Nissan's Murano has existed in its current iteration since its 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show debut/January 2008 sale date. Considering that most modern cars have a six-year life span, the Murano is due for a complete revamp sometime in 2013 or 2014. It's a good thing, then, that Nissan's Detroit auto show stand has a mid-size SUV concept -- the Resonance -- on it.
Early reports suggested that the next Murano would be based on the Terra concept from last year's Paris motor show, but that blockier show car -- which was powered by a fuel cell -- appears to have been shelved in favor of this creased, swoopy concept. Crucially, the fuel cell was ditched in favor of a comparatively simple hybrid system. Unlike the Terra, all four doors on the Resonance open forward.
That isn't to say that the Resonance doesn't, well, resonate, because its raises the Murano to a whole new level of design. The current car's large chromed grille is scrapped in favor of a trapezoidal grille lined in chrome and flanked by thin headlights (similar to Nissan's Hi-Cross Concept). Take a closer look, however, and you'll see that the headlight plastic extends most of the way up the hood in the shape of an oversized letter C or L. The line from the headlights runs down the length of the car until it meets the taillights, which are also long, thin, and shaped like up-turned Ls. From the look of this concept, it appears that the funky taillight arrays on the current-generation Juke weren't a design aberration for the Japanese automaker; they were an opening shot.
On the side of the car, the running boards are neatly folded into the doors, and the door handles (as one might expect from a concept) are tiny and almost completely hidden beneath the strong character line running through the doors. The Resonance gives off a two-tone effect, with light copper paint covering the body panels and deep silver covering the lower front diffuser and the running boards/side skirts. The effect continues on the wheels, which are 22 inches in diameter and painted silver and gold.
Take a look at the glass, and you'll instantly recognize elements of the Murano's design, as triangular windows on the sides of the cargo area and black plastic at the base of the A-pillar give the car a parallelogram daylight opening.
The interior is trimmed in natural wood and premium stitched leather, which is accented by warm ambient lighting. To let in natural light, Nissan added a full-length glass roof. In the middle of the dashboard is what Nissan calls an "advanced instrument panel" that creates a "holographic experience," wherein the car's infotainment features are layered on top of each other (with 3D visual effects) to allow the driver to call one to the front, complete a task with it, and then push it to the back.
The jury's out on whether or not the 2014 Murano will have a holographic center stack, but it almost certainly will keep the Resonance's powertrain and important specifications. The Resonance is 0.7 inch longer than the current Murano in total length but 2.0 inches longer in wheelbase, which should pay dividends in interior room. The Resonance is also 4.6 inches wider and 1.1 inches taller, although that may be attributed to its giant wheels and high ground clearance.
Lest you think that bigger means thirstier, Nissan is hinting that the next Murano will be powered not by a 3.5-liter V-6 but by an equally powerful hybrid powertrain. The Resonance uses what Nissan calls a "one-motor, two-clutch" hybrid system that mates the 2.5-liter I-4 from the Altima to an electric motor and Nissan's newest Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Power is sent to all four wheels, and we wouldn't be surprised if two of those wheels were turned exclusively by the electric motor. Power output hasn't yet been revealed, but it's safe to say the new powertrain would match or exceed the current Murano's setup but offer better fuel economy and range.
If the timeline of the next Nissan Murano follows the timeline of the last Nissan Murano, it's possible we'll see a final production version at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show in November.