Auto Review: Nissan’s very unique Murano

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Tue., Jul. 2, 2013
- Contributed Photo

Standing out from the crowd can be a tricky business. Sometime your uniqueness can be rewarded, other times it can be disastrous when the market rejects your novel approach. But in the case of Nissan’s Murano crossover SUV, an effort to create a distinctive vehicle has paid off and the unique vehicle has developed a loyal following.

Designed at Nissan’s North America design studio and originally launched as a 2003 model, the Murano’s striking profile has undergone a decade of upgrades, refinements and tweaks to keep it at the cutting edge of the class. Better yet, the Altima-based chassis is still one of the sharpest handlers in the class and a genuine pleasure to drive. To me, it’s the driving dynamics that has kept this vehicle successful even more than its versatility and generous (and state-of-the-art) equipment roster. Even though this is an SUV in terms of physical size and interior room, it drives like a tall sports sedan and delivers impressive fuel economy while rewarding your right foot with entertaining performance. For those drivers who want to own something really unusual, an All-Wheel Drive convertible CrossCabriolet is also offered.

Riding on a 111.2-inch wheelbase, the “hardtop” Murano comes in four trim levels (S, SV, SL and LE) and all are armed with a very refined 3.5-liter V6 engine with 260 horsepower and an Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). This type of automatic gearbox has undergone years of development at Nissan and delivers smooth acceleration and great efficiency while nearly eliminating the only bugaboo (which was a bit of noise). The Murano drivetrain comes with either Front-Wheel or Intuitive All-Wheel-Drive, and we tested the very well-equipped SL model with AWD. Nissan explains this very slick system thusly: “The intuitive All-Wheel Drive system connects the Murano VDC system’s yaw sensors, wheel slip sensors and steering angle sensors with the AWD system. The system helps provide increased traction in a variety of driving conditions by distributing engine torque depending on the driver’s steered direction and the actual direction of the vehicle.” Ride and handling are both firm and responsive, making the Murano one of the sportiest of the crossovers out there and a genuine pleasure to drive, especially during aggressive cornering, as top-heaviness is never an issue.

The Murano interior is called a “mobile Suite” by the company, and while the logical Nissan control layout found throughout the car line is present, there’s still plenty of unique touches to compliment the distinctive exterior. The standard leather seating on the SL is a tad flat but high on comfort, and the flat floor in the rear seating area, along with good legroom, makes it an excellent space for long trips. If you’re into the latest in gadgetry, the optional Navigation package includes sophisticated vehicle detection technology.

The 2013 Nissan Murano SL is EPA rated 18 MPG city/23 highway and has a base price of $39,290. With options, our sticker came to $42,410.

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