This review first appeared in The Spokesman-Review.
It’s not easy to stand out in the crowded compact crossover class, but Nissan’s third-generation Murano makes it look that way.
The new Murano is based heavily on the Resonance Concept, a concept vehicle Nissan campaigned during the 2014-14 auto-show season. Nissan poetically hailed the Resonance’s “refined intensity exterior” and “social lounge interior.”
With its heavy creases, “floating roof” and elongated “boomerang” headlights, Murano’s exterior styling is dramatic and unconventional.
The 2016 Murano is larger, roomier and lighter than before. Its new dimensions lend the Murano’s five-passenger cabin an open and airy feel and boost rear-seat legroom by 2.4 inches.
Revised suspension settings enhance ride quality and steering has been tweaked for a lighter feel at low speeds. The Murano is quicker than most mainstream compact crossovers, and more efficient than most six-cylinder competitors.
Its new dimensions yield an additional 2.4 inches of rear-seat legroom. Cargo space rivals the class leaders; 39.6 cubic feet behind the second row and 69.9 with the rear seats folded flat.
Last year’s engine — a 260-horsepower V-6 — is back and is again mated with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
A new 8-inch touchscreen is framed by soft-touch materials and dramatic matte-finish trim. The Nissan Connect interface offers access to the available navigation system and to a suite of smartphone apps.
Nissan reduced the height of the instrument panel this year and cut the number of audio and navigation switches from 25 to 10 to simplify operation.
Nissan says interior designers benchmarked “the future of first-class space travel.“ Hyperbole aside, the new Murano <em>is</em> fitted with Nissan’s NASA-inspired “Zero Gravity.” I couldn’t verify Nissan’s claim that they shape themselves to the position the body assumes in space, but I can report they are quite comfortable.
Newly available on Murano is Nissan’s AroundView monitor, which is activated with the transmission in Reverse. AroundView blends feeds from a set of cameras and displays a 360-degree overhead view of the vehicle and its surroundings, when it’s backing.
Murano is available in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations, and mileage figures are the same either way, at an estimated at 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway).
The zero-to-60 sprint happens in a crisp 7.5 seconds.
The Murano’s CVT sports a wider ratio-spread this year and has a higher final ratio, improving both acceleration and efficiency. Programmed to replicate the performance of an automatic transmission, it makes simulated gearshifts and, under acceleration, is less inclined than most CVTs to induce the commonplace droning-engine tone.
Nissan apparently decided that most new crossover buyers are more interested in a quality ride than sports-car handling. Less tightly suspended than before, the 2015 Murano leans in hard corners and is less nimble in traffic, but compensates with a more comfortable ride.
Steering feel is light at low speeds but firms up at highway speeds.
Unfortunately, the Murano’s thick rear quarter-panels and C pillar impede rearward vision and the bulging hood can make tight maneuvers trickier than necessary.
2015 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Vehicle base price: $29,560
Trim level base price: $40,600
As tested: $43,745
Options included power panoramic moonroof; intelligent cruise control; Predictive Forward Collision Warning; Forward Emergency Braking
Towing capacity: 1,500 lbs
EPA ratings: 24 combined/21 city/28 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified