By on December 23, 2013

 

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Walking the Hertz Gold line at the snowy Albuquerque airport, I approached my rental and I could see it was some sort of Asian SUV in a shade of Witness Protection Program Silver. My God, I realized, Nissan still builds the Murano! I instantly remembered that it comes standard with a Con Voluted Transmission (CVT), oh joy. I wasn’t prepared to like the Murano but I came away impressed with this aging and often-overlooked mid-sized SUV.

I did not recognize the Murano because I did not know that Nissan downgraded the truck’s looks in 2009. Gone are the distinctive vertical taillights, replaced by generic horizontal lights straight out of the Nissan parts bin. Gone is the chrome egg-crate grill, replaced by an Acura-like semi-triangle-shaped nosepiece. The Murano was one sexy sport-ute upon its introduction in 2003; now it is just bland. Thank God it is still is available in brown, a hue Nissan calls “Tinted Bronze.”

 

A Better Butt: The 2003 to 2007 Murano.
A Better Butt: The 2003 to 2007 Murano.

My ride was the next-to-the cheapest SV model with cloth seats, all wheel drive and 17,000 miles on its clock. I climbed in and was immediately struck by its luxurious cockpit. The three unique, gently curving speakers on the dash, the generous use of aluminum trim and the elegant, easy-to-read controls all belong in a more expensive vehicle. I mastered the basic controls within a few seconds, which never happens in a rental car especially when it is freezing outside.

The only glitch was the function of key and “Start/Stop” engine button combination. The electronic key fits sloppily in its slot, like a floppy disk in a 1999 Dell Dimension. In one instance, the spring loaded catch comically shot the key into my lap. The first time I got out of the truck, I removed the key but did not hit the “Start/Stop” button and while walking away noticed the engine was still running. This is a glaring ergonomic fail.

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Let’s talk about the 800-speed elephant in the room, the Murano’s Continuously Variable Transmission, dubbed the Xtronic CVT®. It is actually a two-speed CVT and thus you get a “D” and “L” choice on the floor mounted shifter. When you floor the 3.5-liter 260 horsepower V-6 at highway speeds, the tranny kicks down into a lower gear range and it feels like a shift on a conventional transmission. Accelerating away from a stop also feels “normal.” It is during mid-range acceleration that you experience the annoying CVT pause in response and accompanying whine. Every other CVT I have driven has been attached to a 4-cylinder motor and they all sucked, so maybe the Murano’s V-6 power helps overcomes the tranny’s quirks. This is the best CVT I have driven but I can only deem this transmission the “Cream Of The Crap.”

Despite the CVT, the Murano was extremely satisfying to drive. The truck’s all wheel drive handled the icy Turquoise Trail with ease. The smooth quiet ride, large and comfortable seats and well-controlled body motions were worthy of an Infiniti. On curvy roads, I do not recall any other midsized SUV being more tossable. The Murano was very roomy for both front and rear seat passengers, though the cargo area is smaller than some of its competitors.

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Nissan is currently offering up to $3,500 in incentives on the Murano resulting in total dealer advertised discounts of up to $6,800. A 2014 top-of-the-line LE model with heated leather seats, dual moonroof, 20-inch wheels, NAV, Bluetooth and a Bose sound system has a MSRP of $41,090. (My strippo rental probably had a sticker of around $33,000.) Calculate in the cash back and you are looking at the mid-$30,000 range for this example.

The maturing Murano has basically not changed in five years while the competition is constantly spewing out new sport-utes. The company currently offers five SUVs – five and a half if you count the Juke – so we wonder where this boutique ute is supposed to fit in their lineup. The venerable Pathfinder is similarly priced but larger and boasts better gas mileage than the Murano. The slightly smaller Rogue is all over national TV and will outsell the Murano this year in the U. S. by 3-to-1.

Nissan will move around 45,000 Muranos here in 2013 – many no doubt to rental car companies – down from its peak of 81,000 sales in 2006. Spy shots started to circulate last week of the redesigned 2015 model and that is a relief. The Murano is a great SUV and we would hate to see it whine off into the sunset, much like we are witnessing with Nissan’s once-vaunted Maxima.

The 2015 Murano?
The 2015 Murano?

Picks

Upscale interior

Intuitive controls

Nice balance of ride and handling

Nit Picks

CVT is better than most but still a CVT

Awkward key/”Start/Stop” button combo

Smallish cargo capacity

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58 Comments on “Rental Review: 2013 Nissan Murano SV AWD...”


