Rental Review: 2013 Nissan Murano SV AWD

Virgil Hilts
by Virgil Hilts
rental review 2013 nissan murano sv awd

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.

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.

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.

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?


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

Join the conversation
2 of 58 comments
  • MK MK on Dec 24, 2013

    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.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Jan 17, 2014

    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.

  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models
  • Probert Wow - so many digital renders - Ford, Stellantis. - whose next!!! They're really bringing it on....
  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.