2016 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD Review - Contemporary Personal Luxury
2016 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD
Upon its introduction in 2003, the Murano possessed a unique combination of traits that, in retrospect, make its La Jolla, California design studio and Design Chief Taiji Toyota look genius.
The Murano was built on the Altima platform, making it relatively inexpensive to build. It had a segment-first four-wheel independent suspension, imparting a genuine car-like driving experience. It featured generous proportions, yet eschewed three-rows in favor of spacious seating for five. Combined with its catchy anti-establishment styling, snappy 245-horsepower V6, and total lack of off-road pretension, it was the 21st century spiritual successor to the personal luxury car.
Nissan softened the Murano’s driving dynamics over the years, but otherwise stayed true to its 13-year old formula. Moving with the market allowed the Murano to weather a storm of competition and even vanquish the mighty Toyota. It’s most direct competitors are the Ford Edge, launched in 2006, and the Toyota Venza, which appeared in 2008. The Edge has dominated the niche since its arrival, but not to the detriment of the Murano. The Venza eclipsed the Murano in just one model year (2009) on its way to steady sales declines and eventually cancellation last year. Murano sales dipped with the recession but remained steady before returning to near pre-recession heights with the launch of the complete redesign in 2015.
The 2016 Murano is true to its lineage with love-it-or-hate-it styling. Regardless which side you fall on, this crossover will not get lost in the crowd. It embraces Nissan’s “Energetic Flow” design language with the corporate V-Motion grille, boomerang headlights, and floating roof. The design is busy, but comes together well with visual distinction.
My only quibble with the exterior is tire sizing. The 20-inch machine-finished aluminum-alloy wheels on the top grade Platinum are sharp, and the 55-series tires provide a reasonable compromise between appearance and ride. However, the 235/55R20 all-season tires are too narrow. When viewed from the rear, the Murano’s spindly stance hobbles its sporting pretensions. By comparison, the Ford Edge Titanium’s standard rubber has a section width of 245mm. And the Edge Sport can be optioned up to a 265mm section width. While the Murano’s dual exhausts say go, its tires say take it slow.
Much like a new partner, an auto exterior must be sufficiently attractive to lure one in. But it’s the interior and drive where owners spend their time and where sustained interest is won or lost. It’s thus refreshing to see Nissan invest in the interior commensurate with its importance. And it’s easy to see why the Murano earned a spot on Ward’s prestigious list of 10 Best Interiors. The material quality, fit and finish, and ergonomics are best in class and should give Lexus RX350 shoppers pause.
The Murano has a clean, spacious, modern interior and, in Platinum spec, includes the amenities one expects in a $40,000 crossover: dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled front power seats, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, intelligent cruise control, Bose sound, power panoramic moonroof, navigation, and more.
As with the exterior, the interior takes some chances. The Jasper Pearlescent trim is a hard plastic, but it’s honest and does not attempt to approximate an organic material. It’s sparingly employed on the upper dash, center console, and all four doors. Together with Cashmere Leather, it works. The design team did, however, appear to run short on funds when orchestrating the cell phone charging enclosure forward of the center armrest. It’s too shallow to close with a cell phone inside and actuates with limited positive feedback and no sense of weight. Its looks good, but its cover’s quality is on par with a Happy Meal toy.
Nissan’s marketing people could be taken to task for their overwrought seating description. But these “NASA-Inspired Zero Gravity Front and Rear Outboard Seats” are genuinely comfortable, providing cramp-free driving throughout my 400 miles with the car. Rear seat legroom is ample, exceeding the Maxima’s by more than four inches, though falling short of the Edge’s by two inches. With recline, temperature controls, heated seats, and USB ports, rear seat passengers are well cared for.
The navigation is standard Nissan, which is to say good. At the center of the infotainment system is an 8-inch screen with touch, voice, and steering-wheel-mounted controls. I gravitated toward the touch screen, which operated reliably with almost zero lag. Voice inputs are easy and transitioning calls from phone to Bluetooth is less disruptive than some competing systems. Easy to use hands-free text messaging and a clear rearview camera are also here. The Around View Monitor system is also a welcome feature, which enables one to place the Murano more accurately and rapidly when parking.