  • avatar
    Ion

    There’s one thing I’ve noticed about the Murano’s refresh it has these weird headlight filler pieces on the bottom of the grille. It’s like they cut the grille without measuring and when they put the car together realized there was a gap so they filled it with fake headlights.

    otherwise I think the refresh makes the Murano look significantly more upscale. The interior especially since they got rid of the orange and silver Fisher Price gauges.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Our 2003 Murano is approaching 122K and has given fine service with outstanding reliability. I hope that the new one for 2015 will not be a design confection of creases, swoops, and chrome dentition.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    god i feel old just looking at this. These were new on my honeymoon. … so was my wife. ZING

  • avatar
    klossfam

    Virgil – You were amiss on the key fob slot issues…The slot is just for storage/emergency low key fob battery starts. You can keep the key in your pocket like most keyless systems. No slotting of the key is necessary to start/stop the vehicle…

    I’ve owned a 2008 Infiniti G35xS but never a Nissan product due strictly to the ‘NO CVT’ policy I have for our household.

    • 0 avatar
      Avatar77

      +1, was just about to post this. The only use the key fob slot ever gets is when a parking valet leaves the key in there. We are the current lessors of a 2011 Murano and aside from it being a bit lacking in cargo space, we have enjoyed the vehicle. Yeah, the CVT wouldn’t be my top choice, but the V6 has plenty of grunt and mileage is reasonably good for a crossover. We will probably shop the Pathfinder next go-round, alongside some other brands.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      If memory serves, the current generation base model Murano didn’t have the full intelligent key system and you had to use the slot (huh huh, huh huh). Looks like it’s standard on the 2014 models. My neighbor has a base model 2009 or 2010 and I’m pretty sure you have to use the slot on it. It doesn’t have the keyless entry zits on the door handles either.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        True, but that would have been for the ‘S’ trim. When Nissan added the mid-range ‘SV’ trim, to slot between the ‘S’ and ‘SL’ trims, I’m fairly certain that it had the full Intelligent Key system. But maybe not.

      • 0 avatar
        dbcoop

        I own a 2011 Murano S and you can leave the key fob in your pocket. I made the same mistake the first time I rented a smart key equipped (2009) Murano and ignorantly assumed I had to insert the key into the slot on the dash. It’s totally unnecessary. My 2011 S has the buttons on the doors to lock/unlock the car. I do wish it had the option to unlock the doors automatically as you approach the vehicle.

  • avatar
    Speedygreg7

    Here to defend the Nissan CVT!!

    You know I consider myself a relative purist in today’s automotive world. My personal cars are a suspension modified 1989 Mazda RX-7 manual and until recently a 2007 Subaru Legacy Outback Wagon manual. I have in the past enjoyed track days and autoX. We also have a 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 with a CVT. I have regular access through work to several automatic vehicles including a RAV4 4cly/4spd, a Dakota V8/5spd, an Xterra V6/5spd and a 2014 Ram Pentastar 8 speed.

    I vastly PREFER the Nissan CVT to all of those automatics. It is smooth, quiet, responsive and efficient. Modern autos are way too eager to get into overdrive ASAP and as a result are constantly shifting at the slightest grade change or throttle change. This is very annoying no matter how smooth the transmission. The Nissan CVT is much more pleasant to me and always gives me the ratio I want. It works very, very well. It is not a sporting transmission, but for a daily driver/family car, I find it to be remarkable.

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      Totally agree with you. I like the CVT in my Juke a lot more than any of the automatic transmissions in other cars I have owned. I feel that it is always in the appropriate ratio for what I am doing at the moment and its never jerky.

    • 0 avatar
      bills79jeep

      Totally agree. My only CVT experience was in a rental Altima, and I didn’t mind it nearly as bad as I thought I would based on internet vitriol. Comparing it to my Mom’s Accord or my GFs Cruze, my only extended experience with 4cyl autos, it was no worse. Power for merging on short east coast on-ramps was just right, the CVT letting me hum along around 3k RPM until I was up to speed. I thought I would dislike it, and came away impressed. I didn’t love the car, but my issues came from other areas than the CVT.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Unless you’ve found a spec that I don’t know about, the Cruze doesn’t have a 4-speed. It’s either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic (albeit a busy one). In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only compact car on the market with a 4-speed auto is the Corolla, and only for the base spec…

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Thanks Speedy.. I was typing up a reply and cancelled it as the sentiment here on ttac is very anti-CVT. The wife has a ’10 Murano and its CVT is responsive and works very well in all conditions. I prefer it to an automatic as well. I think Nissan got it right. I see none of the lag/delay everyone seems to describe on this site. It does what it is commanded to do every time.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The race to sixth/seventh/eighth gear is a competitive one between automakers, so it seems. Therefore, I applaud the CVT…

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    It bothers me that you referred to the Murano as a “truck” when it’s closer to a car than any truck worth its salt. But that’s just me.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Finally, an honest review that didn’t spend a page and a half berating the CVT. Some people just get so worked up about it.

