The 2015 Nissan Murano dropped jaws at the New York Auto Show with intense, close-to-concept styling. Now I've driven one for a hundred miles, I can tell you it's hardly a "sporting" experience... but holy crap is it comfortable.
Nissan says the Murano is "jeans and a sportcoat" in the form of a car. Regardless of your personal feelings on such attire, I think we can infer what they're trying to sell is a savvy, sexy character with the money and intelligence of a successful #Old but the vivacity and spontaneity of a #Youth. (You can have that one for free, Nissan Marketing.)
Did Nissan pull off what they were going for? From the outside; absolutely. The 2015 Murano is undeniably interesting to look at while staying true to the company's design language. Chief Designer Ken Lee told us he was inspired more by "abstract concepts" than other vehicles when sketching the car. You can say that again; I half expected the clock inside to be melting.
Unfortunately Nissan's marketing department wouldn't let Lee get any more specific than that, so Murano's bodywork becomes a bit of a Rorschach test– what do you want to see?
Nissan was a lot more direct with their message on the Murano's interior: that would be "High-Tech Social Lounge." "Retro-Future Jet Age Of The 60's" was also mentioned. My first impression was more "cool uncle's speedboat" and a colleague suggested "bowling alley," but there's no debating one key element: the seats are supremely spectacular. Soft, but solid. Adjustable every way you could want. A perfect place to sit down, relax, and be transported.
Soft seats used to be a staple of non-German luxury cars, but at some point in desperation to mime BMW, Mercedes, and Audi, it seemed just about everybody moved off "plush" and took up "taut," thinking luxury buyers wanted a bracing experience.
Now I couldn't be happier that trend is receding. Plopping into the front or rear seat of the new Murano is like pouring yourself into a Tempur-Pedic foam bed; sweet relief from the exhausting experience that upper middle-class life.
The Murano's inside comes in three flavors of leather; black, brown, and white. I can't believe I'm saying this; but the bright interior is the best. White lets you soak up all the lovely extra curves built into the dash and console, and provides a little extra pop for the LED rope-light accents to reflect off.
Yes; there are LED rope-light accents. If you're thinking "isn't that a little much?" you're probably not a Murano customer, but I can verify they're well executed.
Murano's toys get a lot more exciting than party lights. The navigation system's intuitive, map display is customizable, Bose stereo is brilliant, and the infotainment system's response to input is above-par on reaction time.
A large color display sits between a highly legible speedometer and tachometer, which can be cycled through all the requisite information pages (trips, temperatures, audio, and so forth). Driver-safety gadgets like blind spot warnings and adaptive cruise control are run from this screen too. A Bosch unit monitors the car ahead of the Murano as well as the car ahead of that car by bouncing its scanner down the road. It's supposed to give Nissan's adaptive cruise better reaction time and will hit the brakes automatically to avoid a collision, even bring the Murano to a complete stop if necessary.
As a neat bonus you can change the color of the Murano icon to match your vehicle or mix it up. Pointless, but fun.
Everything about the Murano is clearly designed around customers who don't care about "cars." Specifically, it's marketed toward "spontaneous empty nesters who go on fun trips with their adult friends." Can you tell I took notes in the PR briefing?
"So it's a car for swingers," I suggested, but the company's reps only giggled and declined to comment. But the useful takeaway there is that the car is designed around adult passengers; the rear is roomy, all seats are adjustable and heated, and an iPhone connected to the rear USB port is piped into the car's stereo.
I'm telling you about