- Strong, smooth powertrain
- Right-sized for urban duty
- Coherent styling, outside and in
- Refined, across the board
- Strange toothy grille
- Visibility an issue
- Interior feels a little tight
- CVT and its lack of manual mode
- Fairly high prices
It's stylish and refined, but the 2012 Nissan Murano isn't the most space-efficient crossover.
The Nissan Murano's grown popular because it has so few of the usual tired SUV cliches. It's a five-seater without much off-road ability or towing capacity, and it's stylish, too--almost to a fault.
The Murano is a good-looking tall wagon, and ties together its sheetmetal and its cabin in a convincing way. This generation's much more flamboyant than the first Murano, and the toothy, chromey grille is a distraction from the rest of the buff, smoothly integrated design. It's as slickly styled inside, with a unified look that coordinates well with the slightly bulbous shape.
All Muranos are powered by the latest iteration of Nissan's VQ engine. Here, the 3.5-liter V-6 puts out 260 horsepower through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We're not usually enthusiastic about driving CVTs, but Nissan tunes their performance well with the Murano, giving it brisk acceleration without an excess of the drivetrain noise CVTs can induce. Unlike the smaller Rogue, though, the Murano's transmission doesn't have pre-programmed "gears," and it's still a bit rubbery compared to a conventional automatic. Fortunately, the Murano's above average when it comes to handling, with responsive steering and an absorbent, slightly firm ride. Most models are front-drive, but all-wheel drive is available, and comes standard on the most expensive Murano LE. Gas mileage tops out at 18/24 mpg; the latest turbo Ford Edge, by comparison, nets 31 mpg on the highway cycle.
The Murano's swept-back styling cuts down on usable interior space. Its utility is significantly hampered by the low roofline and the sloping rear end, especially when compared to the more upright Ford Edge. The Murano's front seats are comfortable, and can be adjusted to fit a wide variety of drivers, though the sunroof cuts deeply into head room. The rear bench seat is lower to the floor than we'd like, and head room is still scant for tall adults, as is leg room. As a four-seater, though, the Murano suffices. There's not a lot of cargo space available behind the second row when it's in use, and the cargo floor sits higher than in some crossovers, but the rear seat folds forward to expand storage space.
Crash-test scores from the NHTSA give the Murano four stars overall, and the IIHS rates it "good" for front- and side-impact protection, but calls its roof strength "marginal."
Standard features on the Murano include power windows, locks and mirrors; climate control; and an AM/FM/CD player. Other available features include a heated steering wheel; Bose audio; leather upholstery; a navigation system; Bluetooth; and a rearview camera. Adding up options on a high-line Murano can push its pricetag into Infiniti territory, overlapping that brand's even more compact EX35 crossover.
2012 Nissan Murano
The Murano is a good-looking tall wagon, and ties together its sheetmetal and its cabin in a convincing way.
Overall, the mid-size Nissan Murano shows off what's best about the new-generation crossover utility vehicles. It's a station wagon when you get down to it—only one that's a good deal more voluptuous, with smooth, unified styling inside and out.
This generation of the Murano is much more flamboyant than the first one, but the toothy, chromey grille in the 2012 remains a distraction from the rest of the buff, smoothly integrated design.
The Murano was completely redesigned for 2009, and at that time, aside from that controversial grille, it got a cleaner, sleeker look on the outside, plus a more sophisticated-looking interior. Last year, Nissan already toned down the look in front a little bit, by adding some running lamps to flank it, and by also reducing the grille's size. It complemented those tweaks last year with a somewhat cleaner tail lamp style.
With a new two-tiered design that also carries over some of the bulbous, curvaceous themes of the exterior, the instrument panel of the 2012 Murano ends up hinting of Infiniti as much as it's coordinating with the Maxima sedan and Quest minivan (two other upscale models in the Nissan lineup). With a screen (nav system or trip computer) up top and audio/climate functions below, the center stack is both stylish and logically arranged, with a set of menu buttons and a controller for screen-based functions in between. And a flat, ordinary set of instruments has been replaced with hooded dials, in a multi-layered arrangement.
