New & Used Nissan Murano: In Depth
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The Nissan Murano is a sporty, mid-size crossover that can seat up to five passengers. It's not meant as the company's main family mid-size crossover; that role falls instead to the seven-seat Pathfinder. Instead, the car-based Murano is less of an SUV and more of an on-road cruiser that comes with optional all-wheel drive.
Launched back in 2003, and redesigned for the 2009 model year, the Murano was Nissan's very first crossover utility vehicle. It was never based on truck underpinnings, although the number of family crossovers with truck hardware underneath has dwindled rapidly over that period. These days, the Murano sits between the similarly styled but smaller Nissan Rogue and the larger and more familyi-oriented Pathfinder.
The third generation Nissan Murano was introduced for the 2015 model year. It features far more expressive styling, a considerably more luxurious and feature-rich interior, and it's intended for "active couples" and empty-nesters who have less need for a third-row seat or the more practical (meaning spill-tolerant) interior features of family wagons.
Instead, the latest Murano is about style, good handling, and--like most other vehicles these days--improved fuel efficiency. It's deliberately positioned as a more urbane alternative to "Mom-mobiles," with more than a dash of style to underscore the difference.
The first 2003-2007 Murano model had a pleasantly edgy, urban shape. Sized like the competition, the Ford Edge and the early Toyota Highlander, the Murano took the styling kudos. Mechanically, it also had an edge over the Ford and the Toyota, with better steering and a more nimble feel, thanks to its family-plan architecture based on Nissan's well-received Altima four-door.
The first Murano's interior offered five-passenger seating and a decently roomy cargo space as well. Safety proved very good, with the crossover earning the federal government's top ratings for front and side-impact protection (under test criteria that have since changed).
Power in the first-generation Murano came from a 245-horsepower version of Nissan's corporate 3.5-liter V-6. The power flowed to front-wheel or all-wheel drive via a continuously variable transmission--a gearless, stepless unit that uses belts and pulleys to vary transmission ratios. While CVTs can improve fuel economy, they also generally add to powertrain noise and feel slow to respond. The Murano's CVT was easily the least attractive part of its package.
After Nissan skipped the 2008 model year altogether, the 2009 Murano didn't differ too dramatically from the original underneath, but the sheetmetal changed nearly all for the better--save for a toothy grille slotted in up front. The running gear migrated to the fourth-generation Nissan Altima platform, and the powertrain was updated to 265 hp (it's now rated at 260 hp). The CVT was upgraded to include programmed "gears" that gave the transmission the feel of an automatic gearbox, with paddle shifters enabling driver choice of the ratios.
Nissan expanded the Murano family for 2012 with the unusual CrossCabriolet convertible, and also spun off a new 2013 Pathfinder seven-seat crossover along with a similar Infiniti JX35 seven-seater--which gets a new name, Infiniti QX60, for 2014--all from the same basic architecture. For 2013, Nissan added a few features and options, and made several active-safety systems--Moving Object Detection, Blind Spot Warning, and Lane Departure Warning--optional on the second-generation Murano.