Car reviews - Nissan - Murano - range
Distinctive and curvy styling is something different in a sea of bland SUVs, smooth V6, well-sorted CVT auto, packaging for the price, interior ambience and quality, strong headlights
Room for improvement
Soft suspension generations lots of bodyroll and feels floaty at speed, hard to pick the front extremities when parking, shallow boot, average turning circle, front seats could use more shape
19 Aug 2005
IT is hard not to be seduced by the marketing hype surrounding the Nissan Murano.
It’s shape oozes sex appeal and Nissan’s own claim of "sculpture in motion" is close to the mark in describing this newcomer.
But we’ve been seduced before with offerings that promise lots but deliver little. Is the Murano one of them? Read on.
The car’s design originates from Nissan’s California Design Studio and for an SUV manages to provide a strong, distinctive identity.
There’s plenty of wrap-around surface tension in the visual detailing, what Nissan describes as an "architectural" grille and sporty upswept D-pillar, a design feature being copied on several SUVs.
Visually, the Murano is a wide vehicle with a wheel-at-each corner stances that gives it a purposeful look. Stationary, and from different angles, it manages to look at once masculine and feminine. It’s androgyny personified.
Although the overall design gels, you’ll have to get use to the rear mudflaps too as they’re an Australian Design Rules requirement to reduce water spray. Unfortunately they don’t improve the car’s looks.
So just exactly what are its rivals?
Nissan believes the Murano will tackle the likes of the Toyota Kluger, Ford Territory and Toyota Prado and may even seduce some buyers from more fancied Japanese offerings like the RX330.
With modest predictions of 300 a month, Nissan Australia should have no trouble selling the entry ST and luxury Ti.
Prices are right in the Ford Territory Ghia AWD arena - $51,990 for the ST and $56,990 for the Ti with 70 per cent of buyers initially expected to opt for the luxury Ti.
Both offerings are well equipped. The ST boasts Xenon headlights with washers, 18-inch alloys, dual exhausts, integrated rear spoiler, Bose six-speaker in-dash CD with sub-woofer, steering wheel audio controls, automatic climate control, cruise control, leather steering wheel and shift lever, electric seats, electric windows and mirrors, cargo blind and cargo net.
The Ti adds leather, heated front seats, sunroof, rear parking sensors and roof rails.
Safety is also a strong point, with vehicle dynamic control, traction control, ABS, Brake Assist, dual front, side and curtain airbags and active front headrests.
Tick the box for price, packaging and looks. What else is there to love?
Well beneath the soft curves lies an engine we’ve come to appreciate for its refinement, free-revving abilities and economy - Nissan’s VQ 3.5-litre V6 – and engine that’s so impressed in the 350Z and Maxima.
In the Murano it’s mated to a continuously variable transmission with six-speed manual sequential mode and before you go suggesting that it’s gone all sort and cushy, the CVT manages to provide a silkiness even a conventional auto cannot match and is perfect to tap the surging power and torque of the V6.
With 172kW at 6000rpm on tap and 318Nm at 3600rpm the Murano shows its strength in mid-range acceleration. It accelerates strongly and the V6 manages to push along the 1.8-tonne juggernaut with ease.
Another benefit of the CVT is that it’s infinitely variability means at 100km/h the car is ticking over at 2000rpm, which will go some way to ensuring good economy.
According to Nissan, the Murano boasts respectable fuel economy figure of 12.3L/100km. After 350km of mixed off-road and highway driving the on-board computer showed 12.0L/100km, with the promise of even more modest gains.
Inside the packaging and quality is a cut-above - proof that Nissan has lifted its game against its rivals.
The centre console is big enough to house a laptop, there’s plenty of cubbies and the rear luggage area has some underfloor storage space.
Thoughtful touches abound.
The rear seat not only splits 60/40 and folds almost flat but it can be dropped by pulling a lever in the cargo area - similar to the Mazda6. The flat cargo area is a tad shallow though.
A bonus is the large composite plastic and steel rear door, which is feather-light to close and when open swings sufficiently high enough not to bump your head.
With the seatbacks up there’s 476 litres of load space, which expands to 877 with both seats folded.
In keeping with some of its rivals, the Murano has a spacesaver spare, which makes the whole question of venturing off-road a bit academic.
Who wants to try an drive on a spacesaver when you’re in the bush?
Access to the spare is good but it’s a bit of a fiddle to remove the sub-woofer, which is located right in the middle of the spare.
Suspension is via independent MacPherson-style front and multi-link rear. The speed sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is communicative and direct, with good turn-in.
Both the front and rear suspension assemblies are rubber-mounted on sub-frames, which is designed to enhance ride comfort and handling.
The Murano certainly is whisper-quiet around town and at highway speeds. You can barely hear the thrum of the V6.
To optimize the rear luggage area Nissan has separated the coil springs and rear dampers. It claims the setup is more compact than a conventional coil-over-shock absorber arrangement.
That may be so but the whole setup is biaise too much towards comfort at the expense of control. Push the Murano and understeer becomes the norm and when pushing through corners the car will roll excessively.
It’s fine for highway driving but the cushy on-road poise deteriorates when you ask more of the Murano for some push-on driving. At speed, the too it can become floaty.
The part-time All Mode four-wheel drive, which X-Trail owners will be familiar with, means the car is more soft-roader than off-roader.
In most situations the Murano is front-wheel drive, when wheel slip is detected drive will transfer automatically to the rear wheels.
An electro-mechanical clutch will engage by up to 50 per cent to divide torque as needed.
For off-road work, a torque lock switch will split torque between the front and rear wheels 50/50 at speeds up to 30km/h and can be activated at speeds below 10km/h. Over 30km/h the Murano will revert to Auto operation.
The Murano will go off road but like most crossovers, it will spend most of its time doing the school run, going to the snow or towing a small boat or van.
And for that it’s a competent offering.
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