Test Drive: 2018 Nissan Murano Midnight Edition

It’s amazing how times flies. Back in the day – 2003, to be exact – Nissan’s Murano came onto the scene as a pioneer among Japanese crossover vehicles. I was impressed with it then, and even though its segment has become jam-packed with competitors, I’m just as impressed with it today.

Everything comes together in a well-rounded package.

Now in its third generation, the Nissan Murano remains handsome, roomy, comfortable, and practical. As with many vehicles on my “good choice” list, the Murano doesn’t have anything that spectacularly stands out, but everything comes together in a well-rounded package.

There are some tweaks to its features for the 2018 model year. Forward collision warning and emergency braking are now standard on all trim levels, along with navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto on everything. All models but the base S trim level get a hands-free power liftgate and dual-panel sunroof as standard equipment, and the SL trim level – one above the S – gets heated rear seats and an auto-dimming rear mirror on its standard equipment list.

You’ll see cheaper entry pricing on some competitors, but be sure to compare apples-to-apples on what features you get for that. Given its list of standard equipment, the Murano is intelligently priced, starting at $31,498 for the front-wheel-drive S trim level. Everything else is all-wheel: the SV is $37,998; the SL is $41,648; and the top-level Platinum is $44,598.

My tester was the Midnight Edition, a trim package that exclusively latches onto the SL trim. In addition to that level’s features – which include a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, front and rear heated leather seats, 360-degree camera, premium stereo, and adaptive cruise control with several electronic nannies – the Midnight adds black outer trim, 20-inch black wheels, illuminated sill plates, and rubber floor liners for $42,648.

All Murano models use a stout 3.5L V6 that churns out 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. The industry overall is embracing the small-displacement turbocharged engine, but I’m still a fan of naturally aspirated engines, which I find are generally smoother than forced-air powerplants – and simpler, which is always a bonus should it need repair.

That engine bolts to a CVT, but don’t turn up your nose at it. One of the Murano’s strong points is that its transmission doesn’t really feel like a continuously variable – if your experience with them up until now has been the noise and rubbery feel some can exhibit, especially when they’re hooked to less-powerful engines. Acceleration is smooth and strong, including when you need to pass at highway speeds. The all-wheel system runs primarily in front-wheel but shifts torque to the rear as needed for traction. Against the official combined-driving fuel figure of 9.9 L/100 km, I was almost on the money at 10.1 L/100 km during my week with it.

The Murano feels substantial but not heavy, and the ride is quiet and composed even on rough pavement, where the suspension does a great job of soaking up bumps and the isolated cabin keeps road noise to a minimum. The steering has nice weight to it, and the response is quick and accurate. There’s not a lot of feedback through the wheel, but that’s very common in this segment.

There are a few electronic safety items to keep you on the straight and narrow, including adaptive cruise control that’s fairly smooth (some of them can be jerky when other vehicles come into its range), blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic warning, and to help with keeping the tires at the right pressure, Nissan’s Easy-Fill Alert. You don’t need a pressure gauge; instead, when you’re filling the tire and get to the recommended pressure, the horn chirps to tell you.

About the only safety-related item I’d like to see Nissan retire is its insistence on keeping the doors automatically locked without a latch override. If a passenger wants out when the engine is running, you have to hit the lock button before the door can be opened. Other manufacturers let you open a locked door from within – some require you pull the latch twice, which I think is enough of a safety reminder – but Nissan overthinks it and requires this extra step.

Although it seemed a bit odd to see a “Midnight” badge on a white car – a three-coat paint job that added $300 to the bill – the black accents work well on it. While I’m not entirely sold on the big fishhook-style headlamps, the rest of the Murano’s angular styling suits this vehicle, and I liked the chiselled rear end.

Inside, the centre stack mimics the curve of the front grille, housing infotainment and climate control systems that are easy to use thanks to dials and buttons rather than buried-in-the-computer-screen icon-style controls. There are some hard plasticky bits around the cabin, but not enough to detract from the flowing and elegant design.

Nissan prides itself on its extra-comfortable seats, and so it should. They’re cushiony but they’re also supportive, which is what you need to keep your spine in shape on longer drives. The rear seats aren’t quite as contoured, but they still provide a relaxing ride for passengers back there, and there’s considerable legroom and headroom.

Cargo volume isn’t the largest in the segment – that extra legroom has to come from somewhere – but it’s still generous. The rear seats fold flat to increase the space as needed and they’re very easy to operate.

The Murano isn’t a sporty driver, but that isn’t the point. Instead, it’s a competent and comfortable machine that blends a premium feel with more mainstream pricing. It’s been around for a while, but it’s still as relevant as ever.

2018 Nissan Murano Midnight Edition
Engine Displacement: 3.5L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 260 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 240 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Fuel Economy: 11.2/8.4/9.9 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 908/1,897 L seats down
articles_PricingType 2018 Nissan Murano Midnight Edition
Base Price $42,648
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $44,843
Optional Equipment $300 – Three-coat paint $300
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.9
8 Styling
9 Powertrain
8 Quality
9 Comfort
7 Practicality
8 Drivability
7 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
9 Features
7 Value