    I believe the Murano requires premium gas.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      Most of Nissan’s lineup has “Recommend premium fuel for maximum performance” for years now.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The VQ35DE engine in the 350Z and various Infiniti products ending in -35 understandably required premium fuel, because those products had been tuned for an extra 40 to 80 horsepower. The VQ35HR (High Response) also understandably required premium fuel, and so does the VQ37VHR (High Response with Variable Valve Event and Lift). However, the VQ35DE that’s in the Altima, Pathfinder, QX60, Maxima and Quest probably doesn’t *need* premium fuel, even if it can take advantage of it from a performance standpoint. I do, however, vaguely remember someone telling me that the VQ40DE from the Frontier, Xterra, NV and old Pathfinder *does* mandate premium fuel…

  • avatar
    fredtal

    I don’t understand what what a tossable 2 ton SUV is.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    I was born to detest CVT technology until I had a Murano for a rental. Nissan got it exactly right in my opinion. Toyota finally got it right in their Prius lineup. However, I would never purchase a car with a faux trans. I’m going to stick with my 7 speed dual clutch PDK as long as it lives.

    • 0 avatar
      Speedygreg7

      You know, for the kind of driving you would use a 997 for, I think a manual or PDK is required. You need a direct connection. This obviously goes for heavy hauling too. But, for 99.99% of modern daily driving situations the Nissan CVT works very well.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    For one thing, the Pathfinder and QX60 are themselves enlarged Muranos. For another, I don’t think you actually had to stick the key in the slot in order to start the car; you should have been able to just put your foot on the brake and push the start/stop switch.

    The Murano is strange in that it occupies a category of SUVs that aren’t terribly reasonably-priced for the space, but are quite popular nevertheless. (An extreme version of that philosophy can be found in the Infiniti FX/QX70.). The Murano’s closest competitors are the Edge and Venza, neither of which is as nice….

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I think the Edge is nicer than the Murano since its refresh.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        It’s got more features, certainly, but the body shell is dated and overall fit-and-finish isn’t nearly as good as that of the Murano. Neither is the use of materials.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          We’ll agree to disagree. Edge may have a somewhat dated bodyshell, but don’t forget that the Murano is five years old. I perfer the interior in the Edge even though they are both good. I know you hate the 3.5 Duratec, but I think the best engine either car offers is the 2.0T in the Edge. Last time I had one for a week, I got 27 MPG and never missed the V6.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            That I will agree with you on. The 2.0-liter turbo is a great engine. But I wonder if it doesn’t reach its limits on the heavier D3/D4 cars, such as the Taurus and Explorer. And speaking of D3/D4 and *Duratec*, I’m starting to like that, too. I’m looking at a non-EcoBoost, pre-facelift (2009-2012) MKS, as a contender for something that will be comfortable, suitably-equipped, and that will actually stay together. There’s something to be said for ancient engine designs…although apparently it’s very hard to get your hands on a rebuild kit for the 3.7, as compared to the 3.5.

            And technically, the Murano is almost six years old, since it came out during 2008 for MY2009 (there was no 2008 Murano). But both cars will probably get redesigned next year, and I doubt the Edge/MKX will use the same bodyshell. And I really like the current MKX’s interior, which makes up for all the shortcomings of the Edge’s. If they could combine the previous MKX’s exterior with the current MKX’s interior, I’d be very happy.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            We don’t disagree about anything you said there. The D platform vehicles are too big for the 2.0T. The Explorer is a dog with that engine, but it has the highest HP version of the 3.5 as well. I miss the previous MKX grille.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Virgil:

    CVT question. Have you driven the 2014 Corolla? Every review I’ve read says best CVT ever, including TTAC – can you compare to your view on the Murano?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The one in most 2014 Corolla specs is quite smooth, which is exactly what Toyota needs for that demographic…and which will also make a compelling case over the base spec, with its ancient four-speed. However, my vote for ‘Best CVT ever’ would go to the one in the four-cylinder Accord…

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I test-drove a 4-banger CVT Accord Sport (first CVT experience), and found that Honda programmed it to behave just like a conventional TC box, minus the upshifts. Very nice and smooth. Even had a “kickdown” when I jumped on it, and the revs increased with speed.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    One who finds the interior of the current Murano luxurious needs to spend some time in cars that are actually luxurious. Just plain cheap to me.

