2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD Review - Suave Ugly Duckling

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
2015 nissan murano sl awd review suave ugly duckling

2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD

3.5-liter VQ35DE DOHC V-6, Continuously Variable Timing Control System (260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 240 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm)

Xtronic continuously variable transmission (2.413:1 – 0.383:1 range, 0.958:1 final drive)

21 city/28 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

22.4 mpg on the Soccer Dad test cycle, 75 percent city (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel drive

Base Price (S FWD):

$30,445* (U.S.)/$31,858* (Canada)

As Tested Price:

$39,435* (U.S.)/$41,393* (Canada)

* All prices include $885 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,860 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

“Damn, that’s ugly,” I thought to myself — in addition to saying it openly amongst my automotive journalist friends when Nissan unveiled the new, third-generation Murano at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

“Who’s going to buy this?” I asked myself — in addition to everyone who would possibly listen to my whining.

“I bet this won’t sell,” proclaimed my inner monologue — in addition to my external one.

Boy, was I wrong on that last point. The new Murano’s year-to-date sales in Canada have already eclipsed last year’s entirely (sales surpassed 1,000 units in June 2015 for the first time ever in Canada), and it will likely sell more in the U.S. than it has in the last couple years at the very least.

When I had a chance to drive the newest “lifestyle” crossover from Nissan, I realized why my predictions were so wrong. If you can look past the sheet metal, the aging VQ35DE V-6 engine and the continuously variable transmission that’s become ubiquitous with the Nissan brand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what is arguably the best lifestyle crossover on the market.

That should be no surprise. One could make a case for the Nissan Murano being a pioneer in this segment. Back in 2002, Nissan rolled out the first-generation Murano to either fanfare or fiery criticism, depending on who you asked.

The non-luxury softroader was born — whether you liked it or not.


To better understand the Murano and its “Predator with a Beverly Hills facelift” styling, one must understand the competition — namely the Ford Edge. Neither vehicle communicates a modicum of off-roading intentions, even though both are available with all-wheel drive. Both are targeted directly at yuppie dinks with money to burn and status to reinforce. They want a vehicle that’s visually loud so they can be unique just like everyone else.

Compared to prior generations, the Murano is more visually windswept up front due to its corporate V-motion grille and Z-inspired headlights. It’s a cohesive design regardless of how visually off-putting I might personally find it.

Around the side, the Murano flaunts the same floating roof treatment craze that’s seeing more use at Nissan and elsewhere. Our mid-trim SL tester wore standard 18-inch wheels shod with 235/65R18 rubber that didn’t visually fill the wheel wells as much as the 20 inchers available on the Platinum trim, but still did a much better job of not making the car look plebeian compared to the Edge on its smaller wheels. Actually, the 18s make the Murano look trendy, expensive and — viewing it as a car guy — comfortable.

Around back are some of the most confusing shapes and surfaces you’ll find on any crossover on sale today. The rear lamps sport the same boomerang styling as those up front. The blacked-out floating roof section, when inspected closely, even has some metallic flake in the plastic so it doesn’t look flat and cheap. Like the side, a chrome strip breaks up the lower body cladding and high-gloss paint, like a belt separating black pants and a loudly colored button-up shirt.

Overall, the Murano looks expensive and expressive, but its execution is far from my cup of tea. The Ford Edge ticks the same boxes without being visually nauseating.


Years ago, I listened to a stand-up comic — whose name completely escapes me — do a bit on yuppies and yard sales.

“Yuppie yard sales are just like normal ones — except nothing is for sale. Yuppies just want you to look at their stuff.”

Nissan knows the typical Murano buyer isn’t going to have kids — or if they do have that elusive single child, the chances of he or she having more than two friends willing to ditch their Facebooks and video games to actually drive somewhere is pretty slim. Instead, what yuppies do have is personal belongings — or at least more personal belongings than their kid has friends — so, understandably, there’s no third row seating. In its place is a cavernous cargo area so you can take all your stuff to the local yuppie yard sale, show it off, and bring it home in a flashy ride.

Unfortunately for the Murano, the Edge can hold even more yuppie junk in its upwardly mobile trunk; 32.1 cu. ft. of cargo space is available behind the second row in the Murano (minus 1 cu. ft. with the moonroof) versus 39.2 cu. ft. in the Edge.

You’d think that maybe the Murano is shorter than the Edge, but it’s actually longer on the outside by 4.7 inches. Wheelbases are similar at 111.2 and 112.2 inches respectively. And, as far as I can tell, the space isn’t being shifted to the passenger compartment.

Murano (w/o moonroof)

Front headroom – 39.9 inches

Front legroom – 40.5 inches

Front hip room – 55.4 inches

Front shoulder room – 59.5 inches

Rear headroom – 39.8 inches

Rear legroom – 38.7 inches

Rear hip room – 55.2 inches

Front shoulder room – 58.8 inches


Front headroom – 40.2 inches

Front legroom – 40.5 inches

Front hip room – 55.9 inches

Front shoulder room – 60.3 inches

Rear headroom – 40.3 inches

Rear legroom – 40.6 inches

Rear hip room – 57.5 inches

Front shoulder room – 60.5 inches

(Bold is the greater measure.)

I’m flummoxed.

Regardless of the numbers, the Murano is incredibly comfortable up front and I didn’t once think I lacked space for my 6-foot-1-inch lanky frame. Nor did passengers ask for me to scootch the driver’s seat up to give them additional rear legroom. However, if you’re a sizable dink, you might want to opt for the Edge.

