The Car Connection Nissan Murano Overview
The Nissan Murano is a five-seat, high-style, mid-size crossover SUV companion to the bigger, seven-seat Pathfinder.
The latest iteration of the Murano arrived last year with a very design-focused shape and some additional innovative features. The 2016 model continues unchanged, offering the same dose of stand-out styling but not a tremendous amount of performance. Though it may look like a sporty crossover, the Murano is more of a comfort-oriented tall wagon capable of hauling four (or five in a pinch) passengers in excellent comfort.
A car-based 'ute that's meant for on-road driving and all-weather traction, the Murano comes standard with a V-6 engine, a continuously variable transmission, and front-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive is an option for those needing a little extra wet or snowy weather traction.
MORE: Read our 2016 Nissan Murano review
The new Nissan Murano
With a major 2015 redesign, the Nissan Murano received striking new looks and a much-improved interior. A sweeping hood ties to a roofline that "floats" over a very small, third side window in the pillar. The tailgate is sharply raked and highly sculpted, with a long trailing roof spoiler at its top. Inside, it's all about comfort and luxury, with a long console that extends past the front seats to offer rear passengers their own charging options.
The Murano's powertrain is familiar. The SUV offers a 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine developing 240 pound-feet of torque, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and either front- or all-wheel drive. Eventually, the Murano may get the hybrid technology from the Pathfinder and Infiniti QX60.
The Murano has the same "zero-gravity" seat design as the latest Altima and Maxima. It uses dense foam for comfort over long trips, which Nissan claims comes from NASA's fatigue-free neutral seating position. Nissan also says this Murano is supposed to be able to swallow four large suitcases with the rear seats in place.
The IIHS rates the Murano with its Top Safety Pick+ award. While the federal government hasn't finished its testing, the NHTSA did award the Murano with five stars for side impact and four stars for rollover.
Nissan also offers a full suite of standard and optional safety features, using data from as many as three separate radar systems and four cameras. Available safety systems include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and surround-view cameras.
The Murano also offers a long list of available features, including keyless ignition, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated seats all around, and cooled front seats. Memory for the driver's seat, steering wheel, and mirror positions is also available. The NissanConnect infotainment and connectivity system is included, incorporating both navigation and mobile-connected apps. Premium Bose AM/FM/CD audio system with 11 speakers, HD Radio, and satellite radio are also on the options sheet.
Nissan may add a camera-based rearview mirror in the future. Instead of seeing a normal reflection in the "mirror," the driver would see an image taken with a camera at the rear, which eliminates blind spots and any blocked view that would result from heads or headrests behind them. Prototypes have been shown, and it could be added to the Murano and others within a year or two.
Nissan Murano history
The first-generation Murano model, sold from 2003 to 2007, had a pleasantly edgy, urban-friendly shape. Sized like its main competitors, the Ford Edge and the early Toyota Highlander, the Murano took the styling kudos. Mechanically, it also had an edge, 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 area 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- or all-wheel drive via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). While CVTs can improve fuel economy, they also generally add to powertrain noise and can be slow to respond to driver inputs. The Murano's CVT was easily the least attractive part of its package, though later versions have shown improvement.
After Nissan skipped the 2008 model year altogether, the 2009 Murano didn't differ too dramatically from the original underneath. The design changed nearly all for the better, though, 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. Nissan also spun off a new 2013 Pathfinder seven-seat crossover along with a similar Infiniti JX35 seven-seater—which got 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 available, including object detection, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning.
After very weak sales, the Murano CrossCabriolet was dropped at the end of the 2014 model year.