2006 Nissan Murano

AdChoices

2003 Nissan Murano

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Plenty of style, room, comfort and performance make this a top sport-utility.
Pros:
  • Rakish styling
  • Roomy
  • Solid performance
Cons:
  • No third-row seat
  • Pricey with desirable options
  • Rear blind spots

Nissan continues to enhance its lineup with its new midsize Murano sport-utility vehicle, which looks more rakish than rivals and has plenty of power, comfort and roominess.

With the sport-utility craze, it seems that nearly every week brings a new sport-ute. But few offer as good a blend of style, performance and innovation as the $28,199-$30,599 Murano.

The Murano's styling features rounded contours, steeply raked windshield, sloping hoodline and upswept rear roof pillars. It comes in base SL and higher-line SE versions, and both are offered with front- or all-wheel drive.

The SE has a firmer suspension, sportier looking 6-spoke alloy wheels and High Intensity Discharge headlights with manual headlight levelizer.

Vehicle Strategy
` The strategy of once-faltering Nissan is to offer distinctive vehicles instead of copying ones from more conservative rivals such as Toyota and Honda. That's why Nissan has introduced a new version of its legendary "Z" sports car—the 350Z.

This new sport-ute's name is inspired by sculpted Italian glass and was designed for the North American market, where Nissan hopes to annually sell 50,000 Muranos.

As many new car-based sport-utes, the Murano is built on the platform of the fairly new, hot Nissan Altima sedan. That's why Nissan calls the carlike Murano a "crossover" vehicle—a designation shared by many of the latest sport-utilities.

No Third-Row Seat
Drawbacks include the lack of a third-row seat. That's an increasingly popular item for larger sport-utes, although the aging but popular midsize Lexus RX 300 doesn't have such a seat.

The Murano mainly is designed for driving on roads, with no low range gearing for its all-wheel-drive system. Nissan is leaving rough off-road driving to its truck-based Pathfinder and Xterra sport-utes.

Superb Engine
Powering the Murano is a version of Nissan's potent 3.5-liter passenger car V6. The smooth, sophisticated engine is one of the best in the industry. It generates a rousing 245 horsepower and allows quick merging and passing—along with comfortable cruising. The engine loafs at 1800 rpm at 65 mph.

Hooked to the V6 is an extremely smooth continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It provides a nearly infinite number of gear ratios—and thus eliminates gearshift jolts and downshift delays found with conventional automatics.

Noteworthy Transmission
A CVT usually works with engines that have less horsepower and torque than provided by the Murano's V6. But Nissan's CVT does such a good job that most new Murano owners should soon feel at home with it. However, some buyers might wish that a conventional automatic transmission or manual gearbox also were offered.

A CVT generally delivers better fuel economy than a regular automatic. It's an estimated 20 mpg in the city and 24-25 mpg on highways. Not great, but not bad for a big, heavy, powerful vehicle. A 21.7-gallon fuel tank allows a long highway driving range.

Fun to Drive
The Murano is fun to drive. Although a bit stiff, its steering is quick. Handling is unusually good for a 3,801-3,960-pound sport-utility. That's partly because the Murano has an all-independent suspension with stabilizer bars and wide tires on large 18-inch wheels, rather than the 16-inchers found on the popular midsize Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.

Nissan would have been applauded by providing 17-inch wheels, but went a step farther with the 18-inch ones. The more rubber on the road, the better the roadability.

However, the 187.6-inch-long Murano is longer, wider and taller than the often-copied RX 300. So a worthy option is the $749 Dynamic Control Package. It features traction control and anti-skid systems, along with a tire-pressure monitor.

Major Safety Items
Major standard safety features include front torso side airbags and front and rear curtain side airbags. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution provide surer stops. The brake pedal is soft, but has a linear action.

The Murano also has a good amount of comfort and convenience equipment, with the usual power accessories found in higher-priced sport-utes and such items as a tilt wheel, dual-zone automatic climate controls, cruise control, AM/FM/CD sound system and a rear defogger.

Price-Boosting Extras
However, desirable options such as a sunroof, leather seats and power adjustable pedals cause the price to jump a lot because they mostly are in fairly costly option packages. It's easy to boost the sticker price to $37,000.

For example, the SE Popular Package has alluring options but costs a hefty $3,499. You can get a power sunroof for the SL for $999—but not unless you order the $1,499 Premium Package. And the $1,999 navigation system calls for three option packages and the sunroof. Moreover, that system has a steep learning curve and its map has a rather cheap look.

Warning: The Murano is new and attractive; so many Nissan dealers likely will order the top-line version with many accessories for more profit. That's just the nature of the car (and sport-ute) business.

Roomy Interior
Big outside door handles in wide doors allow quick entry, and low floor makes it easy to get in and out. Three's plenty of room for four tall adults in the quiet interior, and sculpted front and rear seats are supportive. Rear-seat air conditioning outlets are standard.

Gauges can be easily read. But the fairly large, easily used sound system and climate controls are in a protruding dashboard pod, which seems to be put there more for style than practicality.

Some drivers may be annoyed that audio and sound system readouts are displayed on a dashboard screen several inches from the actual controls. At least the steering wheel contains auxiliary sound system controls.

Many Storage Areas
Cupholders won't adjust to the size of some beverage containers, and interior materials are just average—although attractive aluminum trim is used. The interior has plenty of storage areas, and the snap-out storage pockets in front doors usually are found in luxury sport-utilities.

A price paid for the rakish styling are rear blind spots that obstruct visibility, especially when parallel parking. However, large outside rearview mirrors help when changing lanes.

The tailgate has no glass upper opening but its light weight facilitates loading. The cargo area is large, and the entire rear seat—not just seatbacks—folds forward to provide an impressive cargo area.

Nissan has hit another home run with its Murano, which promises to accelerate the automaker's recovery.

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BB05 - 7/30/2014 12:53:41 AM