartment. Seven airbags - dual front, front-seat side, full-length head curtains, and driver's knee - controlled by the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System are standard, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system. Brakes are large antilock ventilated discs all around, for fade resistance, with electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist. Traction control and the Vehicle Dynamic Control system are also standard fare in all models.
RIDE AND HANDLING: It may look different, but there is little change in the new Murano's character and behavior on the road. None was really needed. As before, suspension is fully independent with struts in front and a multilink system in the back, tuned in the contemporary luxury-sports manner. Meaning moderately firm for good control, yet supple enough for long-distance comfort even if road surfaces are not perfect. Attention to details in design and construction keeps the interior pleasantly quiet, but not isolated from outside conditions. Steering effort is appropriately moderate, and the brakes are very good. The aerodynamic shape was primarily developed for low drag, improving fuel economy, but it is also stable in strong, gusty winds.
PERFORMANCE: You were expecting an antimatter warp engine? Zero-point antigravity drive? A gas turbine? Save those for the movies or maybe parallel universes. There's nothing wrong with Nissan's proven 3.5-liter VQ35DE V6, and unleaded regular gasoline is far more readily available than dilithium crystals. As before, maximum horsepower is 260 at 6000 rpm, with torque peaking a 240 lb-ft at 4400 rpm. The latest development of Nissan's "Xtronic" electronically-controlled CVT sends that power to the wheels. Operation of the all-wheel drive system is transparent and there are no driver controls. Acceleration is good, with 0-60 in less than 7.5 seconds. A slight weight reduction -- 30 to 140 pounds depending on model and equipment -- helps both there and in fuel economy, which was around 23 mpg no matter what -- city, backroads, or highway. Interestingly, the latest version of Nissan's CVT has been programmed to simulate shifting under some driving conditions. It does work well, with none of the "rubber band" lag and windup of those used in less-powerful cars. Torque is your friend.
CONCLUSIONS: Radical new styling will get plenty of attention, but underneath that, the 2015 Nissan Murano is what is always has been -- an honest and useful family crossover, now with more panache.
2015 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Base Price $ 40,600
Price As Tested $ 43,955
Engine Type DOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with continuously-variable cam phasing and induction control
Engine Size 3.5 liters / 213 cu. in.
Horsepower 260 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 240 @ 4400 rpm
Wheelbase / Length 111.2 in. / 192.8 in.
Curb Weight 4017 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 15.5
Fuel Capacity 19.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular
Tires 235/55R20 102H m+s Bridgestone Dueler
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, EBD, BA, G-sensor standard Suspension, front/rear independent strut / independent multilink Ground Clearance 6.9 inches
Drivetrain transverse front engine, on-demand automatic all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 28 / 23
0 to 60 mph 7.3 sec
Towing Capacity 1500 lbs.
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Technology Package -- includes: power panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control, predictive front collision warning, forward emergency braking $ 2,260
Floor mats and cargo protector $ 210
Destination Charge $ 885