The Nissan Murano has been among the most stylish crossovers ever since its introduction in 2002 – so stylish, in fact, that its ride, performance and interior accommodations often seemed to fall short. A car that looked that good – so perfectly proportioned, so eye-appealing from front to rear – needed a quantum leap in refinement to become what it was destined to be.
We continue to prefer the simplicity of the original Murano’s design to the stylized, maybe-they’re-trying-too-hard curves and flourishes that define the 2016 model. But Nissan has caught up where it counts. The Japanese automaker’s acclaimed V-6 engine, bolted to what is arguably the best continuously variable transmission in the industry, provides plenty of smooth, quiet punch. The “NASA-inspired Zero Gravity” seats deliver on their promise, and the quality of the interior materials is of a high order.
For people who demand tight cornering and European-style road feel, the Mazda CX-7 is the medium-priced crossover of choice. But we were contented, though not quite enthralled, with the Murano’s road manners.
The cabin is roomy front and rear, with plenty of knee room and headroom throughout. The audio, infotainment and climate controls are conveniently placed and labeled. The bottom of the rear windshield is high off the ground, and the rear side windows are small, limiting visibility to the rear. But the Murano’s exterior camera system leaves little to the imagination.
We commuted and ran errands around Western Connecticut, and also took a longer trip into Pennsylvania, behind the wheel of a Cayenne Red 2016 Murano Platinum with all-wheel drive. List-priced at $44,165, and built in Canton, Miss., the Murano vies for market attention amid a crowd of crossovers and midsize sport-utility vehicles. This year, it’s vying successfully. Sales are up 34 percent compared with the similar 2015 model, at 53,246 through August.
The Murano S, the base model, starts at $29,740 and comes with front-wheel drive. The Platinum Hybrid has a base price of $42,180. With the exception of the hybrid models, all Muranos come with the 3.5-liter, 260-horsepower V-6 engine and CVT gearbox. (The hybrids come with supercharged 4-cylinder engines and supplemental electric motors.)
We averaged 26 to 27 mpg in mostly highway driving, using regular unleaded gasoline. The Murano is rated at 21 mpg city, 28 highway, whether equipped with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Hybrid models boost those numbers to 28 city, 31 highway, or 26/30 with all-wheel drive.
Our test car leaned into the near-luxury category. Highlights included a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, navigation system with voice recognition, dual-zone climate control, remote start and power liftgate. It also had a full range of safety features, including blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and Around View monitor with moving-object definition.
The Murano has been designated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Steven Macoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2016 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 260 horsepower, 240 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: Continuously variable
Weight: 4,021 lb.
Ground clearance: 6.9 in.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 20×7.5-in. machined aluminum alloy
Tires: P235/55R20 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 32.1 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 67 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 1,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline