Years ago I rented a first-generation Murano shortly after Nissan introduced the model. I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. It was so different from the V6 sedans I had been driving for years. The steering felt odd, and the Murano’s handling was difficult to get used to. The all-orange gauges didn’t light my fire, and the CVT ruined my impression of continuously variable transmissions for ten years. I had it a week and was horrified by the fuel economy. Perhaps I just resist change, but to me, the first Murano was a swing and a miss. This new, 2015 Murano had an equally strong effect on me, but it was entirely positive.
For 2015, the Murano is completely overhauled. The look is drop dead gorgeous. Everyone I showed the Murano to loved it. Having just written a preview of the new 2016 Lexus RX 350, I see that both manufacturers now use black glass to try to hide the rear “C-Pillar”, the upright support behind the rear window and ahead of the tailgate. It works. The look is very swoopy and curvy. This is the trend, and may look good for years to come.
Inside, the Murano is also a revelation. I attended a press release for the Murano at my local press club. Nissan stressed that the Murano now has more soft-to-the-touch materials. Indeed, it does. My pet peeve being a taller guy is that my right knee rests against the center console. Nissan padded that spot just for us tall guys. The armrest is split in two and padded. My son loved that and said “No more fighting.”
The defining element inside is the new center console look. Freeze it. Stop making it “better.” The touch screen works great and the radio knob makes the sound louder. I loved the infotainment system, and I think it is the fastest I have ever used concerning synching my phone. Nissan recently said about its infotainment design, “We’ve learned from personal electronics that consumers aren’t always looking for devices that do more, they just want it done better. People rarely read the directions for their smartphone because they know intuitively how to operate them. We believe vehicles should behave the same way.” Nissan nailed that concept in the 2015 Murano.
The look inside has just the right mix of classy and modern. My tester had silver trim with a sort of “wood grain” pattern for lack of a better term. No real wood or fake wood to be seen. Just the way I like it. The dash is a mixture of soft materials and piano black. The fan settings and temperature readouts don’t disappear when you put on polarized sunglasses. The now common humongous moonroof reaching back to the rear seats was included in my tester. Not my thing. I’d skip it if I could.
The “Zero Gravity” seats were perfectly comfortable. My $37K tester had cloth seats with no heat. I would seek out leather with heated and ventilated seats if I were shopping for this SUV. All the proper power seat controls were there for that very reasonable price though. In back, the seats are also comfortable and spacious. Nissan’s product manager told me the Murano was designed with grown-up couples going to dinner in mind. The vehicle is more than large enough for four to drive to dinner comfortably. Heck, four could go on a weekend trip together and still be friends when they arrived.
Out back, the cargo area seemed huge. I had a vertical blind for a sliding glass door to pick up at Lowes during my time with the Murano. With the seats down, the 104” package slid in and came to the edge of the dash. 104 inches is looooong people. The Murano is a five-passenger SUV with room to spare.
The 2015 Murano SV AWD tester I drove handled great. Steering feel was better than to be expected in a vehicle this size, and it turned in naturally without that disconnected feel that so many mid-sized and larger SUVs are burdened with. The ride was a little firm, but most might think it is in the sweet-spot. The rims wear 65-series 18” rubber. Finally, an SUV with a sane side-wall, rather than the ridiculous low-profile tires on too many everyday vehicles. The brakes felt firm and reliable. Overall Nissan did everything right when it comes to drivability with the new Murano.
The drivetrain of the new Murano is a carry-over, but it includes the newest continuously variable transmission (CVT) from Nissan. Nissan deserves full credit for being the trailblazer in this technology for the U.S. market. Earlier CVTs from Nissan disappointed me. However, as Nissan put it when speaking about its newer generation of CVT “…it delivers absolutely seamless performance and alleviates many of the concerns that drivers held about earlier CVT’s.” I found the CVT transmission and 260 hp, V6 engine to be a perfect match for the Murano’s mission. There is no droning and no weird feelings from the CVT at all. It also delivers smooth power. Floor it and the Murano can hold its optimum RPM endlessly. It all just works.
The benefit of Nissan’s experience with CVTs and its V6 engines is amazing fuel economy. In mixed driving over more than 250 miles in the suburbs and on the highway I saw 25 MPG. The EPA says the combined rating of the Murano is about 24 MPG. If you zero the trip information as you enter the highway, you will see that when on the highway the Murano is getting 30 MPG, the EPA says it gets 28 MPG. That is frankly amazing for a vehicle this size and power. And, of course, the Murano can use regular unleaded fuel, further reducing the owner’s cost per mile.
The 2015 Murano was just tested by IIHS. With its optional forward crash prevention system (which my test vehicle did not have) the Murano earned the industry’s highest possible safety rating, the Top Safety Pick+. Having had such a system save my bacon recently in a test vehicle, I would strongly recommend it.
In conclusion, the 2015 Murano is a great value and a great vehicle. At its $37K price point, it packs almost all anyone needs and more. A loaded $40K version dramatically exceeds the value of many premium crossovers its size that would cost about $50K comparably equipped. The Murano has looks, safety, drivability, and a great cost of ownership. That is a grand slam in the automotive world.
Note: This review is based on a one-week press fleet loaner. During our time with the vehicle we drove it over 300 miles in typical family-car fashion on public roads.