2011 Nissan Murano SL AWD

After I spent a weekend reading about the Murano-based Infiniti JX's reveal at Pebble Beach, my viewpoint on the Murano was that it was a bland but necessary ingredient that Nissan would use to create a new, exciting crossover.

A few days later, I had the opportunity to drive our tester. At almost $40,000, you expect the Murano to be somewhat luxurious. In this case, expectations don't meet reality. They exceed it. With a surprisingly comfortable and accommodating cabin, the Murano is placating and pacifying. The seats are soft and supportive, and the door armrest was a welcome cushion. The continuously variable transmission was the very definition of smooth.

By the time I got home, I was no longer thinking of the Murano as a bland ingredient. Instead, I started thinking that there might be something to this upcoming Infiniti JX, after all.

Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor

In an effort to look dynamic and sporty, most crossovers have a fairly high, rising beltline that results in a slim greenhouse and compromised sightlines. The Nissan Murano looks as sporty as the next crossover from the outside, but from behind the wheel the windshield and side windows are set noticeably lower than the average crossover, allowing for a large glass area and a commanding view of the world outside. The fairly shallow, low dash increases visibility as well and makes the front seat feel expansive. In fact, the entire cabin feels quite airy and open, a fact aided by the light-colored materials on this particular Murano SL. To be honest, I was actually quite shocked to see the tan interior as it seems like most Nissan test cars have black interiors. The wood trim is almost as surprising as the tan color scheme, but it looks good and is incorporated quite nicely, and the bright silver trim on the central dash provides a nice contrast. Overall, the interior is comfortable and handsome, but it looks less cohesive and upscale than the cabin of a comparably priced Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Although the engine lost some power for 2011, it still has enough oomph to not feel underpowered, and the CVT is smooth and unobtrusive. My only complaint is that the powertrain lacks verve. It's not slow or unresponsive but it never accelerates the Murano in a particularly brisk manner, even when the throttle is fully tipped.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

To me, the Murano doesn't really stand out in the crowded semiluxurious-crossover class. The styling is distinctive but doesn't really speak to me. The ride quality is fairly rough, the handling barely has a hint of sportiness, and the CVT is more distracting in its behavior than CVTs in newer Nissans, such as the Versa. Interior space is adequate but not exceptional.

The dual-pane sunroof is really nice and significantly improved my Murano mood. Imagine if even more light could be shed into its cabin. Perhaps a convertible top would do the trick. Oh, wait, Nissan already did this, and it's called the Murano CrossCabriolet, and it's the laughingstock of the automotive world this year. I'll stick with the regular Murano, after all.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

The Murano is one of these vehicles that doesn't often get the blood boiling in jaded automotive journalists but that works in the real world for real-world people and real-world needs. As some of my colleagues have pointed out, it has a handsome cabin, good sightlines, pleasant if hardly invigorating performance, and excellent ride comfort. It has always had a slightly upscale air of elegance about it, and it has always struck me as a viable alternative to the more expensive Lexus RX. If you're looking for a midsize crossover with a good dose of refinement, don't need a third-row seat, and don't want to pay for the luxury brands, it's worth checking out.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

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