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Review: 2015 Nissan Murano SL FWD

by Mark Elias

Nissan\'s stylish Murano crossover is better than ever.

While many crossovers and sport utes are now sporting accommodations for up to seven passengers, the Nissan Murano is to content to stay at a capacity of five passengers within its new skin.

But what a skin it is. Chances are you saw the Nissan commercials during the 2015 Super Bowl where the brand offered a fleeting glimpse at the 2016 Nissan Maxima Sedan. If that car had inspiration from any other vehicle, it would possibly be the 2015 Murano.

What is it?A "four-door with hatch” crossover that seats five, the 2015 Nissan Murano is powered by the singular 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine that is seen throughout the Nissan lineup in various configurations and power outputs. In this case, this tried-and-true engine produces 260 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 240 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Transverse mounted, it uses a combination of liquid, solid and vacuum-controlled engine mounts to keep noise and vibration at bay. Nissan has chosen to mate it to their highly regarded Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Suspension is a typical MacPherson strut affair with coil springs and a stabilizer bar in front, and a multilink independent rear suspension with tubular stabilizer bar out back. Steering is via a speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion kit.

The Murano comes in four trim levels ranging from base S model, moving up through the SV range, the SL, and the range-topping Platinum edition. It can also be had with a $1,600 all-wheel-drive (AWD) system in all trim levels.

Our SL-equipped Murano included silver-accented roof rails, a power liftgate, heated outside mirrors, heated leather front seats, a Bose nine-speaker audio system with dual subwoofers, moving object detection (MOD), Nissan's innovative around view monitor, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert. The SL tech package ($2,260), boosted it further to include a power panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control, forward collision warning, forward emergency braking, and predictive forward collision warning, which brings the car to a stop even if you cannot see an obstruction beyond the car in front of you.

What's it up against? Ford Edge, Toyota's Highlander, and Hyundai's Santa Fe Sport are just a few of the contenders in this segment. At the higher end of the spectrum, count the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Volkswagen's Touareg, and the Lexus RX350 as willing and able. Ultimately, it comes down to the buyer's sense of taste and thickness of wallet.

How's it look?The new Murano features many of the same characteristics seen on the new "Super Bowl” Maxima. Lots of use of black negative space gives the sense of a floating roofline, which changes the whole appearance. It uses the boomerang inspired taillamps first seen on the 370Z and now featured on many cars in the lineup. To us, this looks like a high-riding Maxima station wagon.

The deep V grille is probably the most prominent feature on the new Murano. Chromed out for added emphasis, we liked the way the accents carried around to the sides and along the rocker panel areas. Other highlights include standard daylight LED running lights in front and at the rear taillamps as well.

Along the roofline is the new floating greenhouse architecture that makes it appear as though the roof is resting only on glass for its support. It's a look that will also be seen on others, but in a slightly different and stylized manner.

Many comments have been made through the years about Nissan styling. Love it or not, the one thing that is a definite is that the brand is never bashful or shy about pushing the design envelope. Through exaggerated wheel arches and pronounced D-pillar buttresses, they have essentially presented a concept car that anyone can purchase as their own.

And inside?Not new to the brand, Nissan's "zero-gravity” seat designs make their way into the new Murano. Offering excellent fatigue relief, they cushion the driver and front row passenger, as well as the two outboard occupants of the second row seats, without aggravating pressure points on the human body. A tilt and telescoping steering wheel joined the seats for optimum accommodations suitable for high mileage stints behind the wheel.

Gone are the shelf-like navi/audio/telephone controls, which were located in previous versions. This time around, designers opted to go with a more refined and easy to use eight-inch touchscreen display. A side note: This screen is not as prone to fingerprints as some of the display systems found in GM products.

Feeling a lot like an extended wheelbase vehicle, there was an abundance of legroom in the second row seats, which happen to offer a degree of recline, as well. Although it feels as though the Murano's interior is plenty spacious, the gargantuan panoramic sunroof opens up the interior further to enhance the feeling, if not the actual measurements, of the interior capacity. That capacity, by the way, measures in at 39.6-cubic feet behind the second row, and swells to 69.9-cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.

Does it go?Although it doesn't possess the crazy fast power of the big brother GT-R halo car, acceleration is more than adequate from the Murano's 3.5-liter V6 engine. Power from the 260 horsepower mill provided zero to 60 times in the neighborhood of 7.5-seconds.

When a needed sudden surge of oomph is required, the Xtronic CVT steps down rapidly and allows high revs on demand, but at the same time requires a liberal amount of push from that size-12 Oxford. Once we determined the right amount of pressure, passing on short country roads was a breeze, especially when dealing with lollygaggers from the north down for a brief respite from a long and lingering winter.

We found relatively quiet runnings while riding on most roads but thought this new CUV still managed to attract a bit of road thrum from underneath. Nonetheless, steering was well modulated with a good firmness that transmitted exactly what the Murano is doing on the road.

Even though the 2015 Murano is powered by the same V6 as the older version, we saw a nearly 20-percent improvement in fuel economy over last year's version, at 21 city/ 28 highway, with 24 combined. Perhaps, it's due to the almost 200-pound diet that the Murano underwent on its way to a curb weight of 3,977-pounds.

The Continuously Variable Transmission is a fact of life within the Nissan brand, and is now more refined than ever. If you buy a Nissan, that's what you're going to get unless you opt for a Nismo Z or a Godzilla-ish GT-R.

MG's bottom lineA great road tripper, it is one of the first of Nissan's new visions. It will compete nicely with the competition and with the past being prologue, (apologies to Will*) should be one of the segment's best sellers.

* Will Shakespeare.

2015 Nissan Murano SL FWD Base price: $36,950. As tested, $40,095.Includes: SL Tech Package: Power Panoramic Sunroof, Intelligent Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, $2,260; Destination, $885.

Photos by Mark Elias.

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