2012 Nissan Murano SL Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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First introduced as a mid-size five-passenger crossover in 2002, the Nissan Murano has been a solid performer for Nissan, winning over North American car buyers with its unique combination of stylish bodywork, car-like handling and versatile layout.

The second generation Murano went on sale in 2009, updated with a slightly more angular take on the same basic profile, and it was refreshed for 2011 with new front and rear fascias, new headlights and LED taillights, new 18-inch wheels and some minor interior changes. For 2012 the Murano returns essentially unchanged and it remains a civilized and well-rounded crossover utility vehicle.

In the past I've commented on how comfortable and easy to live with the Murano is, and a week behind the wheel of a Hakone White 2012 Murano SL served to reinforce this impression.

Under the hood, all Muranos in North America share a common engine, a 3.5L DOHC V6 that develops 260 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 240 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm and is hooked up to an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT). In Canada, all 2013 Muranos get Nissan's Intuitive All-Wheel Drive system, with vehicle dynamic control and traction control to keep things in line when driving on slick surfaces (in the U.S. the entry-level Murano comes with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is optional). I found the V6 to have plenty enough grunt to get the 1,891-kg (4,169-lb) Murano SL up to speed fairly briskly, and it delivers reasonable economy for a vehicle in this segment with city/hwy fuel consumption of 11.7 / 8.5 L/100km.

Inside, even the entry-level Murano S features abundant soft-touch materials and an impressive array of convenience features including proximity sensing remote keyless entry, push-button ignition, dual-zone climate control, vehicle information centre, power locks and windows, cruise control, 60/40 split folding rear seats, interior mood lighting and a 6-CD audio system with WMA/MP3 playback capability. Safety is also built in with six airbags, rollover sensing and active head restraints.

The next-higher SV trim adds a range of luxury appointments including a dual-panel moonroof, automatic headlights, heated front seats, 8-way power adjustable driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, leather-wrapped steering wheel, an impressive 11-speaker Bose system upgrade with satellite radio, and a rearview backup camera, which is a nice feature to have in light of the Murano's somewhat restrictive rearward visibility.

My test car's SL trim included all the conveniences of the SV plus leather seating, a heated steering wheel, power liftgate, HID Headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and power return rear seats.

As before, if you want satellite navigation with your Murano it doesn't come cheap: You need to step up to the top-of-the-line LE trim (which adds bigger 20-inch alloy wheels, silver accent roof rails, power tilt and telescoping wheel, seat/mirror/steering wheel memory, heated rear seats, woodgrain trim and various other features) and then select the $2,500 Platinum Edition package. I'd like to see Nissan make satellite navigation an across-the-range option, at least for SL trim and up.

On the road the Murano feels relaxed and civilized. Part of this is due to the CVT transmission, which, under moderate acceleration, wafts the Murano up to speed with an uncanny quietness and smoothness (mash the gas pedal to the floor and the uncanny smoothness transforms to a slightly disconcerting roar as the engine leaps towards redline and hangs there as the car accelerates). Part of the relaxed feel is also due to the ride, which is firm enough to impart a solid feeling of control, but compliant enough to never seem harsh. My test car was fitted with winter tires, and as a result it felt a little rubbery in the corners, but in previous tests I've found the Murano to have good steering feel and perfectly respectable handling when driven in a restrained manner, though it resorts to plentiful understeer if pushed hard.

The manufacturer's suggested pricing for the 2012 Murano starts at $34,498 for the entry-level Murano S, and runs up to $44,098 for the top-of-the-range Murano LE. My SL test car was priced at $40,698 plus $1,750 in destination charges. At this price the Murano goes up directly against competitors such as the Kia Sorento and Toyota Highlander, and it even gives compact premium crossovers like the Acura RDX a run for their money while providing more space to boot. Although the Murano only has seating for five - unlike many of its mid-size competitors that offer three-row seating for seven - it offers distinctive styling, a quietly refined ride, comfortable interior appointments and a pleasing balance between practicality and performance.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Nissan, 2012, Murano, $30,000 - $39,999, Midsize,

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