DRIVEN: Murano Is Fit For The Future


If you were to ask me what the fourth “D” is in “Brand new 4D movie experience” my best guess is space-time. My next guess is advertising.

Having never watched a movie in 3D, I decided immediately that I should go from 2D to 4D, as none of the “Rocky” movies are available in 3D — yet. One of the 4D theaters is right down the road from where I live — a 15-minute train ride or 4-hour drive in traffic — so I figured it was time to party like it was 1955 and have someone run a fog machine while I watched Tom Hanks narrate a 15-minute short documentary on sharks. Or maybe it was jellyfish.

The long of the short here is that advertising matters, but products matter more. Specifically, even with my hand in a blender and your finger on the “Puree” button I wouldn’t be able to recall a single ad for Nissan’s Murano — no scintillating Super Bowl spot, no dopey actor driving one at night, nor any Paul Harvey speech about a teacher in Iowa — if my burger-holding mitt depended on it.

But by all accounts the Murano has been as important, if not more important, than most of the cars of its time. Since 2003, the year the first Murano rolled into the suburbs, many have followed the crossover’s mid-sized footsteps. Now beginning its third generation, the Murano has grown into Nissan’s “flagship” crossover (their words, not mine) and more of a luxury vehicle than anything else in the Nissan fleet. (I had an old girlfriend who counted first among her accomplishments after college as buying a Nissan Murano, which was “a luxury car” according to her. Dumping me was a close second I’m pretty sure.)

But she was right — about the car. Without discernible or memorable marketing, the Murano became a crossover more at home on city streets than mountain trails. Almost overnight Nissan cornered, then capitalized, on a market for mid-sized crossovers without off-road hype. (It should be noted that Lexus beat the Murano to market by more than five years with looks only its mother could love.)

New for 2015, the Nissan Murano carries the all-important “flagship” banner further. Without a doubt, the good-looking, third-generation Murano leaps into the future of murky marketing with its “Resonance Concept” exterior. In reality, the crossover with a larger radial front quarter panel, blacked out D-pillar in the rear and floating roof is remarkably handsome in a segment full of frumps looking like they’re ready to give birth to something. Not only is the Murano better looking than most of its competitors right now — in my opinion — it has a better slew of design terms: V-motion grille, Zero Gravity seats, social lounge interior, boomerang lights, jet-inspired roof. What more do you want for just under $30,000 to start, people?

A lot, as it were. Inside the Murano is dramatically different. If I have had one consistent gripe with Nissans it’s this: There are buttons for everything. On the Murano’s old navigation system, there was a rotary dial with redundant directional buttons on top. The destination, route and map buttons could perform each other’s task, I believe. There was a do-nothing slot that could hold your proximity key next to other buttons that looked like ejector seats and I have a headache.  Nissan cut down on the number of interior buttons from 25(!) to just 10 this year —and that “less is more” thinking permeates the rest of the car.

The Murano could fit three children in the back, but it’s more of a ride for two back there. Despite having an identical wheelbase to last year’s model, the 2015 Murano is 3 inches longer overall, with rear adult passengers mostly benefiting. Rear legroom has increased by 2.5 inches and a longer panoramic sunroof (optional) means the rear passengers can sunbathe now — or something.

The Murano’s minimal approach to its interior adds more to the car’s overall appeal and opens the space further than in years before. There are some ergonomic gripes I have — the seat warming knobs are in a weird position next to the engine start button — but the amount of hard black plastic and unattractive surfaces have been greatly reduced. Social lounge? Probably not. Good looking? Yes.

For all that’s changed inside and outside, the Murano remained relatively the same underneath. The same 3.5-liter V6 makes its way into the 2015 car, and the same 260 horsepower the engine produces does just fine in the Murano. (I imagine at some point, Nissan will retire the old V6 from its lineup, but that’s likely years away.) Mated to Nissan’s continuously variable transmission, the Murano manages a respectable 21/28 mpg in city/highway driving. Both are seamless and quiet and that’s the point.

Fully equipped, a Murano can run north of $42,000 with every option installed. That may sound expensive but first consider that a top-of-the-line 2003 Murano, inflation adjusted, cost about the same amount of money when it was new. And second, in 2015 you now must pay more than $8 to watch two 15-minute documentaries with glasses on and have your seat shake.