When you do find your place of comfort in the driver seat, you’re greeted by a steering wheel that could be found in almost any other Nissan. The push-button start is easily found in the center dash instead of tucked somewhere being the steering wheel. Other controls are quite simple, with HVAC knobs and buttons located below the infotainment screen and shortcuts to navigation, radio and other infotainment features placed on either side. Nissan says it has decreased the number of buttons needed to operate their system and this amount seems like a happy medium.

The instrument panel consists of two large dials separated by a very clear, 7-inch LCD screen with pages that are easily accessible through the steering wheel mounted controls. Unlike the Micra, the Murano is fitted with an actual fuel gauge and not just an LCD representation.

As I mentioned above, the front seats are incredibly comfortable, though they do have a look of cheapness. Maybe it’s the semi-gloss sheen. I just wish they looked as good as they felt. Same goes for the rear.

At least you will be safe, with a full suite of airbags that includes a driver’s knee airbag, just in case.


The 3.5-liter VQ35DE V-6 sitting under the hood of the Murano has to be one of the oldest engines on sale today. Introduced in 2001, the VQ series engine has been constantly updated and comes in a number of tunes depending on its application. However, it doesn’t come with direct injection or some of the other goodies found in competing products.

That said, the VQ is still one of the best sounding engines money can buy — probably because it doesn’t come with direct injection or the other goodies. Even when paired with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission, the VQ rumbles with its all-but familiar growl.

When Nissan started fitting its lower-end, four-cylinder cars with CVTs, I moaned a great moan. But this — with the V-6 and some torque to keep revs low — makes boatloads of sense and is exceptionally smooth without the typical whine experienced with smaller engines mated to similar transmissions. To top it all off, Nissan’s combination is 4 mpg easier on fuel on the combined cycle than the Edge, representing a $350 annual savings according to the EPA calculator.


Nissan’s Around View has been on the market for quite some time, but this is the first time it’s been fitted to the Murano (incidentally, after it was fitted to the Versa Note). As one can expect, images from the camera are fairly distorted to give you a better field of vision, but there’s something else that bothers me about it. Image quality is, well, a bit subpar. Even though other systems obviously don’t give you a full 360-degree view of the vehicle on an 8-inch screen, the images offered on the Nissan system look pixelated to the point where you might actually miss something — though if that something is moving, the Moving Object Detection should pick it up. Meanwhile, the “Camera” button on the console lets you activate the system when parking nose first, which is great for someone like me who can’t place a vehicle square between two white lines.

Around View aside, the new NissanConnectSM system is enhanced over the last generation, though its ease of use has been hampered because of it. Thanks to a number of new connectivity features and other digitial knickknacks, the Nissan infotainment system is a bit more bloated. If you like fully featured infotainment, this is a great solution, but this might not be a selling point if you are like the vast majority of vehicle buyers who don’t use all the features provided by automakers.


What sets the Murano apart from the rest is how it drives. The 3.5-liter engine is as smooth as you can get. The CVT will do some “shifting,” but only so you can feel a little bit of torque transmitted into the seat now and then. Also, those seats are as good as they come.

However, these pieces aren’t the Murano’s killer app. Instead, its suspension tuning and decent tire sidewalls on our SL-trimmed tester that give the Murano a ride befitting its Infiniti luxury brand. Platinum models give you 20-inch wheels as standard, and I’m not sure that’s a good buy if ride quality is No. 1 on your car hunt.

In addition to the suspension, the Murano’s electric power steering also makes it light to handle. Who cares if it feels a bit disconnected? If you are looking for an engaging drive, you are shopping in the wrong segment by looking at the Murano. For a few thousand more, there are some interesting options from the Germans, though you might have to downsize.

Aaron Cole, Chris Tonn, and I all had a chat about the Murano styling. They quite like the Nissan … and they’d take it over the Ford Edge. I’d rather the Blue Oval, based on styling alone, inside and out. Yet, if the Edge didn’t drive as nice as the Murano (and I’m not sure if it does but an Edge is on the way) I’d probably have the Murano … the fuel economy bump for me is a nice to have.

If you’re a yuppie with some coin to spend, the Murano and Edge are like white and red wine: they’re both wine and they both get the job done of looking classy, but it’s all a matter of taste. The Murano, to most, will taste just fine.

Join the conversation
3 of 67 comments
  • Daniel J Daniel J on Aug 28, 2015

    I don't get it. The 2015 Nissan Rogue IMHO is one of or even the best looking CUV. The Murano is got to be one of the ugliest.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Aug 28, 2015

    I could care less about the Murano. If there is a badly driven car driving cluelessly, or going 20-40 on a reasonable 35-60 road, it is usually a Rogue. If it isn't a Rogue, it is a Murano. I've actually seen two of the convertibles in my area, so a unicorn with rainbow horn is probably next. BHPH fodder. Meh.

    • Dolorean Dolorean on Aug 28, 2015

      Ah the Nissan Murano Cross-Cabrio, a car so bad even Nissan's engineers admitted it was an answer to a question that no one asked. Mr. Niedermeyer had the rare joy to review one of these pigs way back in 2011 but my favorite was this story on TTAC: Dementia-Stricken Man Buys Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, Sale Voided After Complaints From Wife Can't buy that kind of advertising.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