• By: Neil Moore

Murano woos buyers with cutting-edge style and tech

Photos by Neil More / Feature image: The current, third-generation Murano wears a futuristic design, with deeply-sculpted sides, “floating roof” and signature V-Motion grille.

Boxy and boring it ain’t.

The Nissan Murano, arguably one of the pioneers in this segment, has always been a stylemaker among crossovers.

Think back to when it launched in late 2002. Compared to the trucky SUVs that were popular then, Murano’s design was groundbreaking. With its slippery shape, rounded rear hatch, dual exhausts and wheels pushed to the corners, the mid-size CUV looked like nothing else on the market.

Ditto for its second generation that bowed in 2009. Updates weren’t as radical, but that was likely due to Nissan’s reluctance to mess with a good thing.

An eight-inch touchscreen, with navigation, is standard in all Murano models.

I was on hand for the launch of the third-generation Murano in 2015. The makeover was bold this time, with deep sculpting, complex creases and curves, and a multi-part D-pillar that supports its “floating roof.” Don’t worry, it’s only a styling trick – and fully attached.

Toss in signature elements like the V-motion grille, boomerang headlamps and taillights for a look that is futuristic. Not everybody’s cup of tea, although brisk sales indicate there’s a healthy appetite for CUVs that stand out from the crowd.

On a more practical note, the new Murano is longer and wider than its predecessor. Which is a good thing, as it allowed engineers to carve out 908 litres of cargo space behind the second-row, and 1,897 litres with the 60/40 seats folded. No easy task in a vehicle this sleek.

Standard on the base “S” model ($30,998) are 18-inch wheels. Ditto for SV ($37,498) and SL ($41,048). My top-trim Platinum model ($44,598) rolls on machine-finished, 20-inch aluminum alloys, which nicely fill the large wheel openings.

On the downside, you might think ride quality would suffer, but Murano’s independent suspension – front strut/rear multi-link – is forgiving on rough pavement while reducing body roll in the turns.

Of course, a taller vehicle like a CUV won’t handle like a sports sedan, and those who would buy one aren’t expecting an aggressive corner carver. In the Murano, however, buyers still get plenty of pep, as this two-ton crossover is part of a dwindling cohort still powered by a V6.

And not just any six, but the proven (and award winning) DOHC, 24-valve 3.5-litre engine still found in many Nissan vehicles. It delivers a robust 260 hp and 240 lb/ft of torque, and is mated to Nissan’s much improved Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), with all but the base vehicle getting AWD.

If I lost you at “CVT,” don’t fret. This one employs D-Step logic that simulates the gear changes of an automatic transmission. Which for many, if not most drivers, feels more natural – and is step up from the “rubber band” feel of early CVTs.

Plant the pedal, and acceleration may not be neck-snapping, but it’s plenty quick – and delivered with a nice, throaty exhaust note under load. Murano will keep up with most in this segment.

Rear seats have plenty of head and leg room, and are heated in this top-trip platinum model.

But if you do, fuel economy will suffer. Which for me, meant falling short of the posted 8.4/11.2 L/100km (city/hwy) rating. Drive with a light foot – which may tick off the drivers behind – and these numbers are achievable.

That being said, Nissan engineers did make efforts to reduce consumption through underbody covers, active grille shutters, low rolling resistance tires, and various aerodynamic tweaks to drop the drag coefficient from a porky 0.37 to a slippery 0.31.

Inside, Nissan designers have carried on with the premium look: abundant soft-touch materials, and premium finishers around vents, knobs and faceplates. You will see plastics, but surfaces are low-gloss and nicely grained – not the cheap looking, shiny stuff.

One of their goals was to create a “social lounge” – an environment that connects occupants. To that end, all but the base model get a dual panoramic moonroof that really opens up the interior. Also reducing that feeling of separation is a wide and low centre console. This has a rear cubbie to hold your smartphones, and a rear USB, so that everybody can plug in and be “social” with their devices.

Yeah, right…

I’ve mentioned Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” seats in other reviews, but will note that the researchers who designed them have somehow found a way to minimize pressure points, making them great for long-haul driving. I know first-hand, having logged thousands of clicks in a Zero Gravity bucket, travelling across the U.S.

Standard equipment on the base FWD Murano includes an eight-inch infotainment system, navigation, rearview monitor, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and smart key with pushbutton start.

My Platinum tester also had heated rear seats, front seat cooling (as well as heating) and memory for the driver, around-view monitor, power tilt/telescopic – and heated – steering, leather upholstery, and 11-speaker audio with dual subwoofers.

And, of course, a full suite of safety nannies: driver alert warning, blind spot intervention, rear cross traffic alert, moving object detection, forward collision warning, and intelligent emergency braking.

The last two features are becoming more common, and I hope someday will be found in all vehicles. The first warns you of an impending collision, and the second brakes if you don’t. That being said, better to pay attention than rely on a handful of sensors…

The crossover/SUV market is a competitive one, with more people now choosing “light trucks” over cars – and the margin is growing. Murano has been a strong contender among CUVs, and should continue its popularity with a mix of style, practicality and leading-edge tech.

Boomerang tail lights are part of Murano’s makeover, which includes enough aerodynamic tweaks to get its drag coefficient down to a slippery 0.31.

SNAPSHOT: 2017 Nissan Murano Platinum
BODY STYLE: mid-size crossover SUV
ENGINE: 3.5-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 (260 hp and 240 lb/ft of torque)
DRIVETRAIN: front-engine, FWD (base model) or AWD, all with Xtronic CVT
FUEL ECONOMY: AWD 11.2/8.4 L/100km (city/hwy)
CARGO CAPACITY: 908 litres behind second row, 1,897 litres max
TOWING: 680 kg (1,500 lbs) when properly equipped
PRICING: Murano S FWD ($30,998); SV AWD ($37,498); SL AWD ($41,048); Platinum AWD ($44,598)
WEBSITE: Nissan.ca