Nissan's Murano still a pearl amid a market of boxy SUVs

Nissan's Murano still a pearl amid a market of boxy SUVs

June 12th, 2010 by Mark Kennedy in Carscruisin

It's no coincidence the most popular color choice among Nissan Murano buyers is Glacier Pearl. The Murano, introduced eight years ago as a curvaceous alternative to the boxy SUVs of the day, has been a pearl in the Nissan product lineup. It's a tribute to Nissan designers that the Murano, which was freshened considerably for the 2009 model year, remains one of the best-looking five-passenger rides on the road. And its beauty is more than skin deep. The upscale interior has Infinity-quality materials, and fit and finish. Hunt Nissan sales consultant Jason Newsome said the Murano appeals to "one- and twochild families, although you can easily fi t three people in the back (seat)."

STYLING: I thought the old Murano looked like a pretty girl in braces. There was something about that blingy, wrap-around grille that needed tweaking. That's been solved with a more aggressive fascia that features a new, cat's-eye headlamp treatment. Our tester was a Murano in top-of-the-line LE trim, which includes heated leather seats (front and rear), a panoramic moon roof and gorgeous 20-inch alloys. The interior is furnished with high-quality plastics and generously padded seats. Nice touches, such as rear heat and air vents in the B-pillars, give the Murano a near-luxury panache. An uncluttered center stack with faux-wood accents adds to the classy cockpit look.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: Driving refinement is astrength of the Murano. Nissan's silky-smooth 3.5 liter V-6 is one of the best powerplants in its class. Mated to a new, continuously variable transmission, the Murano accelerates effortlessly. The ride is subtle, with none of the bounciness common in other vehicles of this height. Steering is well-weighted and responsive.

BOTTOM LINE: The up-trim Murano LE is now available in front-wheel drive, which should provide plenty of traction for most sunbelt drivers. The cost savings of foregoing all-wheel-drive puts the Murano LE at a price point - $37,110 base - that belies its superior bumper-to-bumper refinement.

TESTED MODEL: 2010 Nissan Murano LE 2WD.

ENGINE: 3.5 liter V-6, 265 horsepower.

TRANSMISSION: continuously variable.

FUEL ECONOMY: 23 mpg highway, 18 mpg city.

BASE PRICE: $37,110.