First Drive: 2015 Nissan Murano

A flagship crossover that remains a design benchmark.

by on Dec.08, 2014

The 2015 Nissan Murano shows off its V-Motion grille and floating roof design.

When the original Nissan Murano made its debut a dozen years ago, it stood in sharp contrast to the rest of the SUVs of that era. Conventional wisdom suggested that U.S. buyers wanted rugged utes capable of serious off-roading – or at least looking like they could handle the roughest trails.

One of the first car-based entries in the midsize segment, the Murano didn’t try to disguise what it was with lots of macho cladding. Instead, Nissan’s five-seat crossover put a premium on edgy styling, improved handling and reduced fuel consumption.

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Today, Murano has plenty of competition in a booming segment where car-based crossovers handily outsell traditional, truck-based SUVs. In fact, it’s becoming all but impossible to find a classic body-on-frame ute in a market where even the Ford Explorer and Nissan’s own Pathfinder have migrated to car-based platforms. But as Nissan makes clear with the launch of the 2015 Murano, its midsize model remains a styling trendsetter.

The 2015 Murano might not be quite as unique as the 2003 original – which was named North American Truck of the Year, but it’s a visual standout in an increasingly crowded field, and worthy of being called the flagship of Nissan’s expansive ute line-up.

The Nissan Murano borrows from the maker's Resonance concept from two years ago.

Lifting heavily from the Resonance concept vehicle introduced at the Detroit Auto Show two years ago, the 2015 Murano is instantly recognizable and yet extremely fresh. The goal, suggested design leader Ken Lee, was to create a look that was “provocative, premium and optimistic.” To our eyes, his team succeeded.

One of the most striking features is it coupe-like “floating roof,” which appears to hover above the tailgate thanks to a blacked-out D-pillar.  It almost appears suspended above a sharp kick in the shoulder line running from front to back. Nearly as distinctive is the new V-Motion grille, framed by a large chrome bar and cats-eye headlamps which, in upscale trim are powered by LED bulbs.

The overall dimensions haven’t changed much. The wheelbase remains the same, while the new Murano is about three inches longer, overall, gaining an inch in width. It may be the fact that it also rides about a half-inch lower that gives the 2015 crossover a more squat and muscular appearance. An added advantage is a drag coefficient of just 0.31, a number that nudges into sports car territory.

It’s also much more upscale, underscoring Nissan’s goal of taking on some premium competition, including the ever-popular Lexus RX crossover.

The new Murano is about three inches longer, overall, gaining an inch in width and a drag coefficient of just 0.31, a number that nudges into sports car territory.

Buyers have four trim grades to choose from, and they offer a selection of wheels, from the 18-inch rubber on the base series to the 20-inchers on the Platinum line.

Inside, the push to go upscale is equally obvious. We spent much of our time touring the wine region of Napa and Sonoma Counties in the Platinum Edition, and were impressed with the attention to detail – with only a few modest exceptions. The most notable was the surprisingly flimsy and un-damped cover panel on the center console’s storage bin.

As with the original 2003 model, Nissan has taken the position that you need to alienate some buyers to win over the rest. One of the more controversial details, at least among our media colleagues, was the decision to skip the traditional fake wood trim. Instead, the 2015 ute offers buyers a choice of a metallic silver or mother-of-pearl finish.

To our eyes, were the new Murano to bear an Infiniti badge it would require only a few modest tweaks to seem true to the brand.

As you might expect, Nissan’s flagship ute features the maker’s latest technology. There’s a large, reconfigurable display in the center of the gauge cluster, and a touchscreen LCD for operating the maker’s latest infotainment system. One of designer Lee’s goals was to minimize the number of knobs and buttons. To the maker’s credit, however, it recognized that touchscreens just can’t replace some manual controls, especially those for the climate control system and for operating basic radio functions.

To our eyes, were the new Murano to bear an Infiniti badge it would require only a few tweaks to seem true to the brand.

From a comfort standpoint, the Murano adopts the Zero-Gravity seats first offered on the latest-generation Altima sedan. Said to be derived from NASA spacecraft, they really do keep you comfortable – and alert – even after a long drive.

Add the benefits of having plenty of head, leg and shoulder room – and nearly 70 feet of cargo space, after you fold down the rear seats. (With the seats up you get 39.6 cf of cargo space.)

That LCD touchscreen serves a variety of high-tech functions. The new Murano gets such useful features as the Nissan 360-degree Around View Monitor and the Easy Fill tire system, also first offered on the Altima.

There’s a long list of safety features, including Active Cruise Control and collision warning with emergency braking – though that system does not allow automatic stops and restarts in heavy traffic. There’s Cross Traffic Alert and Moving Object Detection for pedestrians. And a backup camera is standard.

The Murano is peppy with a 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 260-horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque.

(Nissan rapidly boosting U.S. production. For more, Click Here.)

The original Murano was a pleasure to drive, especially when compared to the bulky body-on-frame vehicles of the day. The new Nissan ute is about 150 pounds light than the model it replaces, something that we became instantly aware of weaving along the twisty back roads of California wine country.

No, the 2015 Murano isn’t a sports car, no matter how good its aerodynamics are, but it is plenty nimble for such a big vehicle, with little body roll, a nice sense of road feel, and predictable, responsive steering. The low-rolling resistance tires do require a trade-off of handling for fuel efficiency, but we seldom had to manhandle the vehicle through a turn, even under aggressive cornering. The Murano’s brakes clearly helped, allowing us to easily feather them as we entered into a tight sweeper.

Murano adopts the Zero-Gravity seats first offered on the Altima. Derived from NASA spacecraft, they keep you comfortable and alert after a long drive.

(Click Here for details on Honda’s cutting its list of cars affected by the airbag recall.)

The new Murano is peppy, thanks to a 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 260-horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. The only engine offered on the line, it is available in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations.

As for fuel economy, the EPA gives the 2015 Nissan Murano a 21 City, 28 Highway, 24 City rating – the highway figure up 20% with the new model. That goes for both the front- and all-wheel-drive versions of the crossover. Our day behind the wheel saw us getting a couple miles a gallon lower than that figure, but our aggressive driving was clearly not meant to maximize fuel efficiency.

(To see more about how quickly the Ferrari Sergio sold out, Click Here.)

The base 2015 Murano S starts at $29,560, while the Platinum edition comes in at $40,600. Add options and $885 in delivery fees to those figures. All-wheel-drive goes for another $1,600.

If our drive through Northern California was any indication, we expect plenty of potential buyers to see the new Murano as more than worth the price. It’s stylish, well-equipped and fun-to-drive. And in a crowded field of often look-alike crossovers, this 2015 remake is a real standout.

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7 Responses to “First Drive: 2015 Nissan Murano”

  1. nobsartist says:

    Another ugly disaster. Why did they have to copy ALL of the competition?

  2. Jorge says:

    It’s amazing what appeals to some consumers.

  3. Marty says:

    Current design language taken too far, to a silly conclusion.”Floating roof design?” Why not include a California surfer ridin’ that wave? Wipe out.

    The front end looks like it endured wind shear.

  4. knows better says:

    Aha!!! The Nissan Aztek!

  5. Marty says:

    Remember the current generation’s “High-Boy” convertible spin-off? Yeah. Me neither.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      For what it’s worth, NO plans to bring out another Murano CrossCabriolet off the new model. Are we surprised?

      Paul E.

      • Marty says:

        Nope. I’m holding out for a George Barris chopped and channeled Aztek with removable Carson top.

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