    As the the CVT, IMHO all automatic transmissions suck, so you might as well have the one that is the most efficient and has the widest ratio range. Hopefully they have made them long-term reliable at this point.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      I totally agree with you Krhodes on the cheapness of the Murano. I drove a two year old SL version for about a week and I was surprised how crappy the inside felt. This was equipped with leather also. Everything inside felt cheap and it creaked. The dashboard creaked like crazy. All the plastics didn’t seem to age well at all. It drove ok, no complaints in that department. The CVT felt ok also. The interior while aesthetically ok, it screamed of cheap. My wife’s 7 year old Pilot’s interior, while not as fancy looking as the nissans’ it is of much better quality. No moans, no groans, no creaking and the Pilot has 92k miles. This Murano only had 24k and it was not abused as a rental. It was a friend’s. I can’t see paying more than 22-23k for one just because the inside screams of cheap.

  • avatar
    Dweller on the Threshold

    “The Murano is a great SUV and we would hate to see it whine off into the sunset, much like we are witnessing with Nissan’s once-vaunted Maxima.”

    Sort of a confused comment on the Maxima. Was it “once-vaunted” in its 4th generation? Or are we lamenting the loss of the 7th generation?

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I saw the word “truck” and “SUV” in this article when referring to the Murano. The Murano is neither.

  • avatar
    Maxseven

    Oh I’m afraid the Murano is one stinky little vehicle – so damn boring. Yet another product of Japanese designers with mental problems; Quod erat demonstrandum.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    The hot selling 9 speed Jeep Cherokee currently has a 10 day supply. One reason the basic goodness of the ZF 9 speed.

    Mopar uber alles

  • avatar
    crtfour

    Man that thing is ugly. How can anyone buy something with a front end like that?

  • avatar
    Sals

    So how was the Mine Shaft Tavern? I’ve lived in NM 30 years, been through or to historic Madrid several times, never been to MST. Brief review, Virgil or anyone?

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’m not sure of all the CVT hate. While only a 4 cyl, my Outback’s CVT is just fine. Is all the CVT hate only because the cool kids hate it?

    • 0 avatar
      Maxseven

      I think so – and if anything, the protest is probably due to the fact that the CVT is a direct hit on all the purists visceral fear of change. In other words, they hate the absence of the conventional gearbox/drivetrain feel, and simulated feel just won’t do. Also, I’ve heard outcry with regard to the CVT’s limitations in the torque department – probably nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      The Outback has a sports gate doesn’t it? What exactly does that do? Ever since I saw an OD button in a Rogue and Sport gates in the maxima and outback I’ve been curious. I mean there’s no gears to actually shift so does the car simulate a gear change?

  • avatar
    Davey

    “The only glitch was the function of key and “Start/Stop” engine button combination. The electronic key fits sloppily in its slot, like a floppy disk in a 1999 Dell Dimension. In one instance, the spring loaded catch comically shot the key into my lap. The first time I got out of the truck, I removed the key but did not hit the “Start/Stop” button and while walking away noticed the engine was still running. This is a glaring ergonomic fail.”

    Please save me from having to read anymore of this gibberish. Obviously this guy knows nothing about smart keys. You do NOT need to insert it into any slot. You keep it in your pocket or purse. The slot is only used if the battery dies inside the key. You get a warning far in advance if the battery is starting to go.

    I repeat… YOU DO NOT INSERT THE KEY INTO THE SLOT.

    I worry about the future of America and the lack of common sense.

  • avatar
    EX35

    You stole the words right out of my mouth! The articles as of late have really gone down hill in quality and fact checking. Why isn’t Doug writing articles anymore?

  • avatar
    MK

    Yeah not really .

    I thought it was a bunch of Internet crap until I got a Nissan rogue as a rental, we were leaving the airport and I couldn’t figure out what the hell was wrong with the car until I tried to pass someone and it had what felt like a 3 second delay when I wanted it todo something.

    Self: “wow so this is what everyone bitches about!”

    I totally get it now, yeah if my other option was walking this would be great but if I have a choice ill never own one.

    Those things are annoying as crap, please give me a standard auto with 6+ fwd gears. Thx.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m glad someone posted on the fallacy of the perceived fail of the stop/start button. I really enjoy not having to use the key slot with my M.

    “When you floor the 3.5-liter 260 horsepower V-6″
    It bothers me that this version of the 3.5 is so turned down, when they CAN and DO get well over 300hp out of it in N/A format!

    “The smooth quiet ride” I drove an 09 new Murano for a week in 2008, after someone hit my I30. I found it very jiggly, and that it got upset at the slightest bumps.

    I also found the interior full of cheap plastics, though the 09 didn’t have those aluminum strips, which I’m assuming are real metal. I did like the exterior in a brilliant pearl white paint though.


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