The marketing cliche to sell SUV buyers on small turbocharged four-cylinder engines is that they offer the power of a V-6 with the fuel economy ratings of a four-cylinder. But how about a real V-6 with better gas mileage than turbo fours? That’s just what we found in real-world gas mileage testing of six mid-size SUVs with all-wheel drive as part of Cars.com’s 2019 Mid-Size SUV Challenge.
In addition to observing their real-world mpg, we ranked the SUVs based on annual fuel costs to drive 12,000 miles on their recommended grade of gasoline, calculated using the government’s national average gas prices at the time we tested ($2.779 for regular, $3.392 for premium, about 22 percent more expensive).
The MPG Winner: 2019 Nissan Murano, 26.4 MPG
The refreshed 2019 Nissan Murano Platinum — with its standard 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and optional all-wheel drive — topped all comers with an observed mileage average of 26.4 mpg in a mixed loop of about 210 miles of mixed city, freeway and rural driving. The Murano’s as-tested fuel economy compares with its EPA ratings of 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined.
The Murano V-6 edged out the turbocharged fours in the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe and 2019 Ford Edge mid-size SUVs, as well as V-6-powered versions of the Chevrolet Blazer, Honda Passport and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Some might say the Murano deserves an asterisk because the Nissan V-6 is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission, the only one in our test. CVTs are noted for fuel efficiency, as well as for adding noise and sapping responsiveness. But our experience with the Murano’s CVT was that it not only delivered on its mileage promise, but it also was well behaved for its type and did not diminish satisfaction with smooth V-6 power relative to a turbocharged engine. Meanwhile, our experience with many turbo fours is that you can struggle to get their higher mileage if you really enjoy feeling that turbocharger.
Annual fuel cost worked out to a winning $1,262.70 for Murano, which recommends regular, and earned it the maximum 30 points in the scoring, with others scaling down from there (rounded to the nearest whole point).