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Nissan Murano

On the Road Auto Reviews

cars.com On the Road Weekly Publication

11:57 AM EDT, April 11, 2012

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By Jim MacPherson

 

There are two versions of the Nissan Murano: The crossover utility vehicle and a convertible, the Murano CrossCabriolet. One is rational, the other whimsical. Rationality rules for this review.

In 2012, Nissan has made few changes to the Murano crossover utility vehicle which has long been noted for its comfortable ride, car-like handling and solid performance.

The Murano appeals to a variety of customers, although most buyers have families, according to James Gomes, marketing and development manager at Middletown Nissan.  “It’s a true crossover, with the ride and handling of a car and the utility of a sport utility vehicle,” he says.

Four trim levels are offered. The least costly “S” is nicely equipped with a smooth, 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), dual-zone automatic climate control and the expected power assists.

The SV adds power seats and a power sunroof, the SL has leather upholstery and heated front seats while the LE offers items usually reserved for more costly luxury vehicles; everything on the lesser models plus a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated rear seats and bi-xenon headlights. “The SV or SL are the most popular,” Gomes says.

Regardless of the model, the 3.5-liter V-6 and continuously variable automatic transmission deliver an impressive performance. Nissan’s engineers and product planners often comment on the efforts they’ve taken to avoid what they call “the rubber band effect” that plagues some other CVTs. This is the feeling on full-throttle acceleration that the engine is connected to the transmission with a rubber band that is getting wound up, much like a child’s rubber-band-powered balsawood airplane model.  “It won’t jerk [on gear changes] and spill your coffee,” Gomes says of the Murano’s CVT. And it gets better gas mileage.

Performance is quite good. Our review Nissan Murano hit 60 miles per hour from a stop in just 7.8 seconds.

The ride is comfortable. You feel bumps, but aren’t bothered by them. That’s true even when encountering rough stretches of road.

Handling gets good marks, too. The steering is accurate and, when pressed in a turn, the Murano leans, but never feels unsettled. Braking is also good. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.

The front seats are comfortable, which is expected. Perhaps not expected are just as comfortable rear seats.   Leg and head room are more than sufficient for six footers in the second row, which features chair-high seating, reclining seat backs and comfortable cushions.

Converting the Murano for cargo is easy thanks to split and folding rear seat backs that form an almost flat floor. With the back seat up, there is 31 cubic feet of cargo space available; 64 cubic feet with the seats folded.

If there is a complaint to be lodged, it would center on fuel economy. Despite the undeniable efficiency of the CVT, the best we did was 21 miles per gallon on regular gasoline. That’s actually not bad, considering the size and weight of the Murano and the fact that competitors are often mired in the upper teens.

The Murano seems equally adept at pleasing drivers and passengers. That it combines luxury with the ability to become the family’s go-to utility vehicle seems improbable, but the Murano pulls it off convincingly.

Starts at: $29,540

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 with 260-hp

240 lbs-ft torque

EPA AWD: 18/23

EPA FWD: 18/24

Next Week: Volvo XC60