Strengths and weaknesses:
- Looks inside and out
- room and comfort
- drivability over a variety of surfaces
- lack of off-road ability for those who need it
Murano offers pristine quality in a pugilist’s body
For those who aren’t aware, the Nissan Murano (launched in 2002) draws its name from the island in Italy (part of the municipality of Venice) famous for its glass making.
Its look is delicate as you would expect from fine crystal, but its stature is that of a fighter. If it were a WWE entertainer, it would definitely be a “face.”
Murano’s crystalline features are most evident in its nose job (with jewel-like headlamps flowing seamlessly into a wing-like treatment of the Nissan grin-like grille) and its cockpit presentation (itself an evolution - of the desk-like “mobile office” centre console initially shown in the Quest minivan – surrounded by bright wood veneer and leather).
The tough presentation is evident in its solidly-planted structure – with large wheels (18 or 20 inches in diameter, depending on trim level) supporting muscular shoulders and haunches. Just by looking at it, you can see it’s no push-over, though you feel you should baby it in your everyday driving needs.
What it offers, though, is a solid smooth ride over varying degrees of broken terrain. It’s quietly level on smooth pavement, transmitting little in the way of tire or engine noise as it goes about its business of covering vast stretches of highway ribbon. Over pockmarked city streets, it soaks up the imperfections with minimal fuss – you’re aware it’s absorbing all the punches, but it doesn’t flinch the way the segment’s more-SUV-like offerings (Jeep Liberty and Toyota 4Runner, most notably) jitter about uncomfortably.
Granted, Murano may not have the conditioning (high ground clearance, body cladding, etc.) to be able to go the distance in a rough-and-tumble off-road brawl with the likes of those two, but its small overhangs and high angles of approach and departure will allow it to hang in with them for an impressive stretch.
Rather, Murano has the ability to move up to five people in relative comfort. The rear 60/40 split, three position bench offers great support from knee to shoulder for full sized adults on the outboard seats, and Murano’s superior width will allow a larger centre occupant. The splits are also slightly reclinable for better back comfort on longer trips, and the centre position features a pull-down armrest with cupholders.
Above the two rows of seats, twin sunroofs let in plenty of light. Behind the rear seats, there’s plenty of room to haul whatever you need to take along on your everyday treks – groceries, golf clubs, gardening supplies, etc. - though it doesn’t have the vertical clearances of its boxier competitors. And unlike some of those competitors, there’s no option for a third row seat (which, given the virtual uselessness of those seats in those competitors, is just fine), opting instead of a cargo organizer that flips up from the floor. It allows grocery bags to stand up and keeps grapefruits from stretching their free-range legs.
At the other end, a 3.5-litre V6 matches up fairly evenly with Murano competitors – it’s comparable in size and power with some (though not as powerful as, say, the Ford Edge’s 3.5 V6) and as powerful as, or more powerful than, some others’ bigger engines (such as 4Runner’s 4.0 and Liberty’s 3.7 V6s).
The hitch in Murano’s power punch, though, lies with the continuously variable transmission. It does a great job at keeping fuel economy in check, but it knocks out the engine braking that is often needed on off-road trails.
In the end, Murano provides the looks of both a premium sedan and the power of an off-road warrior at a price comparable to its competitors. It starts at $34,500, but our tester’s LE trim level takes it up over $44,000 and its Platinum package (and other select options, including a package exclusive Sapphire Blue Onyx exterior colour) elevates it to nearly $47,000.
Although that won’t knock out anybody, that price allows it to hang in with the competition and maybe earn it a split decision.