2012 Nissan Murano
The Nissan Murano doesn't overtly woo driving enthusiasts, but it accelerates quickly and smoothly and handles better than most mid-size crossovers.
The 2012 Nissan Murano won't satisfy any performance cravings, and it's not all that comfort-oriented either. 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.
All Muranos are powered by the latest iteration of Nissan's VQ engine. Here, the 3.5-liter V-6 puts out 260 horsepower through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
We tend not to be very thrilled by the performance allowed by CVTs, but this one is tuned well, allowing the engine to run in the mid-rev range during most acceleration, where it churns out the torque yet maintains a refined, composed character that the four-cylinder applications (like the smaller Rogue crossover) simply don't. But unlike many other CVT units, the one in the Murano doesn't include pre-programmed 'gears,' to give it more of a performance feel; and the result is that you won't think of the Murano, at all, in a performance light. It's merely a particularly strong, smooth wagon.
Fortunately, the Murano's above average when it comes to handling, with responsive steering and an absorbent, slightly firm ride. 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.
2012 Nissan Murano
Comfort & Quality
The 2012 Nissan Murano is comfortable and luxurious, but its curvaceous exterior gets in the way of utility in some respects.
While the 2012 Nissan Murano has comfortable seating and an interior that feels like that of a luxury-brand vehicle, the swept-back, curvaceous styling cuts down on usable interior space.
Compare the Murano's interior packaging—especially cargo space—with that of boxy, upright vehicles like the Honda Pilot or the (outgoing) Ford Edge, and it's easy to see that curves have a price. The Murano's utility is significantly hampered by the low roofline and the sloping rear end.
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. You can also opt for a power liftgate, but unless you're having trouble reaching that high, it really isn't necessary here.
There's plenty to like in the seating itself, though. The front seats are comfortable and adjustable for a wide range of drivers—although the sunroof can get in the way of headroom—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.
2012 Nissan Murano
The 2012 Nissan Murano isn't class-leading, but its list of safety features is respectable.
The 2012 Nissan Murano includes a well-rounded list of safety features, along with ratings that are good but not quite top-notch.
The Murano earns mostly 'good,' ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), except for a 'marginal' rating in the roof-strength category--which is related to the likelihood of rollover injury.
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing, the Murano gets a mix of four- and five-star ratings, on a five-star scale--including an overall score of four stars.
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.
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, plus active front head restraints.
2012 Nissan Murano
The 2012 Nissan Murano is charming even when you keep it simple, while loaded Murano LE models are priced in Infiniti territory.
The 2012 Nissan Murano comes with a good set of features, even if you go with the base S or value-packed SV models.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that a loaded Murano LE can hit $45k, which is well into Infiniti territory and more expensive than the EX35 crossover.
But it is tempting. At the top of the lineup, the Murano LE gets 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. Nine-speaker Bose audio, XM Satellite Radio, and dual subwoofers, are all also included, 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.
Below that, there's the mid-level SL trim, while the luxurious LE trim still still tops off the range. SL models still add a reclining rear seatback with power return, plus leather trim and steering-wheel audio controls, as well as fog lamps; and a heated steering wheel and Bose audio are available.
The 2012 Nissan Murano SV model has 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.
But even the affordable 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.
2012 Nissan Murano
There are plenty of choices in this class with better fuel economy, although the 2012 Nissan Murano isn't a guzzler.
The Nissan Murano is about mid-pack and unremarkable, and if fuel economy isn't one of your top shopping priorities, there's probably no need to give it bonus points or demerits based on its mpg figures. EPA fuel economy ratings are 18 mpg city, 23 highway with all-wheel drive--or 18/24 with front-wheel drive.
It's all relative, of course; you could get several mpg better with a compact crossover like Nissan's own Rogue, or more than 5 mpg better with a mid-size sedan; on the other hand, versus some other V-6 SUVs, the Murano's numbers look pretty good.