Murano redesign takes bold chances

NISSAN-REVIEW_1_MCT
The 2015 Nissan Murano has a sleeker look with sculpted sides and flared fenders in the rear.

With its 2015 redesign, the Murano, Nissan's midsize crossover, continues a penchant for avant-garde styling that began with the model's birth a dozen years ago.

The Murano is easily the most evocative exterior design exercise in its segment. The styling has a very original feel. The sculpting takes delightfully unexpected turns, and usually manages to be cohesive as well as courageous in the process.

An exception would be that chrome spear astride the rocker panels. I understand it is intended as a continuation of the chrome strip under the front fascia, but to my mind it just sits there being an essentially isolated non sequitur.

On balance, I like the sum of the car's aesthetic parts and some of the parts themselves. The latter includes the grille, the "boomerang" headlights, and the sharply sloping roofline, even if it does rear vision no favors at all.

The redesign of the 2015 model I drove means the 2016 will be a carryover.

While the Murano is freshly styled inside and out, and benefits from new technology, more room and higher-quality interior materials, it still employs essentially the same structure and drivetrain found in earlier models. That's not a bad thing. The venerable 3.5-liter, 260-horsepower V-6 is a trusty companion that provides good oomph, while the tweaked continuously variable automatic transmission is as slick as CVTs get.

Indeed, a host of techy revisions boosted the peppy V-6's gas mileage by a hefty 20 percent. These include the use of lighter, high-strength steel, which helped the Murano lose 146 pounds, the wind-cheating services of underbody covers and grille shutters, and tires with low-rolling resistance.

The result of these adventures in aerodynamics and weight-shaving is EPA mileage ratings of 21 m.p.g. city and 28 m.p.g. highway, which aren't bad for a two-tonner. Interestingly, the all-wheel-drive model has the same EPAs as the front-driver I tested.

Although built on the previous model's bones, the new Murano's body has been stretched and widened a bit to afford more rear-seat legroom and storage space. The result is a very welcoming interior that is handsome, of good quality, comfortable, and quite roomy. With the rear seat up, cargo space grew nearly eight cubic feet over the previous model's, to nearly 40 cubic feet. Put it down and the space grows more than five cubic feet to almost 70.

While the rear-seat legroom grows, hip, head, and shoulder room back there are truncated slightly by the same raked rear roofline that impinges on back-window visibility. The latter made me glad for the 360-degree view afforded by Nissan's new, four-camera Around View Monitor.

The tester provided a pleasant driving experience. The car was rich in connectivity, and furnished ready, intuitive access to its instruments, controls, and infotainment system. It also was equipped with what Nissan identifies as "NASA-inspired Zero Gravity Seats." I guess this means they're pretty comfortable, especially if you are driving to the space station.

Thicker anti-roll bars both fore and aft engendered a stiffer, sportier suspension than I expected, and afforded above-average crossover handling. Happily, the added competence didn't result in an uncomfortable ride.

Comfort also was enhanced by wind noise-deadening tactics like the use of an acoustic laminated windshield.

The Murano is nicely equipped in base form, and even more so in the more upmarket SL model I drove. The latter's techy-osity and hedonism ranged from blind-spot warning to heated, leather-trimmed, power front seats.

alhaasauto@aol.com


Good

2015 Nissan Murano SL (front-drive)

Base price: $36,950.

As tested: $40,305.

Standard equipment: 3.5-liter engine, continuously variable automatic transmission, front drive, and an array of safety, connectivity and comfort features, from blind-spot and rear cross traffic alerts to hands-free phone and texting to a power liftgate.

Options: Include power panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control, forward collision warning, and forward emergency braking.

Fuel economy: 21 m.p.g. city and 28 m.p.g. highway.

Engine power: Quite ample.

Handling:

Above average.

Styling:

Super zingy.

Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper

to bumper.