November 11 2016, Southside Nissan



Since undergoing a complete redesign last year the Murano has experienced strong sales, much thanks to wonderfully provocative styling that boasts intricately complex curves, surprising angles, and an overall wow factor none of its volume-branded crossover SUV rivals come close to offering, the Murano showing off premium grade style that's fortunately followed up by premium levels of substance.

This is most evident inside where it rivals luxury utes in design and execution. It starts with a contrast-stitched and padded leatherette hood overtop the primary gauge package, while the instrument panel below features soft synthetic surfacing all the way down to where it disappears below the knees, as do the front and rear door uppers, whereas the door panels benefit from padded leatherette inserts and armrests as well.

My Platinum trimmed tester received silver-tone mother of pearl style inlays throughout, while nice satin silver and de rigueur piano black lacquer draws attention to other key areas. It's a rich looking interior that's even topped off with padded fabric-wrapped A-pillars, unusual but welcome for the class, mine infused with a set of Bose tweeters for the upgraded audio system.

murano latinum - door and wheel dashboard

Ahead of the driver are attractively organized primary gauges filled with a high-resolution, feature-filled 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display at centre, which can be modulated via illuminated steering wheel controls that also answer the phone, apply voice activation, set the cruise control, and adjust the audio system.

Over on the centre stack is Nissan's best infotainment system yet, complete with crisp, clear, attractive graphics, easy to operate touchscreen controls and a good size at 8.0 inches. The Platinum gets map and navigation functions along with the usual audio, phone, info and vehicle settings, plus a menu button for sorting through it all. It's an impressive setup with superb operating system speed, especially when responding to GPS navigation coordinates. The impressive sound quality of the Bose audio system is also worthy of mention, while the backup camera includes dynamic guidelines to ease you into narrow parking stalls.

A dual-zone automatic HVAC system with microfiltration features a nice clear digital readout, while just below are variable temperature controls for dialing in either heat and or ventilation for the front two seats. All this luxury is accessible via proximity-sensing access while the Murano's powerful standard 3.5-litre V6 can be brought to life by the push of a button, both features previously only available on the SL and Platinum but standard across the line for 2016.

murano latinum - headlight and wheel

Unlike most in the segment the Murano comes standard with a premium-level V6 that puts out 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to a silky smooth continuously variable transmission that's been improved to simulate very convincing gear changes, all combining for strong straight-line acceleration that might only be upstaged by the SUV's nimble feeling, evenly balanced chassis. If it sounds like the Murano is focused solely on sport I've done it a disservice, because the mid-size SUV is also perfectly suited to its key purpose, shuttling active lifestyle couples and average sized Canadian families around in absolute style and comfort.

Settle in and enjoy the ride. From its ultimately comfortable NASA-inspired "zero gravity" seats, swathed in perforated leather in the Platinum's case, to its sublime ride the Murano has quickly become a favourite for enduring inner-city congestion as well as enjoying weekend getaways.

As roomy and relaxing as it is up front, much thanks to its powered tilt and telescopic steering column and eight-way powered driver's seat with memory settings for both as well as the side mirrors, the second row is wonderfully comforting in its own right with plenty of leg and head room plus no lack of space side-to-side, a flip-down armrest with integrated cupholders at centre plus a panel on the backside of the front console featuring a powered USB plug and two-way seat heater controls for the rear outboard positions.

Everyone onboard should feel safe too, from the driver benefiting from enhanced LED headlight visibility and fatigue defying adaptive cruise control to all occupants protected via predictive forward collision warning and forward emergency braking, so equipped Muranos earning a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS.

On an even more positive note, Nissan enjoys top-10 placement in J.D. Power's most recent 2016 Initial Quality Study, with its real ranking amongst competitive volume brands being fifth best, an impressive feat, whereas the Murano achieved a top-three rating in its Midsize SUV category. What's more, the Murano earned top spot in its Midsize SUV class.

murano latinum - back healights and trunk

Another reason to praise the Murano is cargo carrying capacity, overall luggage volume increasing from 1,121 litres (39.6 cubic feet) with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks upright to 1,979 litres (69.9 cubic feet) when folded flat via handy cargo area levers or even better, a power release button located next to the driver's left knee that lowers the 60-percent portion automatically, and when lowered the nicely carpeted floor is almost completely flat making it much more utile than average, while the sidewalls are carpeted too, following the Murano's more luxe for less moola value-driven theme.

On that note the entry-level Murano starts at a particularly thrifty $29,998 before freight and dealer fees and comes equipped with premium level features including automatic on/off headlights, LED daytime running lights, powered heatable side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, LED taillights, alloys wheels, proximity access with pushbutton start, stainless steel kick plates, electroluminescent gauges, illuminated vanity mirrors, an overhead console with a sunglasses holder, variable intermittent wipers, heatable front seats, rear passenger HVAC vents, a infotainment interface with a rearview camera, voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, text messaging, NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, satellite radio, a security alarm, all the usual active and passive safety equipment including an airbag for the driver's knees, plus much more.

murano latinum - sunroof and backseat

Key upgrades include fog lamps, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote start with Intelligent Climate Control, an eight-way powered driver's seat, a panoramic sunroof, and a powered liftgate in $34,898 SV trim; an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Around View parking monitor, leather upholstery, driver's seat and side mirror memory, a four-way powered front passenger's seat, 11-speaker Bose audio, adjustable ambient lighting, a universal garage door opener, silver roof rails, blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert and moving object detection, standard AWD, plus more in $40,298 SL trim; and all of the above that's not replaced by something better added to the $43,998 Platinum version tested. The only Platinum options are colours, my tester finished in appropriately premium Cayenne Red at a very non-premium $135.

I was even impressed by the Murano's fuel economy, my weeklong personal average coming very close to its claimed five-cycle rating of 11.2 L/100km city and 8.3 highway with AWD, the FWD version achieving a slightly better or 11.0 and 8.2 rating.

murano latinum - whole side

Considering its superb value proposition it would be easy to base a purchasing decision solely on price, but the new Murano is much too stylish and way too competent to be relegated into needs-driven cost saving status. This is one superb SUV that I can't help but recommend.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann and Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.