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2015 Nissan Murano vs. 2015 Nissan Pathfinder: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2015

If you're looking for a family crossover, we think you should have at least one Nissan on your shopping list -- and possibly two. We think the 2015 Nissan Murano and the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder are among the top new family crossovers available today. But what exactly sets the two SUVs apart? We've created a detailed comparison below to help you understand exactly what's different about the Murano and Pathfinder -- and to help you figure out which one is better for you.

Exterior

On the outside, there's no mistaking the Nissan Pathfinder for its more adventurous Murano sibling. While the Pathfinder's look is much more traditional with typical SUV styling, a normal profile and regular design touches, the Murano looks positively futuristic with an unusual flowing window line, standout wheel designs, an aggressive hood and bold taillights. The Pathfinder also clearly appears to be a little larger than the Murano from the outside, which it is: It offers more seats, more room and more length than its Murano stablemate.

Interior

Inside, the most obvious difference between the Murano and the Pathfinder is the number of seats: The Murano has 2-row seating and a total of five seats, while the Pathfinder is a 3-row crossover with seven seats. Beyond that, the Pathfinder also offers a little more room for passengers, rear-seat occupants, and with the third-row seat folded down, cargo. But those aren't the only interior differences: The two crossovers also offer different center control stacks and dashboards, with the Murano touting slightly nicer materials, and as expected, more futuristic cabin styling.

Mechanicals

Under the hood, both the Murano and the Pathfinder use the same base engine: a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, mated to a continuously variable transmission. The Murano gets slightly better gas mileage than the Pathfinder as a function of its smaller size, touting 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway to the Pathfinder's 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy. Unfortunately, shoppers with a special interest in fuel economy can no longer get the fuel-efficient Pathfinder Hybrid, as it was canceled after the 2014 model year.

Features & Technology

In terms of features and technology, the Murano has a slight edge over the Pathfinder. We say that because Nissan has intentionally left a few high-end features off the Pathfinder, presumably in hopes that shoppers will instead buy the pricier Infiniti QX60, which is based on the Pathfinder. Many of those features still remain available on the Murano.

For example, forward-collision warning with automatic braking isn't offered on the Pathfinder, but you can get it in the Murano. It's the same story with adaptive cruise control, a moving-object detection system and certain higher-end trim pieces that the Murano holds as advantages over the Pathfinder. In other words, if you're looking for the latest and greatest in technology, the Murano is the place to find it.

Driving Experience

We find the driving experience to be excellent in both the Pathfinder and the Murano. Of course, the Murano is a little more spry on account of its slightly smaller size and sportier demeanor, while the Pathfinder is a little slower and more lumbering around corners. But if you consider what each SUV is -- a 2-row crossover with bold styling and a family SUV with 3-row seating -- we think both the Murano and the Pathfinder deliver exactly what most customers will want. It's also worth noting that both SUVs offer roughly the same smooth, comfortable ride with quiet cabins and little road noise.

Safety

Although the Murano has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pathfinder earned a perfect 5-star score from the government agency. Both vehicles received top scores from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though the Murano's Top Safety Pick+ rating slightly outshines the Pathfinder's Top Safety Pick score. The only difference between the two ratings is based on features: Both cars offer the same excellent level of crash protection, but the extra "+" designation is reserved for vehicles with forward-collision alert or prevention systems.

And indeed, that's the only real safety drawback to the Pathfinder compared to its Murano stablemate. While the Murano offers forward-collision alert, automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, the Pathfinder still doesn't have any of those features. To get them in the Nissan family and keep three rows of seats, you'll have to upgrade to the more expensive Infiniti QX60 -- or just do without the extra seats and go for the Murano.

Conclusions

Aside from the Pathfinder's disappointing lack of forward-collision alert and automatic braking systems, the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder and the 2015 Nissan Murano are two of our favorite new crossovers, but there are some big differences between the two SUVs. Most notably, the Pathfinder boasts extra seats, and the Murano touts unusual, futuristic styling and slightly nicer cabin materials. When deciding between the Pathfinder and the Murano, we suspect that your decision will come down to whether or not you need those extra seats -- and whether you prefer the Pathfinder's traditional styling or the Murano's unusual new-age look.

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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 vs. 2015 Nissan Pathfinder: What's the Difference? - Autotrader