2003 Nissan Murano
This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2007.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.