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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
August 27, 2003
Vehicle Overview Nissan added the Murano crossover sport utility vehicle to its lineup in December 2002. Infiniti, Nissans luxury division, soon followed with its FX35 and FX45, two other crossover vehicles that blend the virtues of several body styles into a single model.
Specifically designed and engineered for the U.S. market, the Murano gets away from the slab-sided design thats so common [and] offers an emotional alternative to typical SUVs, says Bill Kirrane, vice president and general manager of the Nissan Division.
Offered in SL and SE trim levels with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the Murano has a four-wheel-independent suspension and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). For 2004, the CVT unit in SE models gets a manual-shift mode. Sunroof and Touring packages are available, a 10-way power drivers seat with power lumbar support is standard, and satellite radio prewiring is installed.
Nissan says the Muranos wraparound surface construction features a sloping hood line and a steeply raked windshield. Each wheel is pushed out toward the corners for a long wheelbase and wide stance. The sculpture in motion theme focuses on an architectural grille and a sporty, upswept D-pillar that blends into the rounded cargo door, behind tiny quarter windows.
Aerodynamic enhancements include an under-engine body cover, front and rear tire deflectors, a chin spoiler and a rear spoiler. The Murano rides a 111.2-inch wheelbase, measures 187.6 inches long overall and stands 66.5 inches tall; it rides on 18-inch tires. High-intensity-discharge headlights and a sport-tuned suspension are installed on SE models.
Nissan promises first-class seating on sculpted seats. Equipped with either cloth or leather upholstery, the Murano has flip-out door pockets and a removable cupholder. Adjustable pedals are optional. The split, folding rear seat reclines and has a remote slip-down function.
The instrument panel is a one-piece floating design and is trimmed in aluminum. A seven-speaker Bose audio system and a navigation system are optional.
Under the Hood
A 3.5-liter V-6 engine sends 245 horsepower to Nissans Xtronic CVT, which has no gears but works with a steel belt and twin pulleys. An available Vehicle Dynamic Control system improves stability by controlling brake pressure and engine torque.
Standard features include dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags. The seat belts have pretensioners and load limiters. Active head restraints for the front seats are installed. All-disc antilock brakes have Brake Assist and electronic brake-force distribution.
The Murano is lusciously shaped and performs with splendid passion. Acceleration is vigorous, and the gearless CVT operates seamlessly and ranks among the best. Passing at highway speeds produces no unusual sensations. The CVT delivers plenty of immediate energy with no fuss. Engine noise is minimal, but a high whine emerges if you keep your foot to the floor.
Handling is the Muranos prime attribute. This SUV corners heartily and stays impressively flat through curves. Even in quick turns, theres little body motion or roll, and the Murano feels utterly solid. Ride quality is pleasing, as the standard suspension cushions quite a bit of roughness.
The magnificent seats have great back and thigh support and appealing cushioning. Huge back pillars constrict over-the-shoulder visibility.