2013 Nissan Murano LE Platinum Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

Published on January 17, 2013

The current Murano might not make the same dramatic visual statement its predecessor did when first entering our market a decade ago. Then the idea of a crossover SUV was relatively new and Nissan's FF-L car architecture-based original a runaway hit, but it still catches the eye amid a barrage of midsize CUV copycats.

Back in 2002, when I first drove the brand new 2003 Murano on the model's initial launch program, its midsize unibody competition only included the Buick Rendezvous, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mitsubishi Endeavor, Pontiac Aztek, and Toyota Highlander. Slim pickins' indeed, but the Murano was almost unanimously voted top dog for styling, interior refinement, driving dynamics and just about everything else by me, numerous publications, and various auto writer's guilds including Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) members who awarded it 2003 Truck of the Year. Now the Rendezvous and Aztek are thankfully no longer with us and the Endeavor sadly was never renewed, but the other three remain top sellers and umpteen more have been added to the midsize CUV mix. Does the Murano still measure up?

Fortunately Nissan updated it for the 2010 model year and while receiving mixed reviews for styling the new Murano's interior is one of the nicest amongst mainstream players. Where some automakers have been downgrading materials quality and switchgear in this segment, Nissan made the Murano's already class-leading cabin even better, with soft-touch plastics on the dash top, door uppers, and door mid-beams, plus super soft door inserts for that extra level of luxury, as well as premium-level knobs and buttons, and top-tier electronics. Nissan even went so far as to wrap the A pillars in the same high quality woven cloth as the roofliner. This is the territory of premium brands. The 2010 tester I sampled was in SL trim with the Leather Package, the best available for the year. Last year Nissan upped the Murano's level of luxury to include a Platinum model, and that's what they delivered for my weeklong ride this year.

The Platinum trim upgrade adds infotainment features like navigation via an upgraded seven-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth streaming audio, and DVD playback in the that nicely finished cabin, plus an accessory bumper protector, an attractive set of 7-spoke 20-inch alloys on 235/55R20s, and my tester's exclusive Sapphire Blue Onyx paint to spiff up the Murano's lean lines. Don't worry, you can choose between seven other colours, all but Ebony black adding an extra charge of $135, while Hakone White costs $300 more. Platinum-spec upholstery can be had in Café Latte beige leather or the same hides in Charcoal, the way Nissan kitted out my tester.

It's truly a nice place to enjoy the commute, and this from a CUV that's already four years into its lifecycle. So equipped it'll set you back $45,848 including destination, and I haven't even mentioned half of the features. The Platinum comes standard with all of the Murano LE options too, which gives it wood-tone trim, powered tilt and telescopic steering, driver's side memory, heated rear seats, silver-accented roof rails and 5-spoke 20-inch aluminum rims (these get replaced by the unique 7-spoke wheels mentioned earlier), while it also includes all the luxury goodies in the SL just below it, such as bi-xenon headlamps, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, power-return rear seatbacks, a powered liftgate, and leather seats; not bad for a mid-grade unit. The SV is the audiophile's model with a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a two-gig Bose head unit with aux and USB inputs plus audio/video jacks. It also gets a handy rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity that's easy to set up, and a useful colour driver information centre, not to mention a gorgeous dual-pane glass sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror, really comfortable eight-way driver and four-way front passenger power-adjustable seats, and more. And this from a crossover that already has proximity sensing Intelligent Key with pushbutton ignition in base S trim, as well as fabulous looking deep-set (and therefore glare resistant) electroluminescent gauges, user-friendly dual-zone automatic climate control, a vehicle information centre, and more, including that genuine aluminum trim I mentioned earlier. Remember when I said that the Murano feels like a premium ride? I wasn't joking. Likewise on the road, where it's more of a "sport" utility than most of its rivals.

