The third generation of the Nissan Murano will hit dealerships this fall, but Nissan took the wraps off the new model at the 2014 New York auto show. Perhaps the early unveiling was to give us all time to get used to the Murano’s new look. As Nissan sees it, the original Murano (introduced for the 2003 model year) made a style statement. The second-generation 2009 Nissan Murano concentrated on interior improvements, and its exterior design was merely evolutionary. “This is revolution,” says Nissan product-planning chief Pierre Loing, who claims that the company’s brief to the designers for the third-generation Murano was: “Make it look like a show car.”
Murano and Maxima, the closest kin in the Nissan family
The car the 2015 Nissan Murano most looks like is the Nissan Sports Sedan Concept from the 2014 Detroit auto show. On both cars you see oversize boomerang headlights, a shape that is repeated in the taillights. The two also share a U-shaped grille outlined with a thick, bright-metal band that carries up into two chunky forms on the hood. In profile, the new Murano and the Sports Sedan Concept have a side crease that hops up over the front wheels and then wraps over onto the hood. Below that side crease is a busy rocker-panel area. The cars also feature an unusual C-pillar treatment that suggests a floating roof. There is a lot going on visually, which can be a characteristic of Japanese design, but we’re told that both the new Murano and the Sport Sedan Concept were penned initially at Nissan’s California studio.
The Sport Sedan Concept presages the next Maxima, a model that is a close kin to the Murano in the Nissan lineup and appeals to the same type of buyer. “Murano and Maxima are the closest vehicles we have to premium,” Loing says. Like the Maxima, the Murano is derived from the Altima platform and will use the company’s 3.5-liter V-6 exclusively, mated to a continuously variable transmission (although a hybrid powertrain also is in the works).
Compared with the current Murano, the new version is two inches longer, one inch wider, and half an inch lower. Despite casting a larger shadow, the 2015 Murano is lighter by about 130 pounds. The lighter weight, combined with improved powertrain efficiency, better aerodynamics, and low-rolling-resistance tires helps the new Murano achieve a claimed 20 percent fuel economy improvement.
A kid-free zone
Nissan also wanted to separate the Murano from the Pathfinder. Although the vehicles will occupy a similar price band, the five-passenger Murano is expected to appeal more to empty nesters, whereas the three-row Pathfinder is aimed at families with at least two kids. With smaller families targeted by the Rogue, the Murano is the Nissan crossover least likely to have French fries buried in the back seat cushions.
You wouldn’t want a crew of messy tykes smearing snack foods all over the upscale environs of this new Murano. The cream leather is accented by a color-matched trim that is a modern take on wood grain. The dash is adorned with gloss black and metallic pieces, and ambient lighting glows from unexpected places. Nissan’s so-called “zero-gravity” seats are featured front and rear, and the rear seats can be heated.
The driver gazes at two screens: a 7-inch screen in the instrument cluster and a new 8-inch center touchscreen. The latter at least does not banish all physical buttons, but there are fewer than before. Of course, there is a bevy of tech features. Forward collision warning with automatic braking, available today on the company’s Infiniti brand models, comes to Nissan with the new Murano. Other items include Nissan’s useful around-view monitor, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, rear cross-path detection, blind-spot warning, and a standard backup camera.
With this third-generation Murano, production switches to Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi, facility. While more than 80,000 first-generation Muranos were sold in its best year, the second-generation model topped out at just over 70,000 units and has been drifting lower. The company obviously hopes that this radical new design will once again get the Nissan Murano noticed. No worries there, we’d say. The question is whether buyers will like what they see.