When it comes to buying a luxury SUV, or any car really, I don’t like to give suggestions, because people usually don’t listen to your advice — or they already have the car they really want in mind and are hoping that you happen to confirm their choice by enthusiastically blurting out "Mini Cooper Countryman All4 with Copper Metallic paint." That’s never happened. It never will happen. Usually it goes like this:
Co-worker: What do you think of the Hyundai S’Coupe?
Me: Not much.
Co-Worker: Oh, cuz I just bought one for my wife.
Me: Thanks, dude.
So giving advice is usually a losing proposition. Still, some people really are interested in hearing completely objective advice.
For example, a young couple with a baby recently asked specifically about a "midsize or small luxury SUV." I could tell they truly hadn’t made up their minds. I name the usual suspects when it comes to small luxury SUVs. Cars like a CPO Volvo XC60, a new Audi Q3, a CPO Lexus RX, an all-new Acura RDX and so on.
However, there’s another way to go for shoppers looking for a nice, car-based SUV that might be a little off the beaten path and may be a better value. Specifically, the highest trim level of a non-luxury brand’s midsize or small SUV. The perfect embodiment of this is the recently refreshed 2019 Nissan Murano Platinum, but it also applies to the top version of the Nissan Pathfinder, the Nissan Rogue, the Toyota Highlander, the Mazda CX-9 and the Ford Edge.
For example, the 2019 Nissan Murano now has available features like an updated touchscreen with pinch and zoom function similar to an iPad. The Platinum trim gets super-soft semi-aniline leather seats with quilted stitching (similar to the Nissan Maxima) and colored borders, LED headlights and taillights and new, more dramatic colors like a more saturated dark blue and a bright orange color called Sunset Drift Chromaflair (yes, that’s the real name).
New Tech and Trim
There’s also a new set of driver-assist features for 2019 like auto-braking in reverse … Essentially, this makes sure you don’t back up over a wayward kid’s bicycle, an Amazon delivery package or worse. Previously available safety features like blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and forward-collision braking are still offered. A front passenger knee airbag and side upper body protecting airbags mean both passengers and driver are protected. Many of these optional safety features are only available on the SL or Platinum trim levels.
Inside, there’s less painted silver trim and what Nissan calls a "more coordinated look." Platinum buyers can even get a further step up with the Reserve package, which has a fancier look. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trim levels.
Since I’m kind of positioning the new Murano as part of a luxury conversation, it’s worth noting that the knee airbag and side protecting rear airbags are usually found on much more expensive luxury vehicles.
The Murano still has a 3.5-liter V6 and a continuously variable automatic transmission and the Murano still delivers the same quiet, but brisk acceleration and a ride and handling combination that’s intentionally on the comfortable side of things — again, kind of like a luxury SUV.
Sure Nissan, Toyota and others aren’t really luxury brands but if you look at the top trim level of some vehicles like the 2019 Nissan Murano, you’re getting nearly everything a luxury SUV or sedan has to offer without the luxury logo on the grille.
The 2019 Nissan Murano starts at about $32,000 and can run over $40,000 after options.