2017 Nissan Murano: Style with high function

Staff reports
Farm Forum

Scan any parking lot today, and it seems like crossovers are as commonplace as cellphones: That wasn’t the case when the first Nissan Murano appeared. Making its debut in 2003, Murano was Nissan’s initial foray into the segment, and it remained Nissan’s sole crossover model until the Rogue arrived in 2008.

These days, Nissan’s crossovers/SUV lineup runs five wide. The 2017 selection includes Juke, Rogue, Pathfinder, Armada, and Murano. Year two of generation three for Murano is highlighted by added sound and safety content. Four trim levels are available (S, SV, SL, and Platinum) in both front- or all-wheel-drive versions. Prices start at $29,740 (for an S with FWD) and top off at $40,780 (for a Platinum AWD model); my Murano test driver was the latter. With one option package (Technology $2,260), a set of floor/cargo mats ($225), and a destination charge of $900, it had an as-tested price of $44,165.

Standout styling has been a calling card for Murano since it was introduced in 2003. In a segment then populated by sedate, sport utility/station wagon mixes, this was something different: a high-function vehicle with a strong splash of fashion. In 2017, nicely designed crossovers are no longer new, but Murano is still stylish. A complex combination of curves and angles, its modern lines are good looking, whether coming or going.

The interior — particularly in top Platinum trim — is handsome and well appointed. With clean styling and pearlescent white trim, the cabin is particularly rich looking in the Cashmere color palette, though all those light-colored surfaces may be a bit too optimistic for families with small children.

Additional content for 2017 includes Apple CarPlay, as well as expanded availability of Nissan’s driver attention alert feature. Optional on SV and standard on all trim levels above, the system alerts the driver when drowsy or inattentive driving is detected.

I’m a big fan of Nissan’s Around View Monitor: Optional on SV levels and standard on SL and Platinum, the accurate, 360-degree, top-down perspective is particularly handy when backing into and out of tight quarters. It’s coupled with moving object detection, which gives visual and audio alerts when anything is moving near the vehicle. Combined with blind spot warning, rear camera, and rear cross traffic alert, the Murano is well armed to watch your back.

Options are few on top-ranging Platinum models. The list includes premium paint ($395), illuminated kick plates ($365), 20-inch five-spoke alloy rims (1,720), and the Technology package (2,260). The latter includes intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking, predictive forward collision warning, and a power, panoramic moonroof. Sun lovers will especially appreciate the latter feature; the expansive view lends an open feel to the cabin even when closed, and the power shade shuts tight for those times when you’d rather have a conventional, closed cabin.

Six footers can sit in both rows comfortably. Cargo capacity is 32.1 cubic feet, expandable to 67 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, with a comfortably low liftover height in back. That compares with 39.2 to 73.4 cubic feet in the Ford Edge, and 36.3 to 68.3 in the Jeep Grand Cherokee — two vehicles often cross-shopped against the Murano.

Murano has a car-like ride and good-for-the-breed handling. Its size is such that drivers feel comfortable in highway traffic, even when jousting with semi trucks. Power is provided by Nissan’s smooth, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Rated at 260 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of torque, it’s linked to a continuously variable transmission. The drivetrain’s power flow is smooth and balanced.

EPA fuel economy estimates are 21 city and 28 highway for AWD models like my test driver; I averaged 26 miles per gallon on a test tilted heavily towards highway time.

Murano’s AWD system requires no input by the driver. Sensors constantly monitor road conditions and driving dynamics, with the system making adjustments to direct torque to front and rear wheels accordingly to maximize traction. Vehicle Dynamic Control with traction control is standard, as are four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake force distribution, and brake assist. Overall, Murano has a stable, comfortable driving feel, acquitting itself well in all driving situations. AWD versions are obviously well suited for wintry road conditions, and can shoulder light off-roading as well.

The third-generation Muranos remain a top pick in what is now a crowded class of classy crossovers. Fourteen years removed from its debut, the Nissan still delivers a stylish package of smooth power, a comfortable cabin, and all-weather driving security.