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2015 Nissan Murano: First Drive Review

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December 2014 author photo

Autotrader


It's reassuring to see someone do "their thing" well. Nissan is doing their thing with a good deal of success: building affordable mainstream cars that have a more luxurious look and feel than other compact sedans, minivans or SUVs. Compare the Pathfinder to the Toyota Highlander or the Altima to the Honda Accord and you'll see what we mean.

The 2015 Nissan Murano is a perfect example. Although it's not super easy to find direct Murano competitors, shoppers strolling through their local auto mall will likely find that Nissan's new 5-passenger SUV lines up nicely with the Lexus RX, the Ford Edge Limited and even the freshly reworked 2016 Kia Sorento.

Good Things Cost More

There's something about the 2015 Murano that feels like a cut above those other SUVs. But be warned, this isn't about budget-friendly runabouts or cut-rate pricing. A quality, well-equipped V6 car-based SUV is going to cost you $35,000. Add navigation, an upgraded audio system, leather seating and a huge sunroof and the price will be in $40,000 territory before you know it. Or $50,000 if you have a preference for Lexus.

The Murano starts at a reasonable price -- about $30,000 for a Murano S, which includes Bluetooth with streaming audio, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and 18-inch wheels. The loaded Platinum version (the one we drove) has almost every option you can think of with just one option package available: the Technology package. This includes a big sunroof, adaptive cruise control and a predictive forward-collision warning and braking system that monitors two vehicles in front of you and will warn you if that vehicle starts to brake abruptly or swerve.

Add it all up, and that's a $40,000 SUV. Add available all-wheel drive and it's a little more. Similarly, the Ford Edge Limited approaches $45,000 with those same features. If you want the most bang for the buck, you might want to move the Murano up your list. Features like Nissan's Zero Gravity seats, an excellent Bose audio system and the best adaptive cruise control system on any of these SUVs help justify the price.

Cozy Cabin

The Murano has long been the plushest Nissan available, but this new version takes it up a notch. Even rear seat passengers get in on the action -- the rear and front seats are made of the same supportive material and they're heated. Plus, your traveling companions have access to their own USB port.

Those Zero Gravity seats are the real deal. On a long trip, the support and comfort is obvious. In fact, the materials throughout the Murano's cabin are top-notch, with lots of soft-touch surfaces and stitched leather everywhere (the S and SV models have cloth seats as standard).

During brief presentations, Nissan stopped short of calling the Murano a luxury SUV (that's Infiniti territory), but the word "premium" was tossed around quite a bit. But premium is more than just leather and touchscreens; the ride, handling, power delivery, transmission, buttons and switches all have to feel like they belong to a car in this price range. And in the Murano, they do.

Feels Right

The ride is very quiet, handling is confident but not sporty and the 3.5-liter V6 is perfectly matched to the continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has been using CVTs for a while, and the one found in the new Murano is the best version yet. There's no lurching or constant high revving. Nissan has added shift points that make the Murano's CVT act like a more traditional automatic transmission under heavy acceleration. Still, some enthusiasts won't like the CVT no matter what. Ask your average SUV shopper about the CVT and they will likely shrug and say "Seems fine to me."

That reworked transmission helps the new Murano get a fairly impressive 28 miles per gallon rating on the highway and 21 mpg around town.

Good Looking, Not Sporty

There are a couple of small drawbacks: The center armrest needs more padding and the Murano isn't the least bit sporty. It's not sloppy, but it's also not the least bit sporty. 

If you're looking for a BMW-like SUV that allows you to feel every bump in the road while effortlessly rounding sharp corners, this Nissan isn't for you.  But I've never been a big fan of feeling the road -- I want to be isolated from it. The Murano does exactly that and does it very well. If comfort and some cargo space (147.7 cu ft.) is what you're looking for, the Murano is worth considering.

The new Murano's look stands out, too. The excessively curved creases down the sides, the Nissan Z-like headlights and the low, sloping roof all add to the Murano's appeal.

The Murano is the pinnacle of near-luxury SUVs. It is Nissan doing the thing they do well. The 2015 Murano is comfortable but not sporty, good looking and packed full of the kind of features you'd expect for a $35,000 to $40,000 car-based SUV. There are many such vehicles, but the 2015 Nissan Murano is easily the best of its kind.

To gain access to this information, AutoTrader.com attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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Used 2014 Nissan Murano SV
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Used 2014 Nissan Murano SL
Used 2014 Nissan Murano
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Nissan Murano: First Drive Review - Autotrader