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Car reviews - Nissan - Murano - 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Quiet and spacious cabin, value-for-money
Room for improvement
Lack of off-idle response, thick pillars

Nissan logo19 Jan 2009

By PHILIP LORD

IT’S no secret that design is crucial to the sales success of a new vehicle. Buying a car – or an expensive SUV, for that matter – has to be more than a simple rational decision. You have to like the way your new vehicle looks.

So you can imagine Nissan showrooms circa August 2005 when the covers were whipped off the shiny new Murano. The crowds of prospective purchasers invited by the dealer to a soiree of canapes and champagne to celebrate the Murano launch, after a moment of polite clapping no doubt slowly receded behind the D22 Navara in the far corner of the showroom and out the back door.

The few remaining customers must’ve been all over the Murano, looking appreciatively at its glossy, buffed lines under the bright lights and peppering the sales team with countless questions.

Nissan no doubt hopes that its new Murano will cause fewer prospects to dart out the back door.

While the new design looks somehow familiar, it seems Nissan could have stuck to its guns a little more and not soften up the styling of the Murano as much as it has. Styling is a personal thing, but the new vehicle will not polarise buyers like the first model.

When you climb aboard the new Murano, you are presented with a simple, elegant space with loads of room for both front and rear occupants. This is really a spacious cruiser, and the driver is treated to a simple, clear instrument layout and large, well-placed controls. The quality of fit and finish is pretty good, too.

The engine fires up to a muted whirr. Cruising out of town, the first thing you notice is just how quiet this SUV is – all the Nissan talk of improved NVH seems to have worked.

What hasn’t worked so well is vision out of the cabin – the A-pillars are thick and the rear vision is not exceptional, either. However, there are worse vehicles to see out of, and the large side mirrors are among the best you’ll find.

The cargo area has a high loading lip but at least the lift-up tailgate feels light to open – and has electric assistance on the Ti model. The cargo space is not class leading but is well squared off and has four substantial (but plastic) tie-downs and four cargo net loops. No cargo blind is fitted to the ST (it’s standard on Ti) but the cargo sidewalls moulded to fit them are – so it’s obvious it’s missing.

The 3.5-litre V6 may have gained more power and torque, but when launching off the mark you’d hardly know it. The Murano’s response is more dignified than deviant, with not a lot happening until around 40km/h, as the CVT allows the engine to spin up enough to allow the 1795kg Murano to get into its stride.

It’s almost like a turbo-diesel’s low-rpm lag, no doubt caused by the CVT, and only obvious when you want maximum acceleration off the mark. Once rolling, it’s fine, with a strong surge forward and a muted rev from the V6 engine. Gone are the days of banshee engine wail as the CVT keeps the engine in its power band.

The Murano has a supple ride and despite the European suspension tune for Australian cars, the suspension feels soft when driven quickly, with a fair bit of float. The steering is precise enough and has enough feel. The tyres grip quite well but it’s obvious on this first taste-test that the Murano won’t challenge BMW’s SUV offerings for dynamics.

Off-road, the Murano does not have the low-range gearing and ground clearance for anything serious, while the brief excursion on to the sand on the launch drive shows that a hot day in the soft dunes gets the CVT too warm for its liking. The test vehicle went into limp-home mode twice – albeit briefly – in soft sand. Left for about a minute, the system recovered.

There might be better luxury SUVs, but if refinement, features and low price are your priorities in a new luxury mid-size SUV, then it would be hard to go past the new Murano.

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