Fam­ily favourite

The Mu­rano is com­ing out of its big brother’s shadow, writes Neil McDon­ald

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test -

FOR a com­pany best known for its rugged Pa­trol, Nis­san’s ‘‘other’’ of­froad­ers have had a hard job steal­ing a sec­ond glance from buy­ers. The Pa­trol and the mid-size X-Trail share the lime­light, leav­ing the Dualis and Mu­rano trail­ing in the must-have stakes.

But since the new Mu­rano ar­rived just over 15 months ago, there are more on the road as fam­i­lies dis­cover its at­tributes. As with the Dualis, it is gain­ing mo­men­tum among buy­ers.

More than 3500 have been sold and Nis­san Aus­tralia ex­pects a solid re­sult this year given the car has just re­ceived some new fea­tures to keep it up to date.

The ST gets key­less en­try and start, which was pre­vi­ously only avail­able on the Ti. It also adds Blue­tooth phone con­trols with steer­ing wheel­mounted switches.

As with sim­i­lar sys­tems, lock­ing or un­lock­ing the car is sim­ply a mat­ter of touch­ing the door han­dle, and to start or stop the en­gine, sim­ply push the start/stop but­ton on the dash.

The Ti now gets a large dual-panel elec­tric slid­ing sun­roof with a proper shade to block out harsh sun­light.

The large, full-width front glass panel slides open or can be raised slightly to as­sist ven­ti­la­tion, and the rear panel is a fixed sky­light.

Both let plenty of light into the al­ready airy in­te­rior.

Gone are the days when Nis­san’s in­te­ri­ors looked a lit­tle down-mar­ket. The Ti has soft­touch qual­ity plas­tics, sen­si­bly placed switchgear, dou­ble-stitched leather and al­loy high­lights that im­part a lux­ury feel.

The stan­dard kit in­cludes an 11-speaker Bose sound sys­tem, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, elec- tric rear hatch and rear 60/40 split seat­backs that can be low­ered elec­tri­cally too. Other stan­dard fea­tures in­clude leather up­hol­stery, an in­tu­itive cli­mate-con­trol sys­tem, six-spoke and 18-inch al­loys. From the out­side the new Mu­rano ap­pears to have a roof made mostly of dark­ened glass.

Lit­tle else has changed for the Mu­rano and the ‘‘sculp­ture in mo­tion’’ de­sign is still con­tem­po­rary.

Un­der­neath the smooth sheet metal is a pow­er­ful 191kW 3.5-litre V6 en­gine, which re­mains one of Nis­san’s best-ever en­gines from the VQ fam­ily.

In ad­di­tion to the silky V6 the Mu­rano gets Nis­san’s Xtronic con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion which is now quicker and more in­tu­itive.

The Ti throws in an elec­tric tail­gate, high­end sound sys­tem, elec­tri­cally raised rear seats and a re­vers­ing cam­era with pre­dic­tive path technology.

As with the X-Trail, the Mu­rano uses Nis­san’s AllMode all-wheel-drive sys­tem.

A full suite of elec­tronic safety sys­tems, in­clud­ing elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and a rigid bodyshell earned the Mu­rano a top safety pick award at its launch from the In­surance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety in the US.

Driv­ing

WE KEPT hav­ing to check the fuel con­sump­tion in our Mu­rano. Af­ter a week dic­ing with peak-hour traf­fic and a cross-coun­try burst on the free­way, the re­set trip com­puter re­fused to budge off 8.5 litres/100km, no mat­ter how un­kindly the car was driven.

For a big lux­ury off-roader, that’s an im­pres­sive fig­ure and says a lot about the com­bi­na­tion of a CVT au­to­matic and Nis­san’s su­perb V6 en­gine works.

Even if the fig­ure was a lit­tle op­ti­mistic— in our ex­pe­ri­ence most trip com­put­ers are — the Mu­rano stacks up as a rea­son­ably eco­nom­i­cal fam­ily cross­over wagon.

Nis­san’s of­fi­cial fuel-econ­omy read­ing is a com­bined high­way and city fig­ure of 10.9 litres/100km, so a sub-10 is likely at con­stant high­way speeds. When we last tested it the av­er­age was 11.9 litres/100km so maybe gen­tle driv­ing is the key.

The V6 re­mains one of our favourite en­gines and is more than a match for the best out of Europe.

It is in­cred­i­bly smooth and silent, yet when you call upon it to haul the car quickly, it re­sponds eas­ily and with­out drama.

The CVT be­haves al­most like a con­ven­tional au­to­matic, but be­cause there are no nor­mal gear changes it just keeps the car on the boil. En­thu­si­as­tic driv­ers get a six-speed man­ual mode.

This gear­box is also good for econ­omy be­cause it al­lows the V6 to loaf along at high­way speeds at mod­est revs.

Where the CVT is caught out some­times is at the traf­fic lights. It can hes­i­tate ever-so­briefly, but is no worse than some mod­ern dual-clutch trans­mis­sions.

For $57,890 the Ti presents a sur­pris­ingly good deal and is well equipped when lined up against its key ri­vals. Au­dio snobs will en­joy the high-end sound sys­tem.

The rear park­ing cam­era is a use­ful ad­di­tion, but on an up-mar­ket model like the Ti front sen­sors should also be stan­dard be­cause it’s dif­fi­cult to judge the pro­trud­ing snout. In­side the Ti is spa­cious and suit­ably well equipped for the price.

The twin glass roofs add to the cabin’s airy feel, par­tic­u­larly with the light tan leather in­te­rior. Front and rear oc­cu­pants en­joy plenty of leg and head­room, but the ta­pered rear end and full-size spare com­pro­mise lug­gage space a bit.

It’s a trade-off we’re happy with, given that full-size spares are rare in off-road­ers these days. A full-size spare has be­come a sell­ing point in it­self.

Some buy­ers might by­pass the Mu­rano be­cause it only has five seats, but Nis­san’s an­swer is the new Dualis+2 seven-seater.

How­ever, its more di­rect com­pe­ti­tion— the seven-seater Mazda CX-9, Toy­ota Kluger and even the Ford Ter­ri­tory — ace the Mu­rano in the ac­com­mo­da­tion stakes.

But the lat­est Ti adds some nice lux­ury touches to keep it in the game.

The bot­tom line

CLASS-LEAD­ING V6 and CVT make it a stand­out, but some fam­i­lies might baulk at the lack of seven seats.

Space-saver: the Nis­san Mu­rano has lux­ury but not as many seats as other off-road­ers.

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