ROAD TEST EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Yikes. This thing has a face only a Nissan mother could love. It’s very…concept looking. I guess the ¾ view isn’t too bad because you can’t see all the busyness in front, but I really dislike the floating rear roof. The wheels are cool, and I don’t even mind the orange metallic paint. That grille is wild, though.
It feels relatively quick with that CVT and V6. You put your foot down and the speed just keeps climbing. I’m not sure how I feel about the faux shifts. I liked it in the Subaru, so I guess it’s fine. It does take away that Jet-Ski feel, which is sometimes enjoyable.
Cars with CVTs are always louder than their regular-transmission counterparts. On a traditional ride, the revs rarely go above 3,000 rpm in regular driving. With this Murano, you need to put the pedal down a decent amount to get the speed you want, which puts the revs up above 4,000, and it gets a little loud.
Otherwise, the cabin is good. The new infotainment system looks slick and is easy to use. The trim doesn’t look super expensive but it doesn’t feel cheap, either. There looks to be good room in the back seat and good room in the cargo area too. With the seats folded you could get a nice amount of stuff in back.
It’ll tow 1,500 pounds. So, it’s not enough to bring a car home from across the state, but probably enough to bring two motorcycles out to a nice driving road.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Yeah, it’s different looking for sure, but I don’t mind that—it certainly is no boxy copy cat; gotta give it that. Nor can we call it “aging” like we did the outgoing model. I didn’t get any comments from civilians about the shape, but did get a couple about the brown/gold/orange whatever color, both positive and negative.
Besides, I like the way it drives for the most part, and the CVT is OK, too. In fact, it took some miles behind the wheel to even remember it had a CVT—it’s mated so well to the lovely V6. There’s no wishing for more power; I remain a fan of this engine. The ride is soothing but not floppy or too soft—a good mix and I was most impressed with the on-road quiet and lack of road noise.
The interior is big and nicely designed, and the materials feel and look mostly good. The seats are comfortable, there’s plenty of room inside and the Nissan infotainment/screen/center stack remains among the best in the business: It’s nice to have knobs to tune the radio and/or adjust cabin temperature. As Nissans go, this is a good one.
You know me and my geek-love for studying sales numbers; and we all know crossovers are hot, hot, hot. Guess what? April 2015 showed the Murano one of the hottest in terms of growth with 4,121 sold, almost double April last year and more than the Audi Q5 and BMW X5. On the year, the Murano is up almost 4,000 sales. Somebody out there wants these.
SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: Momma’s orange van. That was how this vehicle was dubbed by the 2-year-old for the few days I had it. Or rather, orj-va, or alternatively, ma-va. When I switched into our long-term Hyundai Genesis, he was still asking for ma-va until I told him sorry, we no longer had it and we had to settle forma-ca. He took it in stride.
That he insisted on calling the Murano a van should not be taken as an insult by Nissan. My son is obsessed with vans (though truth be told, anything from a Ford Focus hatchback to a Chevrolet Tahoe have fallen under his rather wide umbrella notion of “van,” as has an Audi A4 avant—but weirdly not a Q7), a category of vehicle trumped in his esteem only by motorcycle and fire engine. If you ask me, that’s pretty cool company to keep.
And for the most part, the Murano is a pretty cool vehicle. While I can’t say the front end bothers me as much as it did Jake (he invokes the notion of a mother’s love, so maybe that’s behind my forgiveness of it), I found the side view off-putting. I wished so badly that the D-pillar not be blacked out; the floaty roof thing is totally unconvincing, and the swoopy fish-like window outline feels awkward, a shape more appropriate as the doodle found at the top of a legal pad during a long, boring meeting than an actual part of a car design.
That said, the package as a whole is compelling. The CVT is largely (though not entirely) inoffensive, and yes, like Wes, said, the VQ engine is as delightful now as it was when I first tested one almost 20 years ago: strong, smooth and engaging. Only when asking for, as Scotty might say, “all she’s got,” does the Murano feel short of breath, the CVT not able to keep up with the demand at full load in the middle-upper range of the tach, but catches up again as the engine loads fall away.
The interior is a lovely space, warm, inviting and shapely and not at all overdesigned like the exterior. All the switchgear is in easy reach, too, and features a good balance of buttons vs. touchscreen-only access. I do tend to prefer physical radio preset buttons (I like not having to exit a map screen, for instance, to change radio stations), but the new interface setup is smart, easy to use and responsive, so I didn’t find it too onerous to do without.
This van is definitely worth a look if you’re shopping the segment.
Murano’s new instrument panel is designed for ease of use, featuring an 8 inch multi-touch control center display and fewer audio and navigation switches.PHOTO BY NISSAN
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I'm afraid I'm in the "Gah! My eyes!" category when it comes to the Murano; the front end in particular is breathtakingly ugly, but I freely acknowledge beauty is subjective, and there will be those who find the new Murano's design fresh and dynamic. I'll be making fun of their Japanese Aztec.
Get past the exterior looks, though, and there's an awful lot to like here. I was struck by how quickly I got comfortable in our Platinum Murano thanks to supportive seats, excellent adjustability and a center stack that makes immediate sense. Nissan's infotainment system has always been pretty intuitive, and the current version is even better. It's also an upscale interior at a glance, though the fancy metallic plastics are quite obviously plastic. Rear-seat space is outstanding with a flat floor and plenty of legroom; that's it though -- this is a large two-row crossover, so it doesn't offer any more seating than a full-size sedan.
There's good power underfoot, and most drivers will never notice the quirks of the CVT powertrain -- it's just not that important to drivers outside enthusiast circles, and it's becoming less of an issue as CVTs themselves improve. This one's pretty damn good; yes, it'll drone if you stand on the gas, but otherwise my only complaint is a low-frequency rumble at moderate speeds caused by the transmission lugging the engine in an attempt to boost economy. On the other hand, I was pulling regular 24-25 mpg mixed runs, so the tuning works.
The most obvious competitor for the Murano seems to be the Ford Edge; Grand Cherokee buyers likely aren't cross-shopping the softer crossovers, and most everything else in this size/price category offers a third row. As good as the Murano is, I spent some time in an Edge Sport with the new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 last week and found outstanding driving dynamics and a gorgeous interior, plus I wasn't embarrassed when I saw it in my driveway.
Yes, the Edge stickers a bit higher, but it's worth it to me.
Options: Technology package including power panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control and predictive forward collision warning ($2,260); floor mats and cargo area protector ($210)
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