While Nissan is in the process of making some significant changes to its product lineup, the current focus on sedans – Altima, Sentra, and Versa – has left many SUVs untouched.
Well-stacked though its portfolio may be, with everything from the subcompact Kicks to the truck-based Armada, most are at least a few years old now and showing their age. Smack-dab in the middle is Nissan’s midsize Murano that hasn’t had more than a couple of refreshes in the past several years. Yet after logging several hundred kilometres behind the wheel, it seems the five-passenger crossover is aging well.
Where larger SUVs like Nissan’s own Pathfinder and Armada offer three-row seating, the Murano, despite its mid-size format, is and always has been a two-row, five-passenger SUV. This may limit its functionality for some, but for buyers without the need or desire to operate a mini-bus, the Murano presents a spacious and comfortable cabin for five, as well as the cargo capacity to let them get away for a weekend, too.
The rear seats split 60/40 and fold flat, opening up the cargo capacity from 1,121 L to a sizable 1,979 L. The Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe each offer more space with the seats folded flat, but with them up, the Nissan provides a little more room. For those keeping track of all this, the Honda Passport is far more capacious than any of them, seats up or down.
Strangely, the Murano’s meagre 608 kg (1,340 lb) towing capacity is less than half of what its next weakest competitor can haul.
The Murano’s mid-size classification gives it greater width over compact, five-passenger SUVs like Nissan’s own Rogue, or the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It’s this lateral dimension that helps passengers feel that they’re not stuffed shoulder-to-shoulder with their cabin-bound compatriots, giving a bit more breathing room. Rear legroom and headroom, meanwhile, are snug for the category but still reasonable for average-sized adults.
My Platinum trim tester featured supple leather seats, stitched in a diamond pattern and perforated for cooling when the weather gets hot. The seats are heated, too, but where Nissan really shines is with its so-called Zero Gravity seat technology. Designed to virtually eliminate the pressure points that cause fatigue and discomfort, the seats absolutely deliver on that promise and even after several consecutive hours on the road, my aging back never once protested.
Driving Feel: 7/10
The Murano’s suspension is set up more for comfort than sporty handling or off-road driving. Complementing the comfortable seats, the ride quality is luxurious for a sport utility vehicle, soaking up bumps despite the 20-inch wheels fitted to my tester. For a sizable crossover, the Murano handles well enough, with decent body control and good grip. But its width makes it feel less nimble than many compact SUVs. Braking is solid and the brake pedal offers good feel and linear stopping power.
For better or worse, the Murano remains powered by the brand’s venerable 3.5L V6. For the most part, this is a significant plus for the Murano in an era where smaller-displacement, turbocharged engines are becoming the norm. The smooth power and melodic – if subdued – snarl of the V6 sounds better than the coarse, industrial-sounding four-bangers in the competition.
The Murano’s V6 is rated at 260 hp, which is competitive with the boosted four-cylinder competitors, but falls well-short of the 280 hp from the V6 in the Passport or the 306 hp in Chevy’s V6 Blazer. Where the modern turbo engines really excel is in their torque delivery low in the rev range, the Murano’s 240 lb-ft comes on at a modest 4,400 rpm, meaning it doesn’t feel quite as snappy pulling away from a stop.
Enthusiasts bemoan the use of continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), and Nissan’s has never been a favourite thanks to its rubber-band sensations. However, the Murano’s V6 seems well-paired with this transmission, and Nissan has clearly fine-tuned its CVT over the past few years to make it feel more like a traditional automatic.
Fuel Economy: 7.5/10
The upside to a CVT transmission is its reduction in fuel consumption, maximizing an engine’s efficiency versus a traditional geared unit. That’s true with the Murano which delivers best-in-class efficiency, averaging out to a 10.3 L/100 km combined rate, according to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).
Nissan updated the Murano’s styling last year, aligning it with the other contemporary designs in the family, and making use of the brand’s signature grille and floating roof line. As far as crossovers go, the Murano is a looker with its sleek, angular face, rakish roofline, and aggressive sheet metal accent lines. The overall effect – especially when paired with our tester’s deep blue paint – is quite striking.
Inside, the design is clean and draws inspiration from the V-shaped grille to define the centre dash, and while most of the plastics are soft-touch surfaces that feel good, Nissan has a bad habit of utilizing obviously fake trim materials to adorn their cabins. The plastic made to look like wood and aluminum here stand out like a bad toupee.
Despite some questionable material choices, the Murano offers a lot of kit in the Platinum trim. Beyond the richly finished leather seats and the massive panoramic sunroof, there’s a great-sounding 11-speaker sound system, and heated and cooled front seats. A three-year subscription to NissanConnect is also a part of the deal and includes functions that can help remotely access the Murano through a smartphone app, and set parameters for other drivers of the car (such as speed or boundary alerts). Automated high-beam control, street sign reading technology, and hands-free liftgate operation are all included, too.
The Murano Platinum also has every safety feature in Nissan’s repertoire, including lane-departure warning and intervention, forward collision warning with emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and rear cross-traffic alert and rear braking intervention. These features are in addition to the litany of airbags and typical safety features buyers have come to expect.
User Friendliness: 9/10
Where some manufacturers are moving ever closer to an all-glass dashboard, Nissan’s Murano benefits from its slightly older design. The infotainment system operates through an eight-inch touchscreen in the central dash, and while its graphics aren’t quite as vibrant as the latest and greatest systems out there, it does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. More importantly, the screen is flanked by a pair of straightforward knobs for volume and tuning, as well as physical buttons for often-used functions. It may not be as sexy as a sleek, all-glass design, but it works well and will be quick for motorists of all age groups to learn. Climate controls are similarly straightforward, with sensible knobs and buttons.
Steering wheel buttons are easy to find without having to take one’s eyes off the road, and the large, round speedometer and tachometer frame a seven-inch digital information screen in the gauge cluster.
With an MSRP of $46,398, the Murano Platinum isn’t an entry-level model by any means, but equipped as it is, it represents a savings of a few thousand dollars versus similarly equipped competitors like the Passport and Blazer. A top-trim Subaru Outback and Ford Edge will come in a bit cheaper, but the Murano lineup also includes the very well-equipped SL and SV trims, and even a front-wheel-drive S trim that starts at less than $33,000. Add to that the sweet V6 engine that’s standard across the line and it makes the Murano a unique machine in the segment.
Midsized crossovers like the Murano are great for the family that fits its five-passenger limitations. And while it works as a great family vehicle, its traditional V6 format, plus highly usable control layout should make the Murano high on the list for baby-boomers looking for a great do-it-all utility vehicle too.
|Peak Horsepower||260 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||240 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.7/8.5/10.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||1,121 / 1,979 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2020 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD|
|A/C Tax||$135 – Blue pearl paint, $135 $100|
|Price as Tested||$48,448|
$135 – Blue pearl paint, $135