Nissan’s 3.5-liter V-6 and the continuously variable transmission work well here. Hammer it from a standstill and the initial acceleration won’t blow you away, but the Murano builds speed smoothly, and it’s kinda cool to watch the tachometer needle move toward 6000 rpm without a single hiccup, by which point you’re going 80 mph. Nissan has its CVT technology pretty well figured out.
Our test vehicle was not fully loaded, so it had cloth upholstery, and I didn’t mind it. The instrument cluster features three round overlapping gauges ringed by illuminated orange stripes that are clearly meant to evoke a bit of BMW sportiness. The Nissan navigation interface is, as usual, excellent.
I’m not a big fan of the cargo area. The opening is big, but the load height is fairly high, and because of that, the distance from the load floor to the ceiling seems rather short. And the cargo compartment itself seems shallow.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Having driven the Honda Crosstour and Toyota Venza recently, I hopped behind the wheel with a sense of what the Nissan Murano would feel like. All three have powerful V-6 engines, all-wheel-drive, interesting exterior styling, and all are priced in the mid $30,000 range.
Compared to the other cars, the Murano has a soft, but relaxing ride with lots of body roll. The CVT transmission will put you to sleep with its constant rpm drone; thankfully, the 3.5-liter V-6 is torquey enough to keep things entertaining. Of the three cars, the Murano would be my choice for a long road trip. The seats are comfy, it has good visibility, and its exterior styling doesn’t start a bar fight.
During my weekend with the Murano I was able to haul a good amount of cargo, without folding the rear seats down. A trip to the local nursery had the rear hatch area packed with plants and flowers; I was impressed.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
Like the Altima that graced our office recently, the Murano’s biggest attribute is its powertrain. The Murano uses a version of the Altima’s 3.5-liter V-6 but it has a lower output and is moving over 800 pounds more metal than in that car. Still, acceleration is more than adequate and, to me, Nissan’s smooth CVT seems better suited here than it does in the sporty Altima.
The Murano’s biggest shortcoming is its chassis. It doesn’t do a very good job isolating road imperfections, and mid-corner bumps send the Murano hopping sideways. I hit some twisty two-lanes to see what the Murano could do and it completely disappointed. Quick directional changes and frequent camber variations had the Murano bobbing on its wheels.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
Like the Juke crossover that’s due late next year, the Murano’s raison d’etre lies with styling. The strong, swooping lines, the angular headlamps, and the raked quarter windows turn heads. Love it or hate it, it gets your attention – which says something, considering how crowded the midsize crossover segment is these days.
As my colleagues have already mentioned, the Murano’s strong suit lies with its powertrain. Nissan’s 3.5-liter V-6 provides adequate power and the CVT is tuned well, and I do appreciate the ability to lock the all-wheel-drive system. Strangely, though, it seems you have to bring the vehicle to a complete stop in order to do so.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
It’s not just the V-6 engine that improves the CVT experience, but how Nissan has tuned the gearbox. Where other CVTs (like that in the Cube) jump to a set rpm and stay there for eons while you accelerate, the Murano allows revs to climb steadily. The benefit is that you never feel trapped at a buzzy rpm. Accelerating from 50 mph feels pretty good, but the Murano is an absolute slug leaving the line.
The suspension does a good job of damping impacts, but it does permit a fair amount of noise to be transmitted into the cabin. Also, I noticed moderate traces of the skittishness that Jen describes, where longitudinal imperfections like truck ruts cause the rear of the vehicle to shimmy disconcertingly.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Crossovers seem to age in dog years. When the Murano came out in 2003, it was one of the better driving utility vehicles on the road. Now, despite a recent redesign it doesn’t come close to matching the driving refinement of other mid-size crossovers. As Jen and Eric noted, its biggest liability is the way it shimmies and shutters through bumpy turns. We’re not saying the Nissan drives like a 1990s Chevy Blazer, but most of its newest competitors, including the Toyota Venza, basically drive like mid-size sedans.
The Murano’s chiseled styling has aged much more gracefully, and, to my eyes, still looks fresh even though it has received only minimal changes over the past seven years. Interior quality was the Achilles heel of Nissan’s product renaissance a decade ago, but the Murano’s 2009 update has addressed this weakness nicely. As Joe DeMatio noted, the Nissan/Infiniti radio and nav interface remains the best in the business.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2010 Nissan Murano SL AWD
Base price (with destination): $32,000
Price as tested: $33,000
Xtronic CVT transmission
Speed-sensitive power steering
18-inch alloy wheels
Tire pressure monitoring system
Leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Dual-zone automatic climate control
AM/FM/6CD in-dash changer
Auxiliary audio input jack
Push-button start with intelligent key
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Options on this vehicle:
Premium package — $1000
– Bose audio system with 9 speakers
– Dual-speaker subwoofer
– XM satellite radio
– Rearview monitor
– Auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass
– 7-inch color display
– Auxiliary audio/video inputs
Key options not on vehicle:
Technology package — $1500
Dual panel moonroof — $1200
Navigation package — $1850
Leather package — $1600
18 / 23 / 20 mpg
Size: 3.5L DOHC V-6
Horsepower: 265 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Continuously variable automatic
Curb weight: 4208 lb
18-inch alloy wheels
235/65R18 Goodyear Eagle LS all-season tires