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
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.’’