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Launch Story

19 Aug 2005

NISSAN Australia's new Murano five-seater crossover wagon hits the showrooms this week, priced from $51,990.

Powered by Nissan's familiar 3.5-litre V6 - in this case producing 172kW at 6000rpm and 318Nm at 3600rpm - and mated to a six-speed continuously variable transmission, the Murano is Nissan's first soft-roader and is pitted against prestige wagons like the Lexus RX330.

The new Pathfinder? Not according to Nissan.

The company expects to sell around 300 Muranos each month, with the range-topping $56,990 Ti expected to account for 70 per cent of sales.

Equipment levels are high, with both models fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, a Bose audio system (with six-disc in-dash CD stacker and steering-mounted audio controls), climate-control air-conditioning, power-adjustable driver's seat, leather-clad steering wheel/shift lever, cruise control, six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), 60/40 split-fold rear seats, dual exhausts, sports suspension and Xenon headlights.

In line with Nissan's other up-spec models, the Ti adds a sunroof, roof rails, heated leather seats, metallic paint and reverse parking sensors. There is no seven-seat option available.

Nissan Australia managing director and chief executive officer, Shinya Hannya, said the Murano was well priced, highly specified and more than capable of tackling the Lexus RX330, Volvo XC90, Honda MDX and Australia's biggest-selling four-wheel drive, Ford's Territory.

Based on unique platform architecture known as FF-L (front-engine/front-drive/large), the sleek wagon uses the acclaimed 3.5-litre V6 engine from the 350Z, but, in a first for Australia, is combined with Nissan's new six-speed Xtronic continuously variable transmission.

However, unlike the Z-car, the engine is slightly detuned, developing 172kW at 6000rpm and 318Nm at 3600rpm.

Despite its lower power rating and a 1.8-tonne weight penalty, the Murano claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.3 seconds and an electronically governed top speed of 200km/h.

In Europe, Nissan quotes a combined fuel consumption figure of 12.3L/100km.

Nissan claims the CVT transmission provides smooth and responsive acceleration while virtually eliminating shift shock and providing better fuel economy than a conventional automatic.

Mr Hannya also believes the CVT, which customarily has been mated to smaller-capacity engines, has the reliability and durability to cope with the high-revving V6.

The Murano CVT has been on sale for two years in the United States, where it sells about 5000 a month. There have been no transmission issues there, Mr Hannya said.

Drive is fed electronically through an all-wheel drive set-up based on Nissan’s All-Mode 4x4 system fitted to the X-Trail and Pathfinder.

In most conditions the system runs in front-wheel drive, switching automatically to all-wheel drive when traction wanes. For extra traction, the system can be locked into all-wheel drive via a dashboard-mounted switch.

The FF-L platform features an exceptionally long wheelbase (2824mm) for maximum cabin space.

The large 18-inch wheels are pushed out to the corners, giving the wagon a solid on-road presence accentuated by short overhangs front and rear.

Designers have clearly made the soft-roader distinct but it does include much of Nissan’s recent design language. It is also miles apart from the rugged-looking cues expressed in Pathfinder, Patrol and Navara.

The trapezoidal headlights and tail-lights echo those found on the 350Z. Another distinctive styling cue is the upswept triangular rear side window, a signature design cue becoming more common among some four-wheel drive designs.

Suspension is fully independent, comprising a multi-link arrangement at the rear and a strut-style configuration with cradle-type front subframe at the front. High-stiffness stabiliser bars are used at each end.

The steering is power-assisted, speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion.

Nissan has borrowed Renault plastics technology in designing the tailgate, which is made of advanced composite plastics with reinforced steel for strength. It is designed to be both lightweight and easy to operate.

Inside, Murano seems to have the looks and equipment to tackle its rivals. The five-seater boasts reclining rear seats with a 60/40 split and the rear seatbacks can be lowered flat from the luggage area courtesy of a single lever.

Attention has also been paid to interior storage facilities, with deep flip-out door pockets and a double-deck lockable centre console that is deep enough to house a laptop computer.

Underfloor storage in the cargo area also ensures valuables can be hidden from prying eyes, while a space-saver spare wheel is stored under the luggage compartment.

Size-wise, the Murano’s wheelbase is 4765mm – 109mm longer than the Lexus RX. It is 1709mm high and has a front and rear track measuring 1631mm and 1626mm respectively.

The vehicle was styled at Nissan’s California Design Studio, which had a brief to build a highly sculptural crossover 4WD. It is named after an island near Venice that specialises in high-quality glassware.

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