The Nissan Murano was a sensation when it debuted in 2002, and it deserved to be. Its styling – reminiscent of its gorgeous upscale cousin, the Infiniti FX – was clean and crisp. It was right-sized, providing ample room for passengers and cargo, but exhibiting the road manners of a midsize sedan. The powerful V-6 engine delivered good fuel economy and the Murano proved safe and reliable.
For 2015, the Murano has undergone a somewhat polarizing redesign. The shapely simplicity that endeared the original Murano to many American drivers is gone; Nissan appears to have given its design team free rein with machines that bend, fold and crease sheet metal. It recalls the time Nissan sidetracked its boring Quest minivan and resurrected it as the most daring minivan design we’d ever seen. The difference here is that the Murano’s lines were always pleasing, never boring.
But the new Murano has some significant advantages over the previous design. Compared with the 2013 model we test-drove two years ago, luggage capacity has swelled by eight cubic feet; its cargo capacity with the rear seats lowered, is just under 70 cubes. Ground clearance is a half-inch less, but neither version of the Murano was intended for hard-core off-roading anyway. The 2015 Murano has the same engine-transmission combination – a 260-horsepower V-6 with continuously variable transmission – but fuel economy is substantially better: from 19 mpg city, 24 highway, to 21/28. (The fuel tank is nearly three gallons smaller, so people who trade up may not notice the improvement immediately.) And the new Murano is more than 150 pounds lighter despite its larger size.
The base Murano has a starting sticker price of $29,560. The Murano S is well equipped, with 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, rear-view camera, CD changer and cruise control. All Muranos come with identical 3.5-liter V-6 engines and CVT transmissions.
Our Murano Platinum was a cut above, with all-wheel drive, leather upholstery, heated seats all around with cooled seats in front, satellite radio, navigation system, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, power-adjustable front seats, power tailgate, remote start and 8-inch color touch-screen. With a Technology Package that included a power panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control, predictive forward collision warning and forward emergency braking, the sticker price came to $43,955.
Driving on a mix of newly paved roads and rough, scarred highways in Connecticut, we found the Murano to ride more smoothly than earlier models we’ve test-driven, but the driving experience was less engaging. The engine is quiet, powerful and responsive. Our major complaint was that the car felt even bigger than it is; earlier Muranos seemed more compact and more eager to dive into sharp curves.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated the Murano a Top Safety Pick Plus. Reliability data aren’t available on the redesigned model, but past Muranos have been rated average to better than average in Consumer Reports magazine owner surveys.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 260 horsepower, 240 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: Continuously variable
Weight: 3,790 lb.
Ground clearance: 6.9 in.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 20×7.5-in. Machine finished aluminum alloy
Tires: P235/55R20 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 39.6 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 69.9 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 1,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline