2015 Nissan Murano Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 1, 2015

The 2015 Nissan Murano lures in empty-nesters with its flamboyant new design, then hooks them with just the right mix of confident performance.

The 2015 Nissan Murano mid-size crossover is at once a charming outlier and a carefully designed inside job that, whichever way you see it, breaks out of the crossover mold in meaningful ways.

The flamboyant, head-turning Murano is quite the icebreaker. Elegance, style, and luxury-like ambiance—not ruggedness and trail prowess—are the focus of the Murano. It’s not aimed so much at diaper-changing parents and carpool duty, either; those are the roles of Nissan’s Rogue and Pathfinder, after all. And performance might take second stage to comfort; but to the older, albeit style-conscious empty-nester couples Nissan is targeting more than ever with this redesigned Murano, that’s quite alright.

The 2015 Murano takes some of the style statement for the Pathfinder and amplifies it—essentially arriving to dealerships with much of the look of the Resonance Concept that Nissan rolled out at auto shows less than two years ago. And it’s a dose of what we hope the upcoming Maxima will have even more of.

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Nissan designers aimed to counter the heavy, chunky look of traditional sport-utility vehicles with the Murano, and we think they brilliantly succeeded—not only in that, but in producing a vehicle that’s nearly everyone will agree is one of the best-looking contemporary crossovers.

With the fully realized ‘V-motion’ grille and its lines continuing upward and onward into the hoodline, ‘boomerang’-style headlights and taillights that frame some of the most expressive creases and curves in any production model today, and to top it all off, a unique ‘floating’ roof with blacked-out pillars and a distinct ‘arc’ in the beltline pinching it upward near the tail, the Murano looks like no other crossover on the market from the outside. Inside, it’s not quite as daring, but its ‘jet-age’ inspiration and ‘panorama’ layout is grander, swoopier, and a little bit more daring than in rival models, all while keeping the layout simple and accessible.

To some, the Murano’s very expressive exterior may hint at a very engaging, emotional driving experience; but that’s not so much the case. The empty-nester types that the Murano is taking aim at want confident performance, but things like ride quality and cabin quiet take priority over that. What powers the Murano is a version of what’s powered mid-size Nissan cars and crossovers for years—the 3.5-liter double-overhead-cam V-6, making 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired to the latest iteration of the automaker’s ‘high-torque’ continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), here omitting things like a tow mode or a low range. In front-wheel drive or AWD form, the Murano delivers what matters to its target buyer: strong, confident, refined performance, all without sacrificing too much comfort along the way.

Although the exterior is as extroverted as can be, it doesn’t cut into interior space and usability. Inside, you’ll find a lot of passenger space, reasonably good cargo versatility, and a quiet, refined ambiance throughout. The driving position is just right, and the rather low-set dash should allow even shorter drivers to feel comfortable in this model, while there’s plenty of headroom above, even for tall drivers with the available moonroof. Not everyone will love the so-called Zero Gravity seats, but the outboard back seats in the Murano are true comfort zones, contoured for adults and with plenty of space—ideal for the double dates and Wine Country touring that Nissan profiled as targets.

In addition to a safety set that’s already solid, the Nissan Murano SL and Platinum models include standard blind-spot monitors, as well as rear cross-traffic alerts, which can at parking speeds warn you of vehicles approaching from the side, while the available surround-view camera system can spot and warn of vehicles or objects with a warning chime and notification. These systems and the forward-collision warning system use information from four cameras and three radar sensors to spot issues ahead and help react to them quicker; they’re optional as part of a package on those SL and Platinum models.

The Platinum, with features like heated-and-cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and power-folding rear seats, is indeed new to the lineup for 2015, and it’s Nissan’s attempt to offer an even better-equipped, top-of-the-line model that, as we see it, truly competes with luxury-badged models like the Lexus RX 350 and Acura MDX—in all but the cachet of the luxury badge itself, of course.

For the S and SV models, the feature list is quite robust—especially if you gauge it on value, as the Murano comes with a price tag that undercuts the Lexus RX and Acura MDX by ten grand. Move up to the SL and new top-of-the-line Platinum models, and you get a lot more, albeit at a price that approaches those luxury-badge models.

