It took me a while to warm up to the new Nissan Murano. After all, I don’t much like crossovers … and the Murano isn’t exactly flawless. My nearly $36,000 press demonstrator lacked niceties like heated seats, a remote rear hatch release, and achieved similar fuel economy to the 485-horsepower Dodge Challenger I was driving the week previous.
That being said, the Murano excels at the most important part of crossover-dom (a totally real word that I in no way invented) by being a stylish and comfortable space to spend time.
Je ne sais quoi
When it comes to cars it is always nice to have numbers to explain why a particular one is good or bad. That’s why we journalists love 0-to-60 times, power figures, and gas mileage statistics; they are simple, incontrovertible measurements of which car is best.
The new Murano has one of the nicest, most intriguing interiors of any non-luxury car.
The thing is, for the daily experience of owning a car, numbers don’t matter much. Little things like how good the seats are, how it looks, how it makes the driver feel are all critically important, and those you can’t sum up with numbers.
Such small things are rarely more important than they are on the Murano. Nissan is marketing this car towards middle-aged empty nesters, particularly women. This is not a demographic that cares about quarter-mile times or gear ratios, which is good because the Murano is cursed with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and is therefore horrendous in these terms.
As a result of this focus, Nissan’s marketing department is using phrases like “premium social lounge” and “multifunction communication alley” to describe the car. These terms may sound like they came out of a bull’s hindquarters, but behind the marketing nonsense is a kernel of truth.
A nice place to be
The new Murano has one of the nicest, most intriguing interiors of any non-luxury car. Even the stripped-down version with cloth seats looks beautiful. In part this is clever design; just like the car’s flowing, futuristic exterior, the interior is a wash of sculpted lines.
The same flowing futuristic lines characterize the Murano’s interior as the exterior. The driver even gets a cockpit-like driving position. The thing that really helps set the Murano apart, though, are the build materials. Like most of its competition, though, most of the materials occupants see are fake.
The leather door trim is from polyurethane cows, the metal is mostly painted plastic, and where most automakers use imitation wood Nissan has opted to use the shell of a space clam. The thing is, thanks to cleverly contrasting colors and a good sense of unified design, it all works.
While the Murano is only a five-seater, the five passengers will find plenty of room for themselves front and rear, as well as a capacious cargo area. And those seats are also the most comfortable I have found outside of a Volvo. Nissan claims that NASA inspired the seat design. If that’s the case, then astronauts must be very comfortable.
The somewhat futuristic look is complements by Nissan’s new touchscreen infotainment system. While not perfect, it looks good and is easy to use. It will even pop up alerts for severe weather events in the vehicle’s area.
All of the details add up to be more than the sum of their parts. And, for a few moments at least, the Murano can live up to Nissan’s ridiculous lounge characterizations. The Murano may not be the most exciting car to drive, or the cheapest, but it is shockingly attractive. Perhaps most surprisingly, it has real charm and charisma.
After a long day of work, I drove the Murano out through rush hour traffic to shoot some photos in one of Portland’s rain-drenched industrial districts. By the time I had what I needed I was soaked and tired. Climbing back into the Murano, I paused a moment and thought of all the things I needed to work on when I got home: make dinner, drain the flooded basement, and walk the rain-averse dog.
Settling into the Nissan’s seats, all of this seemed to drop away. I decided to take a few minutes off. I cranked the Tchaikovsky on the Murano’s excellent stereo and I sat relaxed for a time. Enjoying the music, the sound of the rain, and the opulent interior, I loosened up. It was a nice moment, and one that speaks well of how pleasant the Murano would be to live with.
Relaxed is also the word I would use to describe the car’s driving performance. It may have a 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, but thanks to 4,000 pounds of mass and a joy-killing CVT, the Murano is hardly a performance standout.
Despite being relatively large, the Murano is an easy car to drive, with precise steering, smooth acceleration, braking, and a pleasant ride.
That is okay, though; Murano buyers are likely not be looking for performance but rather a smooth and comfortable way to get to their Salsa dancing classes. On this count, the Murano does well. Despite being relatively large, the Murano is an easy car to drive, with precise steering, smooth acceleration, braking, and a pleasant ride.
I was also impressed with just how quiet it was. In short, the Murano does what it needs to on performance and no more, which frankly I approve of.
The driving experience isn’t without flaws, though. The Murano’s stylish design includes massive rear pillars, which create equally massive blind spots. This can be fixed by purchasing a Murano with blindspot monitoring, but it’s frustrating that this is a must rather than a nice safety bonus.
Then there is the fuel economy. The Murano has an older engine, but its extremely aerodynamic shell and CVT are supposed to deliver an EPA rated 17/22 mpg split. I managed only 14 mpg in mixed highway and city driving. I believe that with a lighter foot this mileage would have gone up a couple of mpg. That said, 16 mpg in a five-seater is still pretty darn bad for 2015.
On numbers alone, the Murano may not stand out from the crowd. That doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. It is arguably the most stylish, comfortable, and charismatic vehicle in its class. Even with its bad visibility, steep options list, and bad fuel economy, I genuinely liked it.
The Murano is a great choice for people who want to travel in style and comfort without worrying too much about performance. In short, it is perfect for people who really want a crossover.
- Charismatic styling
- Comfortable and quiet ride
- Excellent interior
- Good available technology
- Real world fuel economy