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2015 Nissan Murano Review

A style-conscious crossover reaching to Infiniti and beyond.

NAPA, California - With the distinction between premium cars and commodity cars as vague as it's ever been, who's to say that the 2015 Nissan Murano can't be considered a luxury crossover just because of its badge? Surely not Nissan product planners, who cite the Lexus RX as a key competitor and call the Murano a "flagship crossover." In truth, little separates the new Murano from Nissan's own premium Infiniti brand, as this redesigned 2015 model now offers the same expressive styling and advanced technology features found on contemporary Infiniti models.

But building a true luxury car takes more than snazzy looks and flashy tech. We drove the 2015 Nissan Murano around Napa Valley to find out if the whole package measures up to the high standard Nissan has set for itself with this third-generation Murano.

Standing out from the crowd

Like the previous two generations of the Murano, the 2015 edition is a two-row crossover that shares many of its bones with the front-wheel-drive Altima and Maxima sedans. Style is again a big part of the equation, and Nissan brags of the new Murano's "concept car" appearance. We can't argue with that because the production car does hew closely to the look of the dramatic Resonance show car from the 2013 Detroit auto show. Even still, it's hard to call the 2015 Nissan Murano attractive, since the tortured edges and overly swoopy lines come off as overwrought. It at least stands out on the road, and nice details such as chrome trim, LED accent lighting, and sharp-looking wheels help cultivate a premium vibe.

Once we settled into the 2015 Murano's plush cabin, all thoughts of the busy exterior disappeared. The clean, simple interior design follows a more conservative path and manages to feel rich and luxurious without the complexity that pervades many other luxury cars these days. We were immediately comfortable in the supple, Zero Gravity seats, and the various buttons and controls on the center stack have a high-quality feel. A nice horizontal trim piece (either faux aluminum or wood, depending on the interior color) elegantly wraps around the top of the dashboard, and rear-seat passengers enjoy plenty of room along with amenities such as air vents and a USB port. Surprisingly, the swoopy rear end doesn't compromise cargo space much, either, as this crossover offers 39.6 cubic feet of space behind the back seats, 7.8 cubic feet more than the last Murano.

Glides down the road

Once underway, the 2015 Nissan Murano goes down the road in a smooth, refined manner that does little to interrupt the hushed, cosseting interior atmosphere. Nissan has essentially perfected the tuning of the 3.5-liter V-6/CVT combination at this point. That's no surprise, given how long this powertrain has been around; the first-generation Murano had this same drivetrain way back in 2003. Refinement has improved greatly since then, and the new Murano might be the VQ V-6's smoothest and quietest application yet. Though this engine previously had a reputation for being coarse and unrefined, we found little to separate the 2015 Murano V-6's silky and unobtrusive character from the V-6 in a Lexus RX 350 that Nissan brought along for comparison.

We also appreciated the CVT's new "D-Logic" artificial shift points, which make for linear acceleration, and the engine's strong mid-range torque delivery helps avoid the annoying high-rpm droning that CVTs often exhibit when paired with smaller engines. The CVT's tuning, along with a nearly 140-pound weight loss, also helps fuel economy improve to 21/28 mpg city/highway.

Complementing the refined powertrain is the 2015 Nissan Murano's supremely quiet, supple ride. Road noise is practically nonexistent, and wind noise is kept to a minimum thanks to the low 0.31 coefficient of drag. Although we didn't find a hint of sportiness pushing the front-heavy, 4,017-pound Murano through some tighter corners on a section of California's Highway 1, body motions are well controlled and the ride is composed without being too floaty. The only real dynamic letdown is the light steering, which lacks on-center feel and doesn't communicate much of anything through the oversized steering wheel.

Luxury without the premium price

Strange as it may sound, we think the range-topping Murano Platinum provides the most compelling value proposition of the lineup, which starts with the $30,445 S model and also includes SV and SL trim levels. Fully loaded with all sorts of premium features, including navigation, heated and cooled front seats, and active safety technologies, an all-wheel drive Murano Platinum tops out at $43,745. A comparatively equipped Lexus RX easily pushes $55,000, gets inferior fuel economy, and still lacks some of the Murano's amenities such as a panoramic glass roof and heated rear seats.

The 2015 Nissan Murano's rich interior and luxurious ride take what was already a nice crossover into new, premium territory. High fuel economy, a spacious interior, and relatively affordable pricing make it fully competitive with mainstream crossovers, but it also feels special enough to make us think twice about paying extra for a luxury badge.

2015 Nissan Murano Specifications

  • On Sale: Now
  • Base Price: $30,445
  • Price as Tested: $41,485 (Platinum AWD)
  • Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V-6/260 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 240 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
  • Transmission: Continuously variable
  • Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD or AWD SUV
  • EPA Mileage: 21/28 mpg (city/highway)
  • L x W x H: 192.8 x 75.4 x 66.6 in
  • Wheelbase: 111.2 in
  • Weight: 3,790-4,017 lb