We appreciate the simplicity of the Murano’s interfaces, overall, as they’re clean and well-conceived, with some physical buttons where they make sense. All models except the Murano S include an upgraded infotainment system with a larger eight-inch multi-touch screen, voice recognition for navigation and audio, and SiriusXM Travel Link services for fuel prices, weather, movie listings, stock information, and sports scores.

10

2015 Nissan Murano

Styling

The 2015 Nissan Murano breaks out of the look-alike crossover mold with an exterior that’s beautiful, elegant, and radically different.

Nissan designers aimed to counter the heavy, chunky look of traditional sport-utility vehicles with the Murano, and we think they brilliantly succeeded—not only in that, but in producing a vehicle that’s nearly everyone will agree is one of the best-looking contemporary crossovers.

What’s arrived on the market is essentially, on the outside, the same vehicle as what was shown as the Resonance Concept two years ago.

In front, Nissan’s so-called V-motion grille establishes something that’s refreshingly different in itself, with diagonals flaring outward from the leading edge of the bumper and the Nissan logo.

The design is especially successful as it’s not just a new grille design, but one in which those diagonals continue down below in the lower airdam area and up above in the hood—and in ‘boomerang’-style headlights (and taillights) that serve as endpoints for side-body contouring. Even in back, where crossover designs often resort to convention, there’s plenty of design consistency with those headlights and some modest creases and contours.

Up top, the ‘floating’ roof concept itself, with blacked-out side and rear pillars making the roof appear as a separate, hovering design element of its own, isn’t something that’s exclusive to the Murano. It’s today used on a wide range of vehicles from the Mini Cooper to the Kia Soul. But what makes it unique here is the combination of a smoothly arched, curved roofline with the ‘floating’ aesthetic.

The side-body sculpting in particular is beautiful and visually interesting, with a flowing crease above the bulging front fenders, tapering down and inward to form a distinct beltline. Meanwhile, toward the taillamps, the windowline has an upward swoop that arches back down toward the rear lamps, playing off as a riff on that arch above the front wheels.

Below the beltline, the body-side sculpting is more subtle, with the sheetmetal gradually tapering outward for the rear wheels, giving it proportions that wouldn’t seem out of place in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle—or on the more performance-focused Infiniti QX70 (formerly FX), for example.

Inside, the instrument panel is set quite low, and the dash combines a rather V-shaped center stack—possibly echoing the grille—contrasting with a smooth, wraparound beltline that flows into the front doors, yet in a way that doesn’t interfere with occupant space. Nissan officials said that it was designed as a ‘panoramic space,’ and it feels that way.

Hooded gauges bring a sporty touch, and the matte-metallic trim around the steering wheel, center console, and gauges are the only ‘ordinary’ touch in an interior that otherwise has some pretty outstanding trims and finishes. There’s no woodgrain anywhere in the lineup, and we especially like the distinct trim, in some models, for wrap-around section, door panels, and center console, that reminds us a bit of old mid-century modern lineoleum patterns.

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7

2015 Nissan Murano

Performance

The 2015 Nissan Murano isn’t all that pulse-quickening, but it’s plenty quick and confident for the mission.

The 2015 Nissan Murano likely isn’t one of the stronger performers in its class, if you go purely by performance numbers. And there’s nothing all that leading edge in what’s under the hood. But the Murano has plenty of what matters to its target buyer: strong, confident, refined performance, all without sacrificing too much comfort along the way.

What powers the Murano is a version of what’s powered mid-size Nissan cars and crossovers for years—the 3.5-liter double-overhead-cam V-6, making 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired to the latest iteration of the automaker’s ‘high-torque’ continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), here omitting things like a tow mode or a low range.

Acceleration itself isn’t especially quick, within the Murano’s class, but it’s all that most buyers will expect—with reasonably strong pickup off the line and quite strong passing power. The Murano also doesn’t have the issue that affects a lot of its other CVT-equipped vehicles—sluggishness at lower speeds when you need a quick burst of power. Thanks to plentiful low-rev torque from this engine, it gathers speed quickly as the CVT lowers the ratio.

