Pros: Well built; sharp handling and steering; responsive engine; compliant ride; upscale cabin; plenty of advanced electronics

Cons: Poor rear visibility; no fuel-efficient 4-cylinder option; pricey next to competitors

What's New: Available moving object detection, blind spot warning and lane departure warning; new Value option package for SV

The 2013 Nissan Murano is a crossover that stands out in a sea of crossovers. With its modern and stylish design, sporting personality and well-crafted interior, it is a breath of fresh air in a segment that now suffers from the saturation of so many lookalike models. The Murano looks and feels anything but homogenized.

Since it first arrived 10 years ago, the Murano has had an aggressive looking outer shell. Its snub-nosed front end and sleek profile give it an athletic appeal that speaks to its performance intentions. At the same time, its large wheels and notable ground clearance give it a crossover feel. The Murano's thick back end features an oversize hatch that hints at its more practical side.

For 2013, the Murano continues to be offered in eight versions--S, SV, SL and LE, each with either front- or all-wheel drive. Updates for the latest model include Nissan's Safety Shield suite of driver assistance technologies available on the Murano LE Platinum and on the Murano SL with navigation. A new Value option package is also available on the SV model. It groups a power liftgate, 9-speaker Bose sound and navigation for $2,270.

On the negative side, the Murano is expensive, and Nissan doesn't offer it with a more fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine. These issues will make this CUV a tougher sell during a strained economic period when consumers are more careful with their spending.

But for those looking for a different kind of utility, this may be the one. It's fun to drive, well equipped, comfortable and capable, with a head-turning style that's all its own. The 2013 Murano is proof that all crossovers are not the same.

Comfort & Utility

The Murano has an upscale, modern, plush and tech-savvy 5-passenger cabin. The high-quality dash is home to a sophisticated looking instrument panel and features a well-designed and uncluttered control layout. This, like a few other Nissans, can easily be mistaken for a product in the carmaker's more luxurious Infiniti lineup.

The Murano's front seats are well padded and supportive. The seating position is nice and high, giving the driver good forward visibility. And there's plenty of head, hip and leg room, too.

The spacious rear seat is designed to provide maximum comfort for up to three passengers. The second row is especially generous on legroom. Even six-footers will remain relaxed on long trips.

Behind the rear seat or in the rear hatch, the Murano offers just under 32 cu-ft of cargo space. That's fairly adequate for ordinary use--groceries, sports equipment, camping gear, luggage. If more storage space is needed, the Murano's 60/40 spit folding rear seats drop forward to create an expanded load floor that is roughly double in size.

Even the base Murano S packs convenient standard features like push-button start, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and a 6-speaker audio system. The SV gets a dual-panel moonroof, power-adjustable front seats, Bluetooth and an upgraded stereo. The SL adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, a Bose 11-speaker sound system and a power liftgate for easy loading and unloading of cargo. Finally, the range-topping LE includes a power tilting and telescoping steering wheel and heated second-row seats.

Technology

The Murano offers a wide array of advanced electronics and tech-savvy features. The base Murano S has only a 7-inch monochrome display screen, while the SV adds a 7-inch color screen, a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB interface. The SL adds a premium stereo with digital music storage, and the top-level LE benefits from bi-xenon headlights.

Notable technology options include a voice-command navigation system with real-time traffic, Bluetooth audio streaming, a dual-screen rear DVD system and the Safety Shield package.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The front- or all-wheel-drive 2013 Nissan Murano gets its power from a robust 3.5-liter V6 that makes 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. This engine has Continuous Valve Timing Control and Nissan Variable Induction Control and is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.

The Murano's V6/CVT combination offers powerful and responsive performance, whether from a standstill or at speed. Acceleration is strong, and the Murano's overall power is smoothly and evenly delivered throughout the rev band, thanks to the CVT.

EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Nissan Murano is 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and a slightly lower 18/23 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Safety

Standard safety features for the Murano include ABS, stability control, traction control, six airbags and active front head restraints. For the LE Platinum or SL with navigation, drivers can choose to add blind spot warning, moving object detection and lane departure warning features as part of the Safety Shield package.

The Murano earned four out of five stars in crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the highest ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Driving Impressions

The Nissan Murano is a crossover with noticeable athleticism. It's an agile handler that stays well planted in corners, thanks to a nicely balanced chassis. Also helping its cornering prowess is the Murano's wide stance and large, grippy tires. Turn-ins are quick and nimble thanks to a responsive and well-weighted steering system. For all of these reasons, the Murano delivers one of the sportiest driving experiences you can find in a midsize crossover.

At the same time, the Murano's ride is comfortable and composed. Regardless of its sporting personality, it delivers an on-road feel that is relaxed enough for the daily commute as well as for carting the family around town. Nissan seems to have it down in finding that just-right balance between ride and handling.

The Murano also has what it takes to tread in harsh road conditions or unpaved terrain. Large 18- or 20-inch wheels coupled with more than seven inches of ground clearance and optional all-wheel drive grant the Murano enough capability to drive confidently through snow, rain or mud.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Edge - The Murano is more stylish and sporty, but the Edge has more technology and a more fuel efficient 4-cylinder engine option.

Kia Sorento - The Sorento is less expensive and it's offered with a 4-cylinder engine and a third-row seat. The Murano has neither of those choices available.

GMC Terrain - Like the Murano, the GMC Terrain is strictly a 5-passenger CUV. But it too offers a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines and is now available with GMC's feature-rich Denali trim.

AutoTrader Recommends

Our recommendation for the Murano is the second-from-the-top SL model. The Murano SL has all the convenience and technology features of the S and SV but adds key upgrades like a power liftgate, leather upholstery and a 9-speaker Bose stereo. To us, the range-topping LE is not worth the premium in price for enhancements like rear-seat heat and wood trim. We'd add the navigation system with real-time traffic and weather and, for those in colder climates, optional all-wheel drive. The Murano's AWD system is capable and has just a negligible effect on fuel economy.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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