Crossover sport utility vehicles are the hottest part of the automotive market, if you don't count such bulky aberrations as the Hummer H2 and Cadillac Escalade. The crossovers are really cars rather than trucks, with tall station-wagon bodies mounted on car chassis. They function as SUVs while driving like cars and performing all the basic tasks required of a versatile family transport. Murano is Nissan's first piece of the crossover action, with a curvaceous body taking the place of the usual squared-off truck shape of an SUV. As such, it sets itself apart from the common run of Ford Escapes, Toyota Highlanders and Mitsubishi Endeavors. The look is unique, similar only to its upscale sibling, Infiniti FX35 and 45. Despite the family resemblance, Murano is completely different mechanically. The rear-drive Infiniti is based on the G35 sedan and coupe, while the Murano is set on the front-drive Altima platform. As an added attraction, Murano also gets the fuel mileage of a sedan rather than the usual thirsty behavior of an SUV. Murano continues Nissan's brilliant run of unique and stylish cars and trucks in one of the greatest corporate comebacks in automotive history. What it is A roomy, comfortable vehicle that shares the slick driving characteristics of the Altima, Murano packs a lot of versatility into a trim package. Spacious seating for five with decent luggage space, its aerodynamic body with huge 18-inch alloy wheels is also a consistent attention-getter. Engine and transmission The 3.5-liter V-6, the same engine found in the Altima 3.5, Maxima and 350Z sports car, generates 245 horsepower, which provides plenty of gusto and helps fulfill the sporty appearance of the Murano. This is a smoothly sophisticated engine, quiet and vibration free even under hard acceleration. Even with its fairly heavy utility body, Murano displays some of the quick performance of its automobile siblings. Murano comes with Nissan's first continuously variable transmission, called Xtronic CVT, which uses a system of variable-diameter pulleys linked by a steel belt. There are no gear changes, but an infinitely varying drive ratio that keeps the engine in its sweet spot, depending on throttle input. Acceleration is strikingly different, with the engine settling into a continuous rpm as the transmission raises the vehicle speed. Downshifts are impressively smooth. Fuel mileage is very good, which Nissan attributes to the advantages of the CVT. There are some other CVTs out there, notably the excellent Audi version. Watch for many more in coming years. Handling and drivability Murano is softly sprung for comfort, which blunts cornering and handling response, though the SUV can be whipped around with confidence. Nissan touts the sport-tuned suspension, but there is noticeable body sway in turns and heaving su spension rebound over irregular road surfaces. On the highway, Murano's cruising is effortless and composed. This would be a great vehicle for a long road trip. The test car was fitted with standard front-wheel drive, with all-wheel-drive available for added stability and traction. Optional vehicle dynamic control to fight skids and traction control, plus standard all-wheel disc brakes with brake assist (which boosts pressure in panic stops) and electronic brake-force distribution, seamlessly add to the driving experience. Styling Love it or hate it, Murano's appearance is definitely noticed. It's a standout in traffic, and the test car provoked many comments. Some thought it looked sleek while others found it awkward. It looks good to me, though one co-worker said it looked like a big fish with glinting teeth. Interior Here's another controversial area. The dashboard is loaded with trendy shapes and textures, almost as if it came straight from an auto-show concept car. Some passengers thought it was cool; others were not so sure. In brown and silver, the test car's interior seemed overwrought, maybe trying too hard to be hip. But it's a nicely useable dash, with clear gauges and lots of features. The seats are supportive and roomy, front and rear. Even this too-tall driver with his oversize teenage sons had space for legs, shoulders and heads. Pricing At its base price of $28,999, Murano is a decent buy. The test car included an SE package of roof rack, power adjustable pedals, 225-watt Bose audio system with six-disc CD and subwoofer, leather seats, sunroof and a couple of other interior items, $3,499; DVD navigation system, $1,999; vehicle dynamic control, traction control and tire-pressure monitor, $749; floor mats, $79; and shipping, $540. Total was $35,865, which is getting into exclusive territory. Bottom line A nice reprise of the family station wagon, Murano puts a stylish spin on the crossover theme. Watch for more car-based SUVs with a similar aura, including the new Chrysler Pacifica. Nissan Murano SE Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door sport utility vehicle, front-wheel drive.Base price: $28,999.Price as tested: $35,865.Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 245 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, 246 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm.Transmission: Continuously variable.Wheelbase: 111.2 inches.Curb weight: 3,801 pounds.EPA mileage: 20 city, 25 highway.Highs:Unique styling.Roomy interior.Engine, CV transmission.Lows:Over-the-top interior.Expensive options.Controversial shape.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||December 9, 2002|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||July 6, 2003|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||June 28, 2003|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||March 9, 2003|
|Matt Nauman||TheMercuryNews.com||January 10, 2003|
|John O'Dell||Los Angeles Times||December 11, 2002|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||December 8, 2002|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||November 20, 2002|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||November 3, 2002|
|Jason Stein||January 19, 2003|
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Nissan Murano
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.
*Invoice prices are made available by Cars.com and are not dealer advertising. All prices are subject to regional variations. Prices last updated 9/23/10. Click here for more information.