Nissan is in the midst of an SUV renaissance, with a re-focus on design that has seen both its biggest and smallest people movers - the Pathfinder and the Rogue - receive complete overhauls in the last few years. Book-ended by these compact and full-size options is the Nissan Murano, a mid-tier family hauler that for 2015 has finally received the attention it deserves, benefiting from a restyling effort all its own that should help to elevate the model into the first ranks of mid-size SUV fare.
All In The Family
It's no surprise that the 2015 Nissan Murano's looks are inspired by the same bold design cues found on the Rogue and the Pathfinder (especially when viewed head-on) but in profile the Murano offers additional detail not found in either of its siblings. In particular, there's the chrome kink that rises up from the top of the rear door to protrude into the angular glass that peeks into the cargo bay, which draws attention to the way the roofline appears to 'float' above the SUV by way of a clever blacked-out C-pillar. Then there's the expressive moulding of the Nissan's front and rear haunches, muscular curves that work in perfect harmony with the prominent grille up front that dives deep into the bumper, as well as the large 20-inch rims that came standard with my top trim tester.
- Also: Nissan Murano Scores Top Safety Marks From IIHS
- Also: 2016 Nissan Pathfinder: comfort and versatility in one package
Hand-in-hand with the 2015 Nissan Murano's resculpted glass and sheet metal comes a dramatically improved passenger compartment that nips at the heels of the luxury segment. Once again, it's the details that help the interior of the Murano stand out, as the Platinum model that I drove was loaded with leather, bright trim, and intriguingly-styled door panels and an equally eye-catching dashboard. The leather used on the Nissan's seats was soft to the touch, and the availability of heaters at four of the Murano's five seating positions as well as its enormous panoramic sunroof added to the vehicle's premium feel. Passengers enjoy excellent room even in the second row of the SUV, and cargo space expands to a class-competitive 1,979 litres with the rear seatback folded forward.
Infotainment Upgrade…Sort Of
Prior to the arrival of Chrysler's Uconnect 8.4 onto the scene, Nissan had a comfortable lead in the infotainment interface sweepstakes. The new Murano brings with it a prettier version of the brand's navigation/entertainment/communications LCD touchscreen that will be familiar to long-time Nissan fans, and I found it relatively simple to use and easy on the eyes. It wasn't an entirely smooth user experience, however, as I had the entire system lock up on me while navigating through downtown Montreal one evening, forcing me to pull over and turn the vehicle off and back on to reboot the system and once again begin receiving driving instructions. This type of failure is rare in the automotive world, but it's more likely to occur on a first-year model as software bugs are worked out in the field.
Something Old, Something New
The 2015 Nissan Murano carries forward the same 3.5-litre V6 that was offered by the previous-generation SUV. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as the 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque it brings to the table are sufficient to get the Murano moving with the requisite amount of authority. Given the engine's old-tech roots on what has become a high-tech drivetrain landscape, Nissan has tweaked the continuously-variable automatic transmission that comes standard with the Murano to offer improved fuel efficiency: you'll see a significant reduction in consumption for the current model year as compared to 2014.
Unfortunately, whereas in the past Nissan's CVTs have been relatively pleasant to drive, the Murano's revised drivetrain had the unsettling habit of staying on-throttle even after I had lifted my foot from the pedal. This only occurred when I had the accelerator pinned to the floor while passing, but that's exactly when you don't want a vehicle to keep surging forward for a half-second after you're done your manoeuvre. I've never experienced anything like this with any other Nissan product, and once again, I have to think I was dealing with a first-year glitch.
The Nissan Murano's overall ride quality was excellent, with the redesigned chassis eating the worst that Montreal's horrific infrastructure could throw at it. On the highway it was even better, transforming into the perfect road trip chariot with a calm and serene personality at speed, and the optional all-wheel drive system installed on the model I drove also provided the requisite traction to deal with the snow squalls I encountered during my week with the SUV. The only disappointment for me in the Murano's driving character was its ultra-light steering, which had the habit of becoming progressively disconnected while moving through longer corners.
A New Class Leader
The 2015 Nissan Murano is a tour-de-force in style, comfort, and practicality. This useful and spacious SUV is easily the equal of rivals like the Ford Edge, the Subaru Outback, and the Toyota RAV4, and it surpasses each of them in terms of visual appeal. After years of tepid styling, the Murano has finally come into its own, joining the rest of the Nissan sport-utility family in presenting a fashion-forward option for those who can stomach the cost.
Entry-level versions of the Murano start around the $31k mark, a figure which is on-par with the base Edge but which eclipses the four-cylinder RAV4 and Outback. If you want to sample the high end goodies inherent in the Platinum trim, however, look to shell out another $15,000, which puts you well above almost every other comparable mid-size SUV outside the luxury range (with the exception of the high performance Edge Sport). At that point, you can start to take a look at off-road-ready options like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, or even peek behind the premium curtain via Nissan's own Infiniti QX60. The Murano straddles two worlds, and while it doesn’t feel out of place in either of them, make sure you know what your budget can land you outside of a Nissan showroom before signing on the dotted line.