The CVT shifts with even more pronounced ‘steps’ that mimic gears when you’re accelerating rapidly but at more gentle acceleration it merely keeps revs in the very low rev range; on the other hand, full acceleration pegs it in the upper reaches of the engine’s rev band. And the engine is remarkably smooth, civil, and pleasant-sounding no matter what.

The Murano’s underpinnings are, as previous versions, very carlike—with a front strut layout and multi-link rear suspension design and a front subframe that helps damp out some of the worst road shocks while keeping a more ‘connected’ feeling with the road. And four-wheel vented disc brakes feel confident and well modulated.

Overall, the electrohydraulic rack-and-pinion steering has a good, relaxed feel on center, and it loads up nicely. The suspension makes some definite sacrifices in ultimate handling ability, in the name of comfort, but these are sacrifices that the vast majority of shoppers will happily make. There’s quite a lot of body lean in tight corners, but the Murano always feels buttoned-down and quite composed, with few if any secondary motions as the road turns rougher.

One thing to keep in mind is that models with the 18-inch wheels handle just as well as those with the 20-inch wheels—except for a slight bit more precision in quick transitions. With the larger wheels, you do introduce more road harshness as well.

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2015 Nissan Murano

Comfort & Quality

With impressive ride comfort, a quiet cabin, and uncommonly comfortable seating for those in back, the 2015 Nissan Murano is a great pick for those who have traveling companions.

Flamboyant exterior designs, such as those for the 2015 Nissan Murano, can cut into interior space and usability; but that’s not the case here. Although this is a very eye-catching, different crossover on the outside, the automaker clearly used some restraint inside, as the cabin offers a lot of passenger space, reasonably good cargo versatility, and a quiet, refined ambiance all ‘round.

The driving position is just right, and the rather low-set dash should allow even shorter drivers to feel comfortable in this model, while there’s plenty of headroom above, even for tall drivers with the available moonroof.

We’re conflicted about the seats, for which Nissan uses the term Zero Gravity. Inspired by a NASA-measured ‘neutral posture,’ they’re aimed at reducing fatigue from long drives, by providing a more articulated level of support from the pelvs to the chest, through the lumbar area especially. While we agree that the backrests are very comfortable, they’re missing better support for the lower cushions, at the thighs. This admittedly long-legged 6’-6” driver felt like the lower seat cushions were shorter than in some competing models (like the Edge and Grand Cherokee, for instance). By the way, we actually prefer the suede-like cloth seats in S and SV models to the perforated leather, although if you want heated seats you have to go with leather.

In back, the same philosophy has been applied for the outboard seats, and we’re happy to report that they’re among the most comfortable, adult-size back seats in any vehicle—especially one without an all-out luxury badge. Nissan says that they’re its only vehicle with three-piece cushioning in back. These seats also aren’t at such a low height, as you’ll find in some rival models, so you’re at essentially the same height as those in the front seat and conversation is easy. Entry and exit is easy, too.

The center console has dual elbow rests, making it look at a brief glance like the console might have a dual-lidded design, like some luxury vehicles, yet it’s one large lid and console compartment. However, Nissan does redeem the space with some very useful lower storage bins down below, next to the footwells. Altogether, with the wide center console and the attention paid to comfort in the outboard rear seats, Nissan has termed the open middle ‘aisle’ of the Murano “conversation alley.”

One thing to note is that the middle position in back isn’t nearly as comfortable or contoured as the outboard positions; the Murano is best left as a four-seater, unless the middle position is to be occupied occasionally by children.

Entry and exit to the front and rear seats is easy, and at an optimal height. The back seat really does fold flat, and cargo space is more usable than you might think; while the rear of the vehicle looks like it tapers up top, it’s more of a visual trick brought on by the sculpted-outward rear wheelwell area.

