Nis­san mother of in­ven­tion

A vir­tual mom has driven the new Mu­rano de­sign, writes PAUL GOVER AT ITS HEART ARE ALL THE STRENGTHS THAT MADE THE ORIG­I­NAL SUCH A SUC­CESS

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

EV­ERY time I slide into the new Nis­san Mu­rano I think of Teresa. She is the woman who has driven much of the de­vel­op­ment of the sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Mu­rano, in­clud­ing the stronger em­pha­sis on cabin qual­ity and classy de­sign.

That’s be­cause Teresa, a 54-yearold Cal­i­for­nian baby boomer with two adult chil­dren, is an in­te­rior de­signer. She likes nice things and can tell the dif­fer­ence.

But Teresa has a se­cret: she is not real. She is a vir­tual per­son cre­ated by the Nis­san de­vel­op­ment team in the US to check that de­vel­op­ment of ev­ery new model is al­ways on tar­get.

If they have a ques­tion, they snap back to the vir­tual pro­file. So many of the de­ci­sions on the new Mu­rano were re­ferred to Teresa.

Not that the ques­tions were tough. The orig­i­nal Mu­rano was the right size and the right idea for a semilux­ury SUV, but the fi­nal fin­ish­ing — like the ba­sic Ti­ida-style in­te­rior in the racey 350Z— lacked the fi­nal pol­ish that had been ex­pected.

Also, the Mu­rano got off to a rocky start here. Buy­ers didn’t know what to make of a curvy, sub­ur­ban four-wheel-drive from a com­pany that had pro­duced the Pa­trol and been a heavy­weight con­tender for more than 25 years.

But the Mu­rano is more fa­mil­iar now, and — thanks to a road-to-roof makeover— has more ap­peal. It also helps that Nis­san has held the price at $45,990, and the top-line Ti is still sig­nif­i­cantly be­low $60,000.

The pack­age in­cludes leather trim on both mod­els and a classy V6 with con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion. The Ti picks up a power tail­gate, sat­nav and a rear rev­ers­ing cam­era.

And the in­tro­duc­tion is go­ing well. Nis­san Aus­tralia boss Dan Thomp­son says sales are great.

‘‘It’s go­ing even bet­ter than we ex­pected,’’ he says.

Thomp­son is also pumped by the push by the Ti, af­ter orig­i­nally aim­ing at the Toy­ota Kluger and Mazda CX-7. It is winning sales in the lux­ury class, which means peo­ple are con­sid­er­ing it against a wider range of SUV ri­vals, in­clud­ing more costly con­tenders up to the bench­mark BMW X5.

The changes to the Mu­rano are ex­ten­sive, but it looks more like a facelift than a full model change.

That could be be­cause Teresa al­ready liked the shape, or be­cause Nis­san was able to save money on de­vel­op­ment. In any case, ev­ery body panel is new, the cabin is fresher and classier, the sus­pen­sion has been tweaked, and Nis­san says the V6 uses less fuel and emits less pol­lu­tion than did the ear­lier model.

In some ways the ’09 Mu­rano is like the forth­com­ing Volk­swa­gen Golf, which shares a lot of hid­den stuff with the pre­vi­ous model yet has im­prove­ments that boost value and show a real re­turn.

‘‘The new Mu­rano . . . has many in­no­va­tive fea­tures, but at its heart are all the strengths that made the orig­i­nal such a suc­cess,’’ Thomp­son says.

‘‘We have changed the am­bi­ence of the cabin from sports ac­tiv­ity to club-lounge com­fort. The new ve­hi­cle raises the dy­namic stakes even higher.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.