Stylish Nissan Murano sets itself apart from other SUVs

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Nissan's stylish 2015 Murano mid-size, sport utility vehicle is getting lots of second and even third looks as consumers seek the next big thing in SUVs.

Redesigned for its third generation, the five-seat Murano now features a tall hood, V-shaped grille design, light-emitting diode headlamps and tail lights and eye-catching, swoopy lines along the sides.

The interior is revamped stylishly, too, with an upscale-looking dashboard design, bright, electroluminiscent gauges and intriguing accent pieces such as plastic in a streaked-look, Jasper Pearlescent light beige.

The Murano also includes many thoughtful features, such as dual climate control, rearview camera and push-button start, as standard equipment on even the base vehicle.

The 2015 Murano also has a more compliant ride than its predecessor and is about 3 inches longer overall and a tad wider and lower than the 2014 Murano.

All Muranos come with a 260-horsepower V-6 and continuously variable transmission (CVT) that are largely carried over from last year.

Pricing, however, increased for 2015, with the base, starting retail price up $1,145 from 2014's starting price. Additionally, for the first time, a Murano trim level surpasses $40,000.

Specifically, starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $30,445 for a base, 2015 Murano S with front-wheel drive. The lowest starting retail price, including destination charge, for an all-wheel drive, 2015 Murano is $32,045.

For 2015, the Murano trim levels are S, SV, SL and Platinum. The top-of-the-line, 2015 Murano Platinum AWD model has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $41,485.

Competitors include the vast array of crossover SUVs that are built, like the Murano is, on a car-based platform for a more car-like ride but which have exterior looks and functionality of a higher-riding SUV.

For example, the 2015 Ford Edge SUV has a starting retail price of $28,995 for a base, SE model with front-wheel drive, 245-horsepower four cylinder and six-speed automatic. A 2015 Edge with 280-horsepower V-6, six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $29,420.

Meantime, the base, 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a starting retail price of $30,990 with 290-horsepower V-6, eight-speed automatic and two-wheel drive.

The Murano's one engine is a competitive downside in the crossover SUV segment, where fuel economy can figure into a buyer's priorities. For 2015, Nissan improved the Murano's federal government fuel ratings from last year's 18 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on highways to 21/28 mpg. These ratings are for Muranos with front- and all-wheel drive.

Nissan said the better gasoline mileage came mainly from the 2015 Murano's lighter weight, better aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires and a shutter that automatically closes the grille opening when appropriate to reduce air resistance.

But the test Murano Platinum AWD, loaded with equipment and weighing more than 4,000 pounds, averaged 18.4 mpg in travel that was a majority city driving. So travel range on a single tank was 350 miles.

To be sure, the Murano tester was an eager driver. The driver had to learn to modulate the accelerator pressure or risk running up quickly on cars ahead.

The 3.5-liter, double overhead cam V-6 in the Murano is from the Nissan's line of stalwart VQ engines and performed well in the tester. The test vehicle never behaved as if it was straining for power.

The Xtronic CVT mated to the V-6 surprisingly behaved like a normal transmission, creating no noticeable droning of the engine that the driver could hear nor spoiling the sprightly feel of the vehicle.

CVTs, which typically have no set gears but work to operate in optimal ranges, are designed for fuel economy, and Nissan's CVT in its Versa sedan has been criticized for tamping down any sensation of strong power.

This is not the case in the Murano, which also has a shift-it-yourself mode — without a clutch pedal — for drivers who want a sporty driving experience. But drivers must tap the gear shift lever in the center console to activate this feature. No race car-like paddle shifters are included on the Murano steering wheel.

The 2015 Murano rides noticeably softer than its predecessor. Nearly all road bumps are absorbed by the suspension for a pleasing ride. But the sporty feel in corners and turns is lessened, as passengers notice body lean.

Brakes worked well and fast in the tester. The optional safety features of forward collision warning and forward emergency braking were pleasantly less intrusive than those on some other vehicles, such as the Grand Cherokee.

Nissan said the Murano is the only vehicle in its class to offer an Around-View monitor with four cameras to display what's around the SUV.

The system has amazing camera views projected on the dashboard display screen, making parallel parking easier and ensuring safer parking in close quarters.

Seats are surprisingly comfortable as Nissan applies zero gravity technology to front and rear outboard seats for optimal support from hips to back.

Other nice touches: A USB port for back-seat passengers, a wider center console between front seats for improved comfort, and a colorful, easy-to-read navigation system that displays buildings as they look in real life.

The Murano interior was quieter than expected in the test vehicle, which wore uplevel, 20-inch tires.

But cargo has to be lifted high to get into the cargo hold, as the cargo floor was at upper thigh level on a 5-foot-4 passenger.

Rear-seat legroom of 38.7 inches is a tad more than what's in the Grand Cherokee but less than in the Edge.