Radical isn’t a word normally associated with midsize crossover SUVs, but the new 2016 Nissan Murano deserves such drama. After all, it’s no wallflower.
Since going through a complete redesign last year, the Murano has experienced a strong upsurge in sales, much thanks to provocative styling that pulls eyeballs right from their sockets with unusually complex curves, surprising angles, and an overall wow factor none of its direct rivals come close to offering. It shows off premium-grade style that’s fortunately followed up by premium-level substance.
Eye-arresting style going premium quality inside
This is most evident inside where the 2016 Nissan Murano rivals luxury utes in design and execution. Granted, it doesn’t offer as many soft-touch surfaces as its competitors, leaving a premium dash top off its list of mollycoddling indulgences like its larger Pathfinder sibling, but it does get a contrast-stitched and padded leatherette hood overtop the primary gauge cluster, while the instrument panel boasts a supple synthetic treatment all the way down to where it disappears below the knees.
The door panels also benefit from padded leatherette inserts and armrests with yet more light grey stitching. This theme is repeated atop the centre console, whereas most other surfaces are finished in a nice-quality, matte-style, harder grained plastic that looks as if it will wear well over time.
My Nissan Murano Platinum tester received a silver-tone mother of pearl-style inlay across the instrument panel, the doors, the lower console, between the driver and passenger armrests on the console bin lid, and the shifter knob. Its upscale decor was only marred by wide gaps where the dash meets each door panel, although beautiful satin-silver trim did its best to draw more attention to the dash vents, centre stack, and shifter surround. There were even padded, fabric-wrapped A-pillars (unusual but welcome for the class), mine incorporating a set of Bose tweeters for the upgraded audio system.
Superb electronic interfaces improve livability
Ahead of the driver is an attractively organized primary gauge cluster that features analog tachometer and speedometer dials, plus conventional temperature and fuel meters integrated within each respectively, while a 7.0” full-colour TFT multi-information display sits between them. This big, high-resolution, feature-filled screen can be modulated via illuminated steering wheel controls that also answer the phone, apply voice activation, set the cruise control, and adjust the audio system.
Over on the centre stack is Nissan’s best infotainment system yet, complete with crisp, clear, attractive graphics, easy-to-operate touchscreen controls, and a good size at 8.0”. The Platinum gets map and navigation functions along with the usual audio, phone, info, and vehicle settings, plus a menu button for sorting through it all. While it worked well, I found the display a bit shiny, its surface reflecting too much surrounding light. This didn’t allow for as much depth of contrast either, the blacks unfortunately not as black as they could be. Still, it’s an impressive system that should satisfy most users, especially when it comes to operating system speed. The impressive sound quality of the Bose stereo is also worthy of mention, while the backup camera includes dynamic guidelines to ease you into narrow parking stalls.
Elsewhere, the dual-zone automatic HVAC system with microfiltration features a clear digital readout, while just below are variable temperature controls for dialing in either heat or ventilation for the front two seats. All this luxury is accessible via proximity-sensing access, while the Nissan Murano’s 3.5L V6 can now be brought to life by the push of a button.
Smooth operator gets powerful standard performance
That engine won’t wow with performance unless compared to some of its peers’ base 4-cylinder powerplants, but its 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque come from a particularly smooth 6-cylinder engine with DOHC and continuously variable valve timing that gets mated to an even silkier smooth CVT.
The only letdown would be to those expecting the Murano’s racy styling to somehow translate into super-SUV performance. Yes, Nissan endowed the Murano with more than adequate straight-line acceleration and an evenly balanced chassis with a nimble feel, but it chose to leave serious performance duties to its Infiniti luxury brand and focus instead on pampering comfort. For this reason, the CVT in question doesn’t include paddle shifters, which I have found less than stimulating when applied to other Nissan products anyway ― 370Z and GT-R excluded. Nevertheless, the 2016 Nissan Murano is perfectly suited to its main purpose: shuttling active lifestyle couples and average-sized families around in absolute style and comfort.
Let’s face it, we’re moving towards a driverless society anyway, so we might as well settle in and enjoy the ride. To that end, the Murano is one of my favourite crossover SUVs ― from its ultimately comfortable, NASA-inspired “zero gravity” seats, swathed in perforated leather in the Platinum’s case, to its sublime ride and more than capable handling enhanced by my tester’s gorgeous 20” alloy wheels on 235/55R20 all-season tires. It’s a performer for those who live in the real world of bumper-to-bumper traffic and speed limitations.
Roomy and extremely safe
As roomy and relaxing as it is up front, much thanks to its power tilt and telescopic steering column and 8-way power driver’s seat with memory settings for both as well as the side mirrors, the second row in the 2016 Nissan Murano Platinum is wonderfully comforting in its own right with plenty of room for the head, shoulders, hips, and legs. There’s a flip-down armrest with integrated cup holders in the middle, plus a panel on the backside of the front console featuring a USB port and dual-level seat heater controls for the rear outboard positions.
Another good reason to praise the Murano is cargo capacity. While the rear seatbacks make do with the conventional 60/40-split configuration instead of incorporating an optimal centre pass-through, overall luggage volume increases from 908-1,897 litres when folded flat via handy cargo area levers or, even better, a power release button located next to the driver’s left knee.
Every occupant should feel safe, too, from the driver enjoying LED headlight visibility and adaptive cruise control to other passengers being protected via predictive forward collision warning and forward emergency braking. These advanced features helped the 2016 Nissan Murano earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, although it achieved a slightly substandard 4-star safety rating in NHTSA collision tests.
Shocking level of equipment for the price
The base Murano starts at a particularly thrifty $29,998 before freight and dealer fees. It comes equipped with many premium features including automatic on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, power heated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, chrome door handles, LED taillights, 18” alloy wheels, keyless access with push-button ignition, stainless steel kick plates, Fine Vision electroluminescent gauges, heated front seats, rear-seat HVAC vents, a rear-view camera, voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, text messaging, NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, 6-speaker audio with satellite radio, a security alarm and immobilizer, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety equipment (including an airbag for the driver’s knees), and much more.
Key upgrades in SV trim ($34,898) include fog lamps, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, remote start with Intelligent Climate Control, an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, a panoramic sunroof, and a power liftgate. The SL ($40,298) adds an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, an Around View parking monitor, leather upholstery, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, a 4-way power front passenger’s seat, 11-speaker Bose audio, adjustable ambient lighting, a universal garage door opener, silver roof rails, blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert and moving object detection, standard AWD, and more.
The top-line Platinum ($43,998) stands out with 20” wheels, LED headlights, a power tilt and telescopic steering column, heated rear seats, and some of the more sophisticated safety systems I noted earlier. The only Platinum options are colours; my tester was finished in appropriately premium Cayenne Red at a very non-premium $135.
I was also satisfied with the 2016 Nissan Murano’s fuel economy. My weeklong personal average came very close to its 5-cycle rating of 11.2L/100km city and 8.3L/100km highway with AWD (the FWD version achieves a slightly better 11.0 and 8.2 rating). That’s not bad considering the drivetrain doesn’t include a lot of advanced features like direct injection, cylinder deactivation, auto start/stop, brake regeneration, etc.
Difficult not to be impressed
Of course, the new Murano is way too stylish and competent to be relegated into needs-driven, cost-saving status. Like I went on and on throughout this review, the Murano comes very close to premium-level luxury, only lacking a few soft-touch materials and the performance dynamics needed to push it over the top.
That said, if you’re in the market for an impressively equipped, extremely comfortable SUV that’s endowed with plenty of style and speed, not to mention commendable road manners, consider the Nissan Murano seriously.