One piece of important advice: While Murano models with the 20-inch wheels enjoy a slight advantage in the crispness with which they turn into corners, they also transmit more road imperfections into the cabin, without any ultimate increase in cornering capability or body control. Unless you live in a region with very smooth road surfaces or absolutely must have the 20-inchers for the way they look in the wheel wells (a bit better, admittedly), go with the 18s.

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2015 Nissan Murano

Safety

The 2015 Nissan Murano at last gets a suite of useful active-safety features—but some of the best ones are reserved as options on expensive top-trim models.

Following the current Altima and Rogue, Nissan is showing quite the improvement for the safety of its mid-size models.

The Murano gets four-star overall ratings from the federal government. But more impressive is its Top Safety Pick+ result from the IIHS—including the top 'good' rating in the small overlap frontal category. That also includes a top ‘superior’ rating for front crash prevention, contingent on the optional Forward Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning systems, part of the optional Technology Package.

All 2015 Murano models include frontal airbags, front-seat mounted side bags, roof-mounted side-curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, knee bolsters, and a driver supplemental knee bag, as well as front active head restraints, electronic stability control, Hill Start Assist, and anti-lock brakes. And there are three child-seat upper tether anchors.

Murano SL and Platinum models include standard Blind Spot Warning, as well as Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which can at parking speeds warn you of vehicles approaching from the side, while the available Around View Monitor system has Moving Object Detection, helping you spot vehicles or objects with a warning chime and notification.

Available active-safety technologies in that Tech Package might help you avoid an accident, or at the least, lessen the severity of one. Blind Spot Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, and Predictive Forward Collision Warning use information from four cameras and three radar sensors to spot issues ahead and help react to them quicker—and with more decisive braking—than the driver otherwise might. These systems not only study the vehicle ahead, but the second vehicle ahead, which could help avoid a potential pileup situation.

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2015 Nissan Murano

Features

The 2015 Murano is equipped as if it had a luxury badge, for the most part, which makes the middle SV and SL models an especially strong value.

The 2015 Nissan Murano wears a mainstream badge, and that leaves room for quite a range in factory builds—from the base front-wheel drive S, at $30,445, up to the top-of-the-line Platinum model, at nearly $46k, fully loaded. And on any of the trims, you have a choice between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

While the S and SV hold their own against mainstream models, like the Ford Edge and Toyota Venza, it’s the top-of-the-line Platinum that makes an interesting proposition against the Lexus RX 350—if you don’t put too much importance on driving a luxury-brand vehicle, that is.

The base Murano S includes a six-way (height-adjustable) driver’s seat, intermittent wipers, a rear wiper, a rearview (camera) monitor system, power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker DC sound system with aux-in port, Bluetooth hands-free calling and streaming audio, satellite radio compatibility, the NissanConnect mobile apps system, an Easy Fill tire alert system (which uses the horn to signal the correct pressure range, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

SV models build on that with remote engine start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lamps, roof rails, front power seats, and a navigation system, with a larger eight-inch multi-touch interface. Then at the SL level you get Bose premium audio, with two subwoofers and eleven speakers, as well as leather seats, driver’s seat memory, heated front seats, heated mirrors, a Blind Spot Warning system, and the Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection.

Murano Platinum models are new this year—essentially a top-of-the-line model that could as well have an Infiniti (or Lexus) badge. The Platinum includes LED headlamps, 20-inch alloy wheels, climate-controlled (heated and cooled) front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel with power adjustment and memory, and power-folding second-row seats. Although the Platinum piles on the features, one thing is sorely missing in our opinion: power tilt/height adjustment (or any additional adjustment) for the passenger seat, which even in this top-of-the-line trim only slides fore and aft or reclines.

All models except the Murano S include an upgraded infotainment system with a larger eight-inch multi-touch screen, voice recognition for navigation and audio, and SiriusXM Travel Link services for fuel prices, weather, movie listings, stock information, and sports scores.

On the Murano S you can opt for a Navigation Package that brings that larger display and all the infotainment upgrades of the other models. SV models can be equipped with a Premium Package that brings the moonroof and Bose audio, while SL and Platinum models can be optioned with a Technology Package that adds the moonroof, Intelligent Cruise Control, and two valuable active-safety items: Forward Emergency Braking and Predictive Forward Collision Warning.

