Long-stylish Murano adds new lines

New lines have been added for 2015 to the Nissan Murano crossover. (Bud Wells photos)

New lines have been added for 2015 to the Nissan Murano crossover. (Bud Wells photos)

On its introduction to the U.S. market 12 years ago, the Nissan Murano surprised, even shocked, automotive followers with two innovations – the most futuristic styling ever seen in the SUV/truck segment and the unheard-of installation of a continuously variable transmission in a vehicle of its size.

Some questioned the wisdom of such a break from the traditional look and performance of a midsize model.

It has prevailed, though, and for 2015, the Murano rolls even deeper into its forward express, with sculpted fin-like rear quarter panels, “v-motion” front end and floating-roof appearance.

And the CVT tranny? It has undergone improvements and its whining and droning on hill climbs has been quieted; so, too, have many of the detractors stopped their whining over its shiftless feature.

The Murano’s new design will draw attention at the upcoming 2015 Denver Auto Show week after next. The five-day event will run from Wednesday, April 8, through Sunday, April 12, at the Colorado Convention Center.

I’ve recently driven two other Nissans, the Rogue compact crossover and the Versa Note subcompact hatchback. While the midsize Murano performs with a 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, the Rogue uses a 170-hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and the Versa does it with a little 109-hp, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder. All three are tied to CVTs in the name of better fuel economy.

The Rogue carried sticker price of $28,500.

The Rogue carried sticker price of $28,500.

The Rogue, a strong competitor to the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape, is roomy with lots of cargo space and provides a relatively comfortable ride among the smaller crossovers. A third row of seats is available, though is cramped in space and steals away most of the cargo capacity. The ’15 Rogue SV all-wheel-drive model provided to me (a five-passenger) carries an EPA fuel-mileage estimate of 25/32; I averaged 26.8 miles per gallon. With the SV package of navigation, around-view monitor and power liftgate, its sticker price was $28,500.

The Versa is distinctive with bright teal color and odd shape.

The Versa is distinctive with bright teal color and odd shape.

The Versa Note, with a somewhat odd-looking hatchback style in metallic peacoc teal exterior finish, has an attractive interior with orange striping down the middle of the black-fabric seatbacks and cushions. Front-seat occupants must make do with very small sun visors; handy are dual glove compartments, the upper one chilled. Though lacking strong performance, the little Versa delivers excellent fuel mileage (EPA estimate 31/40); I averaged 36.3 mpg. Sticker price on the ’15 Versa Note SR was $19,180, including rearview camera, streaming audio via Bluetooth and multifunction trip computer.

As for the stylish five-passenger Murano, it is very competitive with the Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Ford Edge, and even the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

While I prefer a regular transmission to the continuously variable type, the Murano’s CVT does little droning under hard acceleration and performs most closely, of any I’ve driven, to the traditionals.

The Murano is a good handler, with fairly precise and quick steering.

Inside is a nice leather finish with chrome accents. A leather hood over the instrument panel is unusual. Seating comfort is a plus for the Murano and added insulation has quieted the ride. Its cargo space is among the best in its class.

Even with curb weight of close to 4,000 pounds, the Murano earned an EPA fuel-mileage estimate of 21/28; my average was 23.7 mpg.

The review model was the Murano SL AWD, with base price of $38,550 and sticker of $41,905. Only option on the loaded-up SL was a technology package of panoramic moonroof, intelligent cruise control and forward-collision warning.

Here are the specifications for the 2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD:

  • Capacity 5-passenger crossover SUV
  • Wheelbase 111.2 inches
  • Length 192.4 inches
  • Width 75.4 inches
  • Height 66.5 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,977 pounds
  • Track 64.6 inches front, rear
  • Ground Clearance 6.9 inches
  • Turn Circle 38.1 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.5-liter V-6
  • Horsepower/Torque 260/240
  • Transmission continuously variable
  • Steering rack-and-pinion power
  • Suspension strut front, multilink rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 21/28
  • Fuel mileage average 23.7
  • Fuel Tank 19 gallons, regular
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Tires Michelin Latitude 235/65R18 tires
  • Cargo Volume 39.6 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/60,000 powertrain

Competitors Jeep Grand Chereokee, Ford Edge, Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot

Assembly Plant Canton, Miss.

Parts Content N.A.

Base Price of Lowest Model $31,160; Base Price of Review Model $38,550; Destination Charge $885; Sticker Price $41,905.