Expressive lines provide visual distinctiveness
The Murano is a good example of Nissan's confidence when it comes to throwing a little drama into its designs. The vehicle disguises much of its SUV bulk with a sleek appearance that combines a multitude of cut lines with body sculpting to achieve the desired results.
While I'm not one of the Murano's biggest fans when it comes to exterior steelwork, I am a fan of its cabin architecture and layout. Here you find an environment that is both visually pleasing and remarkably functional.
Form and function coexist
I admire the intuitive ease about the Murano's spacious cabin; it's difficult to find a manufacturer that does a better job of assembling instruments and controls in a more user-friendly fashion. The HVAC setup clearly illustrates this approach by using straightforward dials to control the fan speed and dual-zone temperature settings.
Another example of logical thinking is the ability to lower and raise the 60/40 folding rear seatbacks by simply pulling a lever to drop them and pressing a power-return button to raise them. This feature comes as standard equipment on the SL and LE trim levels.
Seating in the Murano is exceptionally comfortable front and rear, making this vehicle a good choice for long hauls. I enjoyed the heated front seats and heated steering wheel in my SL tester during a phase of chilly weather this winter in Vancouver.
I also enjoyed the operation of the Murano's engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Murano's CVT unique in mid-size SUV/crossover segment
The Murano is fitted with Nissan's Xtronic CVT, which improves performance and efficiency over traditional multi-gear transmissions. The gearless unit functions well in the Murano, and despite having a bias against CVTs, I like what Nissan has done here.
The Xtronic CVT works quite unobtrusively and only reveals itself under heavy acceleration by not swapping cogs as the engine's pitch rises to redline. It takes some time to fully appreciate the value in the CVT and not second-guess its operation despite the sensation that it isn't changing gears when it seems it should, but that's how a CVT functions.
The engine driving the CVT is a 3.5L DOHC V6 capable of conjuring up 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Under the direction of Nissan's Intuitive All-Wheel drive setup, the responsive mill distributes its power among four wheels.
In doing so, the Murano offers plenty of get-up-and-go performance and traction, adding an element of sportiness to this notably comfortable machine. Thanks to the CVT, the engine is always in its sweet spot when pulling at full tilt.
Highway passing is particularly good in this vehicle, which isn't something that V6-powered mid-size SUVs are generally renowned for. Along with above-par straight-line performance, the Murano is more competent in corners than expected.
Behind the wheel
The Murano delivers a stable ride that provides suitable absorbency for this class of vehicle. It's amply spry on its wheels and nicely composed in corners, bearing in mind its size and ride height.
Road and wind noise are both well muted but I felt that the engine could be quieter and less intrusive. It's not annoying or unpleasant by any stretch but if I were to seek room for improvement, there it is. But that's not the only performance aspect that could use a little tweaking.
Rearward visibility in the Murano is poor, largely due to the vehicle's body style, which conspires with the rear seatbacks to erode the driver's view to the rear. Fortunately, a rearview camera is fitted to all but the base Murano. This addition assists immensely in parking the vehicle.
Along with the rearview camera and 7-inch information screen, the Murano is equipped with the latest in vehicle control and occupant safety technology, which includes a full suite of airbags and a Vehicle Dynamic Control program (VDC).
Although its official fuel economy ratings are attractive at 11.7L/100km city and 8.5L/100km highway, my driving failed to meet those thresholds. In fact, the onboard computer rendered an average economy rating in the 15L range during mostly city-based operation.
Nissan's mid-size AWD Murano pleases on many levels. I was impressed with the functionality found in its attractive cabin and its overall driving dynamics. I was less impressed with the level of engine noise generated under hard acceleration and the fact that my tester consumed fuel at a significantly greater rate than posted.