Nissan has done a good job of making their SUV’s feel higher class than they have in the past.
Often, Nissan’s are thought of as budget Toyotas, with great reliability but very basic. However, in the past few years, Nissan has moved into luxury interiors with comfortable seating and plenty of standard safety features. While bare bones base models are still available for price conscious customers, it’s Nissan’s middle and upper trims that really bring out the comfort and convenience features.
Our test model was an AWD SL trim with the premium Sunset Drift paint color. It is a beautiful deep burnt orange with just the right amount of shine and reflection. On the exterior, the Murano hasn’t been updated since 2015 and is a mix between smooth curves and hard creases. From the side profile, this blends well, but when looking from the front quarter it looks a little awkward.
There are plenty of convenience features inside and out, including the motion activated liftgate, which is a nice feature to have when you don’t have a free hand to open or close the rear hatch.
The SL model has LED daytime running lights, headlights, taillights, fog lights, and turn indicators on the mirrors. Basically, the only lights on the exterior that aren’t LED are the normal turn signals. There are chrome bars surrounding the grill, running at the bottom of the front bumper, along the door sills, and at the bottom of the rear bumper. All this, along with the silver roof rails, accent the body shape well and add an extra dimension to the vehicle. In some colors, all that chrome is too much, but we like it on the Sunset Drift paint.
Nissan has been putting optional gorgeous rims on all its vehicles lately, and the 20-inch machined aluminum wheels on the Murano fall in line with that. They have ten spokes that line up off-center, giving them a look of being in constant motion.
The interior of the Murano is very nice, even borderline luxurious. Of course you always have the option of the Infiniti QX50 if you want a true luxury Murano. The materials are mostly soft-touch and feel high-quality. Our test model was equipped with the option black leather seats, which are heated both front and rear. All the seats are comfortable with plenty of leg room. The rear middle seat is still a little tight, but still comfortable for being a rear middle seat.
The SL trim comes with the BOSE 11 speaker premium audio system and Nissan Connect with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is presented through an 8-inch touch screen display. Of course, there is Bluetooth connectivity and Sirius XM radio. There are two USB ports for the front driver and passenger, and two USB ports for the rear passengers. There are also three 12v outlets, one in the front, one in the middle and one in the rear.
The sloped roofline and blacked out D-pillar gives the Murano a sporty look, but limit the practicality by reducing the cargo volume and the view looking out the back. Making up for this lack of visibility are the intelligent around view monitor and the blind spot warning systems. As far as cargo room goes, there is no 3rd row option for the Murano, which means that there is quite a bit of space back there. The new Honda Passport has more, but the Murano is on par with others in its class like the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The Murano, like all Nissans we’ve tested, doesn’t pass the fog light test. The headlights must be turned on for the fog lights to be on. This negates their use as fog lights and makes them extra driving lights.
Driving the Murano is reminiscent of a Crown Victoria. It’s very smooth and comfortable as a highway cruiser and glides over bumps and deformations in the road surface. The downside to this is that taking corners at speed isn’t confidence inspiring.
The Murano has one engine option, the 260 hp 3.5-liter V6. This engine is used in various forms in many Nissan vehicles, including the Maxima, as the only engine available works nicely for the Murano. Backed by Nissan’s XTRONIC CVT, there is plenty of power for merging onto freeways or passing, and yet it returns EPA mpg ratings of 20-city and 28-highway. The CVT is still pretending to have gears that it doesn’t have. CVT’s have been out long enough that there is no need for one to have faux shift points, which only hurt performance and economy.
The optional AWD system works quite well for the average driver. When we put it through our articulation and climbing test, it was able to lift a wheel fairly easily on a small ascent. However, lifting a wheel while ascending a steeper hill was difficult for the CVT to manage, and we stopped our attempt to keep the CVT from overheating. Not surprisingly, the system is ideal for an all-weather vehicle, but not a serious off-roader.
The SL AWD has a base price of $40,830, and our test model came equipped with the premium paint for $395, carpeted floor and cargo mats for $245, the SL technology package which includes a panoramic moonroof, automatic emergency braking (among other safety features for $1,970), and of course the destination charge which is $1,045. This brings the total price to $44,485. This price is on par for the safety and luxury features the Murano has when compared with its competitors.
Who is the Murano for?
The Murano is for small families or individuals looking for a smooth economical highway cruiser. For those who love driver aids, there are a plethora of standard and optional safety features. In AWD form, the Murano is an excellent all-weather vehicle, with the ability to transfer power where it’s needed. There is plenty of cargo space for a family of four to use for a vacation, and the fuel mileage is great on the highway.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.