It may seem a bit odd to call the Nissan Murano a trailblazer in the crossover class. But when it launched in December of 2002 as 2003 model, it was quite the revelation. Here was a crossover from a volume manufacturer that was not only sharp looking, but had a lot of features were found on luxury models at the time. It proved to a winning formula for Nissan. With the second-generation Murano, Nissan focused luxury and refinement. But the Murano also lost some of the distinctiveness from the design of the first-generation model. Now enter the third-generation Murano. This version continues the second-generation focus on luxury, but also brings back sharp looks from the first. This combination should work, right? We spent a week in the Murano SL AWD to find out.
Nissan goes one of two ways when it comes to designing vehicles; they either take their time and put a lot of effort into a vehicle or spend about 30 minutes drawing something and calling it good. The Murano is the former of the two. The Murano’s design is basically the Resonance concept from a few years back. The front end gets a deep V grille with a chrome bar running around the outside. The side profile shows a unique floating roof design that is accomplished by blacking out the D-Pillars. This could make anyone think the roof is only being supported by glass. Around back are a set of taillights that are shaped like boomerangs - much like the 370Z coupe.
Some may criticize the Murano for being a bit polarizing. But considering the first-generation model had such design touches as a wide chrome grille and dark orange color, the third-generation appears to be taking the design ideals of the first-gen model and putting them to good use.
Seats are Nissan’s ‘zero-gravity’ seats which are said to use space-age technology to reduce fatigue and improve lower back support. While we aren’t fully sure on what ‘space-age tech’ Nissan is using, we’ll admit the seats for both front and rear passengers are quite comfortable and supportive. Front-seat passengers get power adjustments and heat in the SL trim. Rear seat passengers will find oodles of head and legroom, even with an optional panoramic sunroof.
The Murano is one the first Nissan models to come with the latest version of Nissan Connect that comes with an eight-inch touchscreen and a updated interface. The system is now easier to use thanks to large touchpoints to various functions such as navigation and the radio. For those who rather control the system with actual buttons, there are those as well. Performance is ok with certain functions such as generating a route for the navigation system or changing to the various source. But it becomes somewhat sluggish when you are switch around to the various pages on the home screen.
Nissan still has a couple of issues to iron out with their infotainment system. First, I had no metadata appear on the system when I was doing Bluetooth streaming from my phone. This could be an issue with this particular model as a Nissan Maxima equipped with the same system had no problem. The other was the system saying SiriusXM reception was lost despite there being a signal and broadcasting the station. I found that if I switched to a different source and went back to SiriusXM, the problem would be gone. A couple other colleagues who have driven Muranos have experienced the same problem. A software update might fix both problems I experienced.
Power is provided by a 3.5L V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque (available @ 4,400 rpm). This paired to Nissan’s XTronic CVT and the choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The V6 is a perfect fit for the Murano as it provides more than enough power to get up to speed a decent rate. The XTronic CVT features artificial shift points to provide linear acceleration and cut a fair amount of droning. We found the shift points worked in situations where you accelerating at a steady rate such as going on a freeway. Other times such as making a pass, the points seemed nonexistent and the high rpm drone would appear. In terms of fuel economy, the Murano AWD is rated at 21 City/28 Highway/24 Combined. Our week with the Murano saw an average of 22 MPG in mostly city driving.
The Murano’s ride is superbly comfortable. Equipped with 18-inch wheels, the Murano glides over bumps and imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels. Steering was a slight disappointment. You have to turn the wheel further than you might think to get the steering reaction that is needed. Some of this comes down to how light the weight for the steering was. It was like running your fingers through a pool of water.
Another disappointment came in overall visibility as thick rear pillars block a fair amount of the rear view. At least, the SL comes standard with a backup camera and blind-spot monitoring. We also recommend opting for the Around-View camera system as it gives you a full 360 view of the vehicle when parking.
While the Murano has some issues with the infotainment, overall visibility, and steering, it remains a very capable crossover. With sleek styling, loads of luxury equipment, and a plush ride, the Murano not only gives a number of mainstream models such as Ford Edge a run for their money, it could make anyone have second thoughts with a luxury model. Nissan says the Murano is their flagship for their crossover lineup. We cannot find a more fitting term for this vehicle.
Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Murano SL AWD, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: SL AWD
Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6
Driveline: Xtronic CVT, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 240 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/28/24
Curb Weight: 3,977 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Canton, TN
Base Price: $38,550
As Tested Price: $41,905 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
Technology Package - $2,260.00
Floor Mats & Cargo Area Protection - $210.00