Nissan Murano Review

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery

Californians designed it. Italy’s glass blowing artisans lent it their name. A Franco-Japanese alliance headed by a Brazilian CEO builds it in a Japanese factory. The Murano is a twenty-first century multinational mutt. Introduced in 2002, this strange beast has faithfully served owners in the great melting pot of America’s sprawling suburbs. In dog years, the model’s now 67 years old. And the CUV market has suddenly become more crowded than a backwoods puppy mill. So has Nissan’s crossbreed aged well, or is this old dog ready for the vet’s needle?

The Murano’s funky design caused quite a stir at launch. Ghosn’s goons had decided to break out of the generic Japanese gestalt with some bold moves; there was no mistaking the Murano for, um, anything else. Although it was not the first car-based CUV, it was the first to show sheetmetal that openly flaunted its pavement-only intentions– and how.

Aside from a minor facelift, the 2007 Murano’ strange sheetmetal remains largely unchanged. Its beak is still a long, severely swept proboscis with a toothy checkerboard grille. Its high waisted body carries the bulk of its bulk below the belt – not unlike Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners’ fame –terminating in a wide, bulbous butt. The upswept rear D pillar continues to symbolize the design’s quirky aspirations; in direct contrast to the current CUV vogue for a downwards triangle.

In short, looking like an oversize anime Terrapin, the Murano’s styling says off-roader like a Lara Flynn Boyle pictorial says all-you-can-eat buffet.

My Glacial Pearl (i.e. white) test car offered executive class accommodations: supportive seats and elegant doors slathered in café latte leather (i.e. beige), tastefully accented by brushed aluminum panels. Meanwhile, the Murano’s instrument cluster serves up a modern interpretation of a classic sports car binnacle, in front of a windshield so steeply raked Swiss pistonheads will be tempted to yodel towards the distant intersection of glass and metal.

But wait, there’s more! The Murano also embodies an SUV’s yeoman work ethic. Its flat paneled center console is all right angles and plain Jane, glove-friendly switchgear. Unfortunately, it’s more work than it should be; learning how to navigate this maze of indistinct buttons and menus requires more practice than beginner’s chess.

Nissan calls the Murano’s motorized mélange “modern design meets instant versatility.” I call it multiple Murano disorder.

A 3.5-liter V6 Maxima hand-me-down engine powers Nissan’s not-so-cute ute. Fire up the Murano’s 240hp mill and it quickly and quietly settles into a distant hum. With AWD stifling potential wheelspin and 244 ft. lbs. of torque thrust available at 4400rpm, you’re free to jump on the throttle. And… wait.

As the Murano’s tachometer climbs to its peak, sporting drivers instinctively anticipate an upshift that never comes. Thanks to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), the Murano’s motor simply drones on unwaveringly, like a speedboat. On the positive side, the tranny is silky and efficient (20/24mpg). Nevertheless, the CUV’s CVT is dreadfully, unavoidably, interminably D-U-L-L. Trying to wring speed from this Godot-like drivetrain is like trying to get a cell phone company to waive an early termination fee.

Once you get the Murano up to speed, Nissan’s two-ton CUV is not so light on its feet. The Murano’s front strut and multilink rear suspenders keep the machine reasonably level through corners and during emergency stops. In SE trim, the Murano gets “sport-tuned” springs, and firmer struts and shock absorbers. Even in this guise, the Murano’s narcolepsy-inducing ride and handling have been tailored for the comfort-oriented driver.

Even worse, the Murano’s steering is squirrelly under full-throttle (both FWD and AWD models), squirrelly when tracking down the freeway, squirrelly over uneven surfaces and squirrelly through the twisties. When the tiller isn’t busy gently undulating in synch with the suspension’s motion, it’s as vague as a politician’s promise.

Of course, this complete lack of satisfying driving dynamics is endemic to all high-riding CUV’s with long suspension travel and thick sidewall tires. Except it isn’t. CUV’s from Acura, BMW and Honda steer with absolute squirrel-free precision, and not a small amount of tactile feedback.

That’s not to say that the Murano is either unsafe at any speed or uncontrollable through the bends. (Note: Loving parents should take care not to hoon with kids; the slick leather bench could result in an untidy pileup of children.) However, its [lack of] on-road personality underscores the $37k Murano’s niche: lux-o-barge on stilts.

The redesigned ’08 Murano is on its way– and just in time. Although Murano sales are still strong (up nearly 10% vs. last year) first-class CUV’s are everywhere; including the Honda Pilot, refreshed Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX7 (to name a few). What’s more, Nissan’s new Rogue threatens to steal sales from its slightly bigger brother. If the new Murano gets better driving dynamics and a proper slushbox, the model will continue to find plenty of willing homes.

William C Montgomery
William C Montgomery

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  • Xelaju Xelaju on Dec 23, 2007

    I have owned a TI-L for 6 months. Not a single problem to report. Absolute pleasure to drive. Fuel consumption of just under 10L/100km on a long journey mean a range of round 850km on a tank. Jump in drive 850 Km with several brief stops and arrive in near perfect condition. Not bad considering I am past retiring age. Infinitely adjustable electic drivers seat and comfortable ride make for an enjoyable journey not to mention the relative quietness and superior sound system. Sat Nav is handy for travel to unfamiliar towns and a little mild bush bashing. Added reverse park sensors with the rear camera make parking a cinche. Not to mention safety with small grand children about. I did consider an X5 and a Lexus but at half the price could not justify any other choice.

  • Maxhuang Maxhuang on Mar 17, 2008

    On 11/10/2007, I bought a 2007 Murano SL with full loaded equipment by $38K. Until now (3/16/2008) it is about 4 months, and for sure it is very confortable for riding and very fun for driving. Based on the price and the quality of this car, all my family members love this bold and stylish beast very much. One good thing that I want to share is that the fuel is ok; so far in 7156 miles the average is 22.10/gallon. Not so bad; isn't it. One recommand is that the doors won't be locked automatically after you drive or start the engine. Over all I will give my 2007 Murano SL a score of AA-. It is a good car.

  • Probert No, they're not the future. BEV sales are growing every year, and, along with sound energy policy, result in cleaner air, lower CO2, foreign policy not based on oil, and will continue to drive like a smooth powerful nearly silent turbine. Some 19% of new car sales in 2023 were BEVs - this will continue.
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  • Redapple2 Love/lust a 110 diesel defender. Should buy one since the INEOS is gas only (and double the price). Had a lightweight in Greece. Wonder how this rides.
  • Ajla There is inventory on the ground but as pointed out it is generally high dollar trims of high-dollar models and at least around here dealers still aren't budging off their mandatory nitrogen tires and Summer weather protection packages.You aren't paying '21-'22 prices anymore but it's still a long way to go.
  • Slavuta Every electric car must come with a film about lithium mining