NEW
Take our quiz & meet the car you’ll love.

2015 Nissan Murano First Drive

Nissan has a specific buyer in mind for its redesigned Murano. The midsize SUV has shed weight and increased fuel economy, but it’s the upscale interior and comfortable ride that will woo and wow shoppers, whether they’re the ideal empty-nester Nissan is aiming at or not.

Related: Nissan Prices 2015 Murano SUV

I drove a variety of trim levels through Northern California wine country last week in torrential rains and found the Murano to be a terrific all-around vehicle that has eye-grabbing looks to spare. But the previous generation’s performance-focused spirit is no longer present.

&&&&&EMBEDDED_ELEMENT_START&&&&& {“id”:1420668726601,”originalName”:”2015_03_04_17_10_53_724_http___blogs_cars_com__a_6a00d83451b3c669e201b7c717c3be970b_800wi”,”name”:”MMS ID 62162 (created by CM Utility)”,”URI”:”/87/346154478-1425510653887.”,”createDate”:”2015-03-04 05:10:53″,”metadata”:{“AUTHOR”:”automatic-content-migration”,”KEYWORDS”:””},”href”:”https://www.cstatic-images.com/stock/1170×1170/87/346154478-1425510653887.”,”description”:”Came from https://www.cars.com/.a/6a00d83451b3c669e201b7c717c3be970b-800wi”,”externalid”:”62162″,”updatedby”:”cmuadmin”,”updateddate”:1425511766322,”associations”:{}} &&&&&EMBEDDED_ELEMENT_END&&&&&

How It Drives

The venerable 3.5-liter V-6 remains the workhorse under the hood producing 260 horsepower and 240 pounds-feet of torque. It’s teamed to a continuously variable automatic transmission that uses artificial shift points to make it seem like a traditional automatic. The experience is more CVT than automatic, but power comes on fast and won’t leave drivers wanting much whether mated to front- or all-wheel drive.

The brakes are solidly predictable, and when equipped with the standard 18-inch wheels, the Murano is one of the smoothest non-luxury SUVs I’ve tested. Mileage is average, however, at an EPA-estimated 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined for both front- and all-wheel-drive versions. A V-6 Jeep Grand Cherokee gets identical mileage with all-wheel drive and 22/30/25 mpg respectively with front-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback returns 20/27/22 mpg when equipped with a V-6 engine.

 

Where the Murano faltered in my eyes was the surprisingly relaxed steering response. You have to turn the wheel considerably to get the desired reaction. This was apparent on two different cars I tested with 18-inch wheels, one front- and one all-wheel drive. My co-driver agreed with the assessment and was equally nonplussed. In a Platinum trim with 20-inch wheels and all-wheel drive, the steering was sharper and more responsive.

However, moving to 20-inch wheels impacts the superbly comfortable ride, making it “kind of comfortable” with increased road noise and sharper reactions to road imperfections.

Otherwise, the Murano cabin is as quiet as can be. After driving up the Pacific coast in a rainstorm so heavy it made national news, I pulled over on a bluff to take some pictures of the Murano and was almost knocked over by high winds. I hadn’t even noticed the winds — upwards of 50 mph — on the drive because the cabin was so quiet. The car also didn’t suffer many, if any, effects of wind buffeting, which is quite remarkable.

 

Interior

Nissan has made a few interiors in the past feel close to those from its Infiniti luxury brand, and the Murano follows suit. In its highest Platinum trim, which offers a dark brown leather interior, there are few areas to tell it apart from an Infiniti. That’s good because the Platinum starts at $39,885, including a destination charge.

On the more accessible SV trim, which starts at $33,505, there are still swaths of leather everywhere from above the gauge cluster to the door armrests. So, even if you’re sitting in a cloth driver’s seat, you’re seeing and touching leather.

 

Nissan should also get an award for its center console, a near-perfect mix of a physical buttons — I counted 17 — four knobs and a touch-screen. Buttons are either piano-black with illuminated text and icons or chrome-covered plastic with the writing above.

The 8-inch color touch-screen — standard on SV trims and higher — has terrific resolution and is completely rethought from previous generations, which I always found easy to use.

Both the front and rear outboard seats are what Nissan calls Zero Gravity seats. I’ve been a fan of these in the Altima sedan, though a few Cars.com editors are not fond of them, and I found them to be comfortable in the Murano as well. The cloth versions don’t have as much lumbar support as the leather seats; the front passenger seats don’t have height adjustment, but my driving partner and I thought they were pleasant after a three-hour haul from Napa, Calif., to the coast and back.

There’s also an abundance of interior room in front and back with a generous cargo area, whether the rear seats are in place (39.6 cubic feet of space) or folded flat (69.9 cubic feet).

 

Safety

A backup camera is standard on the Murano, and Nissan’s Around View Monitor is standard on SL and Platinum trims. When activated, it offers a bird’s-eye view of the SUV by using cameras in the front, back and side mirrors. It’s always been a feature I’ve appreciated due to my home’s narrow driveway.

Blind spot warning, a system to detect objects in the car’s blind spots, and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on SL and Platinum trims. Adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and Predictive Forward Collision Warning are part of an optional Technology Package on those two trims as well.

Summary

Nissan says the Murano is perfect for empty-nesters looking to take road trips with their friends. There is certainly enough room and comfort to make such a trip for four adults as enjoyable as in many other vehicles on the road. However, that would be true of parents with two tweens or teens and their growing frames, too.

The wild styling might even make Mom and Dad feel cool.

Cars.com photos by David Thomas