2019 Nissan Murano first drive review: Steady as she goes

December 17, 2018

Way back in 2003, Nissan brought out the first Murano, a nimble car-based crossover that banked on style as much as it did substance. It was different from most SUVs because it was car-based and avoided the trucklike ride of its body-on-frame competitors while still retaining a commanding view from the driver’s seat. It was  what most customers wanted, the original Murano was a sales hit.

Flash-forward to 2019, where practically every automaker has at least one (if not two or three or four) crossovers in its lineup. It’s hard to stand out.

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The 2019 Nissan Murano sticks to what they know best. The 2019 Murano starts at $32,315 for a front-wheel-drive S model and features a wealth of standard options. And since the third-generation Murano was overhauled for 2016, Nissan’s goal for the 2019 model year was to focus on making subtle refinements to add even more value to the bottom line.

2019 Nissan Murano

2019 Nissan Murano

Tiny tweaks

Look closely and you might notice a differently shaped LED signature for the headlights and taillights. The front grille is now more prominent, which is to say, poutier. And there are three new exterior colors: Mocha Almond Pearl, Deep Blue Pearl, and Sunset Drift Chromaflair, which shifts from orange to reddish-orange depending on the angle and quality of the light.

We spent the majority of our time in a loaded Platinum ($46,175) all-wheel-drive model, decked out in Deep Blue Pearl. The addition of this color to the palette is, according to Nissan, a very big deal—it was once reserved exclusively for the hyper-powered GT-R.

More show than go

Any comparisons to the GT-R stop at performance, however. Every Murano is motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 260 horsepower, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that distributes power to the drive wheels; front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. Nail the gas from a standing start and the Murano seems confused, it hesitates for a few seconds before lurching forward. Once the CVT wakes up and keeps the engine on boil, the acceleration is sufficiently decent. It’s still no match for a 295 hp V-6 in a Toyota Highlander, though. Another 40 horsepower would definitely be most welcome in the Murano.

But straight line acceleration isn’t what the Murano’s about. Climb aboard and chart a course for the interstate instead, where its ample mid-range torque is much appreciated.

2019 Nissan Murano

2019 Nissan Murano

Sit for a spell

The interior of the Murano is a very nice place to be. At highway speeds, very little wind noise makes it into the cabin. Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” seats at the four outboard positions are comfortable for long journeys, and the Platinum trim adds new semi-aniline leather, diamond-quilted seats.

Our tester model was finished in Cashmere, which brightens up the cabin but might not be great for kids or pets. Go for Charcoal or Mocha instead. Nissan was eager to point out that the high-quality leather was also inspired by the GT-R, but here the soft texture is let down by the sharp nylon stitching of the quilting.  

The Platinum model also offers a massive panoramic sunroof, brightening up the interior even more. Usually, the cover shade isn’t strong enough to block out the light. Not so here. The Murano features a fully opaque shade that keeps the light at bay when it’s unwanted. And here’s a thoughtful touch—the shade and sunroof are controlled by separate button instead of a single combo dial or switch.

During those long highway stints, the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system makes good use of the quiet interior. There’s standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and Nissan’s long-standing relationship with Bose gifts the Murano with a superb 11-speaker audio system, standard on SL and Platinum models, and part of the Premium Package available on SV trims.

You can take it with you

Intelligent safety is key for crossovers, and Nissan has upped the number of active safety features for 2019. Eyes and ears, in the form of cameras and radar sensors, help keep the Murano and its occupants safe on the road.

Automatic emergency braking is standard on all trim levels. Pedestrian detection and rear braking is standard on Platinum trim levels, optional on SLs. Active lane control, which is similarly reserved for SLs and Platinums (where it’s optional and standard, respectively) is slow to respond and corrected course only after the Murano was well over the painted line. Unfortunately, Nissan’s more advanced ProPilot system is not available.

The Murano also keeps an eye on the driver through its Intelligent Driver Alertness system, which sounds a chime and visual warning if it detects drowsy driving. (Eds note: Nissan reps offered no comment on what happens if the driver isn’t actually intelligent, like we are.)

In comparing the dimensions of the 2019 Murano with the 2003 version, not much has changed, which suggests the original Nissan Murano nailed it the first time. Kudos to Nissan for staying the course.

Nissan provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report. 

—By Derek Powell, For Internet Brands Automotive

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