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