It rides on Nissan's D-platform architecture that also underpins the Altima and Maxima, midsize and large sedans that have long been respected for delivering decent doses of performance along with noted reliability. Incidentally these three also share their D-platform with the entirely new unibody Pathfinder, not to mention Nissan's Quest minivan, Infiniti's JX35 (soon to be called QX60) and a host of Renault models (the French automaker owns a significant stake in Nissan), but out of all of these vehicles (Renaults aside as I haven't driven them) the Murano is the sportiest in its segment. Its ride is nicely balanced between firm and compliant, while turn-in is quite crisp for a mainstream crossover. It'll likely impress you through the curves unless you've just hopped out of an Infiniti FX35, and being that it shelters the same 3.5-litre V6 VQ engine under its sculpted hood it moves off the line almost as well as the premium ute too.

Well, maybe I'm imagining that last point, as the Murano's mill is 43-horsepower and 22 lb-ft of torque shy of the base FX, Nissan's version rated at 260-horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, but thanks to an efficient and extremely good Xtronic continuously variable transmission it gets up and goes with gusto even in its heaviest 1,900-plus kilo Platinum trim curb weight. All-wheel drive is standard by the way, so the extra 75 kilos is due purely to luxury equipment, and it's a pretty advanced all-wheel drive system so any extra mass it adds is well worth it.

Dubbed Intuitive AWD, it comes close to anticipating wheel slippage rather than just reacting to it thanks to sensors that immediately notice the tiniest levels of lost grip, changes in steering angle and/or yaw rate, and then makes imperceptible adjustments in milliseconds. Unfortunately it didn't snow during my test week, which is a real shame because Nissan thoughtfully shoes all of its vehicles with snow tires in winter (what a concept, but Audi just gave me a new A4 with ZR-rated performance summer tires that rendered it useless this week). Being that the similarly shod front-drive Altima I'm currently driving nonchalantly walks through snowdrifts I'm guessing that the Murano is ruddy brilliant! It was good in the rain just the same.

What's wrong with it? Just the usual things that a vehicle running late into its lifecycle suffers from, like so-so sound quality from the top-line Bose system. Sound settings only allow adjustment to bass and treble, no mids, and when the fader is set to centre it makes everything sound like its coming out of the massive centre dash speaker. Pushing more sound to the rear allows for better audio quality up front thanks to corner dash speakers that provide greater stereo separation, but then it gets boomy in back. On another note, I don't appreciate that a safety feature like Bluetooth hands-free isn't even an option on the base S model. Hopefully Nissan will make it standard in the next-generation Murano. My third complaint is the same as with the brand new Altima and Pathfinder, so I guess it's a Nissan issue, but I'd prefer that the heated steering wheel switch was up on the steering wheel where it belongs instead of down by the left knee where it's difficult to see while driving. By the end of my test week I got used to clicking it on before leaving the driveway, but when getting into a cold car while out doing errands I found myself pulling out of a parking spot with my mind focused on the next destination and then having to pull over to safely turn it on. Just a small issue for sure, but it would be nice to see this changed. And those tiny little clasps that need to be fastened to the backs of each second-row headrest mount (six in total) so that the cargo cover snugs up to the backs of the seats? They're a royal pain! I gave up trying. Lastly, the Murano's fuel economy is good for a V6-powered CUV, at 8.5 L/100km city and 11.7 highway, but most rivals have front-drive, four-cylinder base models and some deliver higher output from turbocharged fours, all using less fuel, so here's hoping that Nissan has something in the Murano's future to offer those who don't necessarily feel the need for as much performance and would rather just save at the pump.

Yes, I know I'm nitpicking. I do that when a vehicle is as good as the Murano, which is saying a lot considering there's probably only a year or so left in this particular design's tenure. Nissan has already shown a prototype that hints at the next-generation Murano's styling and believe me, if the production model looks anything like this new Resonance concept the upcoming Murano will shake up the midsize crossover segment as dramatically as the original did in its day.

At the end of the week, however, today's Murano is still more than just competitive with its five-seat midsize crossover competitors, it's a stylish, luxuriously equipped, totally accommodating, performance focused ute that remains one of the best in the biz.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Nissan, 2013, Murano, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, Midsize,

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