2003 Nissan Murano
This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2007.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Want to stand out in a crowd? In the busy crossover sport-utility segment, it's not as difficult as you might imagine.
Just get into a Nissan Murano.
Named for carefully sculpted, decorative Murano glass from Italy, Nissan's nouveau-styled Murano has intriguing looks, impressive power and handling and comes with a high-tech continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Looks, and more
There's more here than looks.
Riding on a platform that's used by the Nissan Altima sedan—thus helping to explain the "crossover" description—the Murano doesn't require riders to climb up to get inside. At 5 feet 4 inches tall, I turned and just edged my behind onto the seat.
The ride is stable, with the rather heavy all-wheel-drive Murano—nearly 4,000 pounds in curb weight—feeling well-connected to the road. A two-wheel-drive version weighs 3,800-plus pounds.
The all-wheel-drive Murano tester tracked nicely around curves and behaved well in mountain twisties, where I didn't feel any tippy sensations.
Part of the sense of stability comes because the Murano's wheels are pushed far out to the vehicle's corners. The Murano's wheelbase of 111.2 inches is longer than the competing Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.
The Murano's independent suspension uses struts up front and a multi-link setup in back.
Still, on some rough urban roads with lots of pavement damage, the ride in the Murano can be viewed by some, non-sporty drivers as a bit harsh. I also noticed some road noise from the Murano's tires on certain road surfaces.
Highly praised engine
Intriguingly, this 245-horsepower engine, which develops 246 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm here, is mated to Nissan's Xtronic CVT.
With an infinite variability in the gears compared with a traditional automatic transmission, this CVT doesn't produce the annoying gear-hunting that can go on when driving up and down hills in mountain terrain.
In fact, even in city driving, my passengers and I could notice the lack of perceptible gear shifts in the Murano. The overall transmission operation is quite smooth.
Yet, power comes on without hesitation and the vehicle gets moving quickly in both city and highway driving.
In fact, in both maximum horsepower and torque, the Murano bests the Pilot and Highlander.
Nissan officials say the CVT helps improve fuel economy, but it's still nothing to brag about.
The test all-wheel-drive Murano was rated at 20 miles a gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway. Premium unleaded was the recommended fuel.
From the driver seat
Steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio controls are standard, and changing the tilt angle of the Murano steering wheel also moves the gauges, which are grouped into a pod. This is similar to the gauge grouping in Nissan's sporty 350Z.
The Murano dashboard is expansive under the windshield. Be sure to look around the sizable pillars that surround the windshield when making a turn, or you may miss a pedestrian or an approaching car.
Seats have nicely sculpted backrests and did a good job of holding me in place. The storage area between the front seats is big enough to hold a laptop computer or a purse.
In fact, Nissan even made sure each pull-out map pocket in the Murano is big enough to hold a Thomas guide, even though a nav system is among the vehicle's options.
Skid control and traction control, which are part of an optional Dynamic Control package, are also available.
I appreciated the optional, adjustable brake and accelerator pedals on the test Murano that move up or down as much as 3 inches. I still had to find a comfortable way to use the non-adjusting dead pedal—the area near the floor to the left of the driver that's supposed to help the driver brace his or left foot.
A nice touch back there: A pull-down center armrest that sits up off the seat cushion, so it's well-positioned. Note the back seats are positioned a bit higher than the front seats, a la those in movie theaters.
I liked that the rear seatbacks in the Murano flop down quickly with just a pull of two levers in the cargo area. No need for fancy wiring and electric power-down seatbacks as in some Ford Motor Co. SUVs.
The Murano's rear seatbacks rest flat, making for easy-to-use, additional cargo room. Maximum cargo space is 81.6 cubic feet, and no third-row seat is available.
The Murano's rear tailgate brushed the head of folks who are over 6 feet tall, and water bottles in the front-seat cupholders of the tester leaned and flopped around as I drove.
I could scarcely figure out where the front bumper of the Murano was when I parked. All I could see, even with the driver seat up as high as it would go, was the hood that's closest to the windshield and a bit of the center of the hood.