From a safety perspective, the Murano shines. It offers all the necessary acronyms: ABS (Four-Wheel Anti-Lock Brakes), VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control), TCS (Traction Control System), BSW (Blind Spot Warning), and RCTA (Rear Cross Traffic Alert). The Insurance Institute for Highway safety (IIHS) gives the Murano an overall Superior rating, with top marks across categories including the challenging small overlap frontal crash test. However, the Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW) and Forward Emergency Braking (FEB) systems are unnecessarily invasive. The PFCW system produced audible warnings in heavy freeway traffic that startled passengers and the FEB system rendered unnecessary braking assistance that upset the driver. Were the systems malfunctioning? Absolutely not. But this tester would prefer a less invasive “tune” for each of these systems.
The Murano’s standard and only motivation comes from Nissan’s familiar 3.5-liter DOHC V6 mated to an updated Xtronic CVT transmission. In the 4,020 pound Murano, the mature VQ-series V6 makes 260 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. According to last year’s review, the front-wheel-drive model is good for a 0-60 sprint in a responsible 7.1 seconds. Given the modest 130 pound weight penalty for all-wheel drive, its acceleration is likely identical.
Thanks to the CVT and a Porsche 911 matching 0.31 drag coefficient, rated fuel economy is a competitive 21/28/24 (city/highway/combined). During a mixed 400 mile mountain highway, freeway, and city test cycle, most of it with four people and a full load, the Murano delivered 22 mpg.
Nissan’s commitment to creating a crossover without off-road pretense – there is no 4×4 selector here – allowed it to deliver a vehicle that rides every bit like a tall car. The ride is smooth and composed, if a bit soft. The 2016 Murano lacks the relatively edgy handling of the original. This is not the four-door sport ute it once was. Nonetheless, this nose-heavy crossover keeps pace with mainstream sedans through canyons, with modest body roll and acceptable steering feel. It quietly absorbs uneven pavement and is most at home in the city or on the freeway.
But don’t push the right pedal too hard when exiting a rolling stop. On two such occasions, I applied heavy throttle only to hear the revs build while the speedometer and my butt indicated what could be charitably described as lethargic acceleration. Unlike the 2016 Maxima, with essentially the same running gear, the Murano clearly communicates the belt-driven origin of its transmission. However, much like the Maxima, a committed driving enthusiast will probably have already looked elsewhere.
The Murano drives well. My biggest complaint is that its look-at-me appearance is not matched by watch-me-go driving dynamics. If you want a crossover with sporty handling and acceleration, check out the Ford Edge Sport. Nonetheless, the average driver will be non-pulsed by the Murano’s CVT, pleased with its credible acceleration, and impressed with its comfort and quiet composure.
Much like other Nissans, the Murano offers a simple set of trim levels with a limited menu of options. The base S with FWD starts at $29,660. Trim levels step up through SV, SL, and Platinum. All-wheel drive is a $1,600 option across the range. With the Technology Package (power panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control, PFCW, FEB), carpeted floor mats all around, and AWD, the Platinum tester stickered about as high as one can go with a Murano at $44,070. Pricing is competitive, besting a similarly equipped Ford Edge Titanium by about $1,000.
Nissan does more with less. The Murano has one engine and transmission, but is poised to move more than 100,000 units for the first time based on sales through the first quarter of 2016. The Murano combines an expressive exterior with a clean, well-executed interior and mainstream driving dynamics. It may not have been the first crossover, but it was and continues to be unapologetic and focused on what it wants to be – a value play in the sporty midsize crossover niche. Think of it as a modern interpretation of the personal luxury vehicle.
Disclosure: Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of fuel for the purpose of this review.
[Images: © 2016 Seth Parks/The Truth About Cars]
Legacygt on May 06, 2016
In 2005 I almost purchased a first generation Murano but got a Subaru Legacy GT Wagon instead. I loved the Legacy GT but the Murano would have been a good choice. It was sort of a unique package at the time. It was also pretty daring in its styling and it was somewhat sporty with a powerful engine and a firm ride. In the years since, Nissan added the Rogue and softened the Pathfinder leaving the Murano kind of stuck without a purpose. (Note they did the same thing with the Maxima as the Altima got larger and better.) The solution seems to have been turning it into a style statement so this car is all about the looks. The performance meanwhile has softened quite a bit. Until recently I drove a Mazda CX-9 which offered a much more engaging drive while being larger and more useful.
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