On all models you can opt for premium paint as well. And then there’s a list of port-installed accessories, including accent lighting, illuminated kick plates, roof rail cross bars, and a remote starter, for instance.

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2015 Nissan Murano

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Nissan Murano isn’t especially frugal, but its fuel bills will probably be a bit lower for anyone who’s trading in another crossover this size.

The 2015 Nissan Murano isn’t offered in hybrid or diesel guises, but against rival standard gasoline crossovers, especially rival V-6 models, the Murano is relatively fuel-efficient—a significant 20-percent better than the outgoing model, according to Nissan.

Thanks to a wide-ranging weight-loss strategy from the body structure on out, the Murano has lost nearly 150 pounds since last year’s version. The Murano has also had its aerodynamics finessed, and they’re significantly better thanks in part to its slightly lower, wider, and longer proportions. Its coefficient of drag of 0.31 (versus 0.37 before) goes a long way toward bringing those improved highway numbers.

Elements that help with that are rocker panels that are lower (actually helping in ruggedness and underbody protection), an active grille shutter system, fender lip moldings, and details in back that include bumper surfacing, tire deflectors, and an integrated rear spoiler.

Although the all-wheel drive system does introduce a bit more driveline drag, the difference versus the front-wheel drive version is less than 1 mpg (a rounding difference that leaves them with the same EPA rating). No matter which model in the lineup you choose, it gets official ratings of 21 mpg city, 28 highway.

And we saw plenty of evidence that real-world driving will return numbers in that range. In a 120-mile loop with a Murano SV AWD, with two different drivers piloting, we averaged nearly 24 mpg in a widely varied mix of road types and driving conditions.

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November 25, 2015
2015 Nissan Murano AWD 4-Door Platinum

3rd Gen Murano Awesome

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This is my second Murano. I am very pleased with the improvements made in this new generation. Very nice exterior and interior. Entertainment/Nav very easy to use. Looking forward to some road trips.
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October 3, 2015
2015 Nissan Murano FWD 4-Door Platinum

Great crossover but too soon to tell in long run.

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Have only had the Murano for a few weeks but everything seems great at this point. Love the style (inside & outside) and looks like fuel economy will exceed epa estimates. Was concerned about ride quality with... + More »
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August 17, 2015
2015 Nissan Murano FWD 4-Door SL

Great quite ride, very safe w/tech package. Wife just loves it.

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The ride is both quite and soft. I really like the infotainment system and the tech package w/ adaptive cruise control. The 360 degree camera is so nice because it's a hard vehicle to see out of when backing... + More »
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July 29, 2015
2015 Nissan Murano AWD 4-Door Platinum

Great car with dangerous Cruise Control

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This is our 3rd Nissan. Our last was a 2011 Murano which my wife loved. When it was time for a new car Murano was our first choice. The Good: Interior is nice and new seats are great for long trips. Gas... + More »
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May 18, 2015
2015 Nissan Murano AWD 4-Door SL

Excellent highway cruiser and a great value

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I have just over 1000 miles on my AWD Murano SL with the technology package. Just got back from a trip to Houston where it performed very well during very severe weather with heavy rain and flash flooding. I... + More »
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May 13, 2015
2015 Nissan Murano AWD 4-Door SL

Unmatched in ride quality , interior comfort, roadholding and elegance, period!

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The combination of design, comfort, and safety offers a new reference point to the automotive industry. My blue 2015 Murano SL rides like a magic carpet, has seating more comfortable than my living room, and... + More »
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May 12, 2015
2015 Nissan Murano FWD 4-Door SL

We're impressed with the styling and technology of the newly designed Murano. The Intelligent Cruise Control is wonderful for ease of highway driving. The 360. Cameras are terrific. Getting used to the surround cameras, but becoming more confident in c

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Style, technology, safety (rated # 1 in Midsized SUVs), gas mileage - 26 mpg highway. Seats are a bit firm in the SL with leather. Particularly taken by the design! Considered a Lexus RX 350, but chose the... + More »
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