2011 Nissan Murano Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 20, 2011

The 2011 Nissan Murano isn't the most practical choice among crossovers, but it's a gem for style and refinement.

The 2011 Nissan Murano is considerably more stylish and refined than other mid-size crossovers, and that's one of its main selling points. With seating for five, it does not offer a third row of seating, off-road ability, or impressive towing capability. Think of it more as a tall, style-conscious wagon that doesn't instantly evoke images of strollers and animal crackers.

The Murano's smooth, unified styling inside and out is part of what makes it so appealing to shoppers in the first place. While the look mostly got considerably sleeker and flamboyant with its last redesign, with bulbous fenders and oversize badging, the Murano's grille is, to be kind, controversial, with the very glitzy chrome grille looking like crooked teeth. For 2011, Nissan has toned down the look in front a little bit, by incorporating running lamps and reducing the grille's size. Tail lamps also get a cleaner look.

Power for all 2011 Nissan Murano models comes from a smooth, powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Murano S, SV, and SL versions come with front-wheel drive and an optional all-wheel-drive system, while the top LE version has standard all-wheel drive.

Review continues below

Overall, the Murano's powertrain is responsive and leans toward doing the right thing, complementing the responsive handling and firm but absorbent ride. The 2011 Nissan Murano isn't a performance machine, nor is it completely comfort-oriented. But thanks to its city-slick style and a gutsy yet very refined powertrain, the Murano manages to pull off that compromise in a way that will please almost everyone.

While the 2011 Nissan Murano is very satisfying in terms of styling and performance, space and utility are disappointments. The front seats are comfortable and adjustable for a wide range of drivers, the backseat has just enough legroom, and the seating position feels somewhat low. Three adults can fit across if need be, but the Murano is primarily a four-passenger vehicle. Due to the roofline, the cargo area is a bit small with the second row up in place, and the cargo floor is higher than you might guess from the outside.

A new value-packed SV trim joins the Murano lineup for 2011; the SV trims fit between basic S and mid-level SL trims in the lineup, while the luxurious LE trim still still tops off the range.

A number of 2011 model year enhancements for the Murano include a change of instrument panel illumination from orange to white, the addition of an auto dimming rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink Universal Transceiver to Murano SL. This model also comes available with a heated steering wheel, a Bose stereo with nine speakers and a dual subwoofer. Finally, the Murano LE comes with new center stack colors and new wood grain trim. Nissan has also added a new Graphite Blue color option to the range.

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2011 Nissan Murano

Styling

The Murano now has a richness in its materials that stands out in the practically minded crossover class, though not everyone likes the grille.

The Murano's smooth, unified styling inside and out is part of what makes it so appealing to shoppers in the first place.

The Nissan Murano got a complete redesign for 2009, with a cleaner, sleeker look on the outside (except for the controversial grille), along with a more sophisticated-looking interior. While the look mostly got considerably sleeker and flamboyant, with bulbous fenders and oversize badging, the Murano's grille is, to be kind, controversial, with the very glitzy chrome grille looking like crooked teeth. For 2011, Nissan has toned down the look in front a little bit, by incorporating running lamps and reducing the grille's size. Tail lamps also get a cleaner look.

The Murano's instrument panel has also become a little more distinctive and contained hints of Infiniti vehicles, as well as the brand's Maxima flagship. The center stack of controls has a new two-tiered design, with a screen (nav system or trip computer) up top and audio/climate functions below. In between, it gets a set of menu buttons and a controller for screen-based functions. The gauge cluster is also revamped, replacing a flat set of instruments with a multilayered arrangement of hooded dials.

7

2011 Nissan Murano

Performance

The 2011 Nissan Murano accelerates quickly and smoothly, but driving enthusiasts need not apply.

Power for all 2011 Nissan Murano models comes from a smooth, powerful 3.5-liter V-6 engine, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Murano S, SV, and SL versions come with front-wheel drive and an optional all-wheel-drive system, while the top LE version has standard all-wheel drive.

CVTs tend not to allow much driving fun, but there's really nothing to complain about here. Overall, the Murano is one of the best CVTs our editors have driven, with smooth, unobtrusive operation and less of the rubber-band feel that you get with smaller engines and CVTs. The Murano's powertrain is responsive and leans toward doing the right thing, complementing the responsive handling and firm but absorbent ride.

The 2011 Nissan Murano isn't a performance machine, nor is it completely comfort-oriented. But thanks to its city-slick style and a gutsy yet very refined powertrain, the Murano manages to pull off that compromise in a way that will please almost everyone.

The Murano can tow about the same as most minivans—3,500 pounds, when properly equipped.

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2011 Nissan Murano

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Nissan Murano isn't especially roomy, but with beautiful design details and impressive refinement, it can feel like a true luxury vehicle.

While the 2011 Nissan Murano is very satisfying in terms of styling and performance, space and utility are disappointments. The front seats are comfortable and adjustable for a wide range of drivers, the backseat has just enough legroom, and the seating position feels somewhat low. Three adults can fit across if need be, but the Murano is primarily a four-passenger vehicle.

Due to the roofline, the cargo area is a bit small with the second row up in place, and the cargo floor is higher than you might guess from the outside; but the back seat does fold forward easily—it's even power-operated on top models—for a nearly flat cargo floor. A power liftgate is also an option.

The Murano's cabin is very nicely appointed—on par with the Maxima sedan and feeling, in most respects, like a true luxury-brand vehicle. There's a high-quality feel in most of the materials and switchgear. Road noise is also well controlled for this type of vehicle, although the engine noise with the CVT can take some getting used to.

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2011 Nissan Murano

Safety

The 2011 Nissan Murano is respectable, though not class-leading, in safety.

The 2011 Nissan Murano has good but not top-notch safety ratings, and all the expected safety features are included.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't yet tested the Murano with its revamped (and tougher) ratings system, but under the old reports it earned a four-star rating for front crash protection—actually about average under the old scale—though with a five-star rating for side-impact protection.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the Murano a top rating of 'good' in frontal and side impact. The Murano had in past years achieved the IIHS Top Safety Pick Status. But for 2011, the Murano was tested by the IIHS in roof strength for the first time—related to the likelihood of injury in a rollover—and the results were near the bottom of its class, with a 'marginal' rating.

All the safety equipment you'd expect in this class is standard, including anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, front side airbags, and side-curtain bags. Active front head restraints are also standard.

Outward visibility is about on par for this class, though as is typical the sloping roofline and thick rear pillar can cut into the view back when changing lanes or backing up.

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2011 Nissan Murano

Features

Value, standard features, and price are a big part of the Murano's appeal.nclusion:

A new value-packed SV trim joins the Murano lineup for 2011; the SV trims fit between basic S and mid-level SL trims in the lineup, while the luxurious LE trim still still tops off the range.

Most of the Murano models are available with front- or all-wheel drive, while the top-of-the-line LE is AWD-only. The base 2011 Nissan Murano S comes with a cloth interior and 18-inch alloy wheels but is well equipped, with cruise control, the Intelligent Key entry and starting system, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents, and a six-speaker sound system with six-disc changer and auxiliary input.

The new SV model adds to the S a dual-panel moonroof, seven-inch color monitor and backup camera, power driver's seat, automatic headlamps, Bluetooth, and USB and iPod connectivity, along with satellite radio. SL models still add a reclining rear seatback with power return, plus leather trim and steering-wheel audio controls, as well as fog lamps.

The top LE model packs on the most desirable features like flashy 20-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a power liftgate, keyless start, wood trim, and a garage door opener. It also gets a Bose audio system with nine speakers, XM Satellite Radio, and dual subwoofers, plus a Bluetooth hands-free interface, which is optional on a Technology Package in other models. Other top options include a a rear DVD entertainment system, and a navigation system, including Music Box hard-drive storage.

Other 2011 model year enhancements for the Murano include a change of instrument panel illumination from orange to white, the addition of an auto dimming rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink Universal Transceiver to Murano SL. This model also comes available with a heated steering wheel, a Bose stereo with nine speakers and a dual subwoofer. Finally, the Murano LE comes with new center stack colors and new wood grain trim. Nissan has also added a new Graphite Blue color option to the range.

6

2011 Nissan Murano

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Nissan Murano isn't a gas guzzler, but there are plenty of greener choices in this class.

With EPA fuel economy ratings of 18 mpg city, 23 highway, the 2011 Nissan Murano is about par for fuel consumption among mid-size crossovers, and about average among all vehicles. Compared to, say, a mid-size four-cylinder sedan, or even a four-cylinder compact crossover like the 2011 Nissan Rogue—which isn't much smaller inside—the Murano simply isn't as green.

That said, the 2011 Murano is a much greener choice compared to more traditional, off-road-ready luxury utility vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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7.8
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Styling 9.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 7.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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