Napa, CA -- I’m not sure about you, dear readers, but it feels to me like the Nissan Murano has been around long enough to warrant more than just two generations. It probably feels that way because when the Murano was launched in 2002, it was a bit of a pioneer in the midsize crossover segment.
Nevertheless, 2015 sees the release of the 3rd generation of the popular CUV, which debuts with a new focus on exterior styling, luxury, and comfort.
2015 Nissan Murano Price & Specs
For the first time, the Murano is going to be offered with a front-wheel drive option not just in the U.S. -- where FWD models tend to do a little better -- but in Canada as well, in an effort to bring the starting MSRP below $30k. It starts at $29,998. Two dollars may not seem like a huge gap, but know that last year the Murano started at $34,498.
Before you think, “wow, 2014 owners won’t be too happy about that little development,” know this: the base 2015 AWD SV model still starts at $34,998, $500 more than last year. So really, the FWD is just a bonus. The real question, of course, is will the FWD sell in AWD-mad Canada? Nissan’s just happy they have a chance to reach the minority that are happy to have FWD if it helps their pocketbook.
Base S models get stuff like 18” wheels, LED DRLs and taillights, heated front seats (which are of the NASA-developed “Zero Gravity” variety, as are the back seats -- a first), 8” infotainment screen with navigation and back-up camera, dual-zone climate control, and hill-start assist. SV models ($32,998) add fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated steering wheel (Canada, rejoice!), power liftgate, and the AWD option, which brings your MSRP to $34,998. Next up is the SL ($38,398) which comes standard with AWD, 9-speaker Bose premium audio, Around-View monitor, power mirrors with memory, blind-spot warning, cross traffic alert and moving object detection, plus leather seats. The top-of-the-line Platinum trim ($43,498) adds 20” wheels (there is no 19” option) heated rear seats, power tilt and telescope wheel, forward collision warning and emergency braking, ventilated front seats and power seatbacks.
Inside & Out of the 2015 Nissan Murano
Nissan folks on-hand were steadfast in their estimation that it would be older, affluent customers -- likely with no kids at home -- that would be flocking to this Murano. After all, Nissan’s bestseller is the Rogue, a car they say is made for younger families.
It’s strange because Rogue or not, when I think “older and affluent,” I just don’t see the edgy styling, confident lines, and sharp detailing displayed by the Murano appealing to that sort. This is actually a very good-looking crossover; the new taillight and headlight lenses reflect a look originally found on the 370Z sports car, making the Murano one of the last Nissan models to receive that transition. There’s also a somewhat gaudier, more in-your-face take on Nissan’s V-motion front grille, and the blacked-out d-pillars in what Nissan calls a “Floating Roof Concept,” and it looks fabulous, as does the overall stance of the Murano, all canted forward and sporty.
Inside, while you don’t have a huge amount of choice with regard to your colour combos (which are literally black and white; grey only if you select cloth seating), it’s well equipped, airy and those NASA seats are very, very good. Front passengers may complain, a little, without lumbar adjustability and a seat that isn’t quite as supportive as the driver’s seat. The broad dash in front of them also encroaches on legroom.
Rear-seat passengers are well cared for with the Zero Gravity seating that is yet another feather in the ’15 Murano’s cap. They even get a storage bin for their mobile devices, and if you have no one back there and need more storage, the seats fold flat, providing 1,979L of cargo space.
The new 8” infotainment display is also a very nice touch, its widescreen configuration a big help for the back-up and AroundView monitoring systems. There’s also a nice set of redundant buttons in the centre console displaying a nice balancing act between touch and button operation.
Driving the 2015 Nissan Murano
Power comes from the same VQ V6 engine the Murano’s been using for years, making 260 hp and 240 lb-ft in this application, fed through Nissan’s XTronic CVT transmission.
We car writers tend to bemoan CVTs for their lack of driver involvement, but this one provides nice step-shifting programming so it doesn’t feel as flat and uninspired as these transmissions sometimes do. It is too bad that there is no paddle-shift option. It’s available elsewhere in Nissan’s line-up; why not here?
What’s really the take away from the drive experience is how refined it all is. That lowered Cd (down to 0.31 from last year’s 0.37) helps, but other measures like laminated glass, low rolling-resistance tires and flat underbody really make for a premium feel. There may be a little more body roll than you’d like (those squishy tires don’t help), but it’s by no means a deal-breaker.
Comparing the 2015 Nissan Murano
Look to the upcoming Ford Edge for the main competition. It starts at a little more than the Murano does, but that vehicle’s size and even styling will make for an interesting comparison when it arrives early next year.
You could also throw the Acura RDX and Lexus RX into the mix, but those are cars from luxury brands and Nissan has a luxo-brand of its own. Still, the manufacturer says that the Murano is slated to walk the line of luxury, so it’s probably worth cross-shopping those other two models.