Remember how radical the Nissan Murano was when it hit dealer showrooms about a decade ago? Based on an Altima platform, the Murano arrived when families were moving away from SUV’s and getting into crossovers. The Murano’s avant-garde looks made for an instant sales success. When it came time to replace the Murano in 2009, Nissan played it safe with a very evolutionary redesign. The Garage spent a week with the second generation Murano, and we came away generally pleased, but three years later, what’s new with the curvy crossover?
The blunt truth is, not much. Front and rear fascias have been revised, LED taillamps added, but it would take a true Murano addict to spot the differences. Add that to the fact that the second gen Murano, appearance-wise was a mild refresh of the original car, we’ve essentially been looking at the same car for a decade, give or take a few minor changes. Credit is due to Nissan in that it is a pleasing shape, and there is really nothing else out there that looks like a Murano. Nissan took a risk in introducing the first Murano. As a car guy, I was eager to see Nissan push the envelope of crossover styling again. And I am willing to bet there are Nissan designers who were chomping at the bit for that opportunity. My guess is the accountants figured they already had a sales hit in their hands, and gave the directive to not mess with the recipe. Interesting design? Yes, but we’ve all grown used to it by now.
The cabin of the Murano is essentially unchanged as well. Gauges are clear as a bell and easy to read. In an era where automakers are rushing to have nearly all functions controlled from a touch screen, I found it particularly refreshing that the Murano has knobs and buttons that are easy to use at a glance. Sure, this may be due to the fact the Murano’s interior was overhauled four years ago, which is a generation in the car world. Still, I liked being able to simply turn a knob, and push a button to make an adjustment. It’s a system that worked for years, and the supposed high tech replacements simply do not work as well. The Murano is reasonably comfortable, with flat as a pancake bucket seats up front with nothing in the way of lateral support-a pity, since the Murano can handle. Our Murano was perfectly screwed together, and the quality of materials was ok, but not outstanding for the sticker price.
In the engine room, Nissan offers a 3.5L V-6 rated at 260hp. This is a fine, smooth engine that has been in the Nissan stable for some time now, and the only transmission available is a Continuously Variable Transmission. The Murano has enough torque that driving around town, you never notice it. That fine engine becomes a nuisance when you want to attack an on ramp, where the engine just wails relentlessly until you are up to speed. Ask any car journalist about CVT’s, and they will all agree that Nissan makes the best in the business, but that is akin to nodding to a chef who claims to make the greatest version of Spam you’ve ever eaten. Ok, it’s the best version of a product that is completely unsatisfying. Hurrah. The Murano does not offer shift paddles to simulate stepped gears as some other CVT cars are equipped. Otherwise, the Murano had a very comfortable ride, and confident handling when pushed. I’d beg Nissan for an automatic, but that would negate their Infiniti crossovers. The masses do not seem to mind, so Nissan is content to stay the course.
Our Murano was the mid-level SL with all-wheel drive (you can opt for front wheel drive). Standard on our car were 18″ alloys, leather power heated front seats, rear view camera, Bose audio, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, rain sensing wipers, dual zone auto climate control, push button ignition, dual panel sunroof, and power liftgate. Options included floor mats, and the Navigation Package, with NavTraffic, NavWeather, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and moving object detection. Including delivery, our Murano had an MSRP of $42,410. That is not chump change, and it bears mentioning at this price point you could put yourself in a prestigious German crossover, but without the high-tech features. And no CVT.
In 2003, Nissan worked magic in creating a curvacious crossover with the Murano. And hundreds of thousands of buyers have paid good money to buy in, in spite of the design’s inherit flaws. All the curves seriously cut down on cargo space. Blind spots so big it could conceal an 18-wheeler, Yet, there was a ready set group of buyers ready to open their wallets, and trade in some practicality for style. My question to Nissan is, where do you go from here? The new Pathfinder is a crossover, in addition to the smaller Rogue. Nissan, you broke new ground, but that was ten years ago. The new Pathfinder, and upcoming new Rogue are making the Murano, as much as a sales success as it is, redundant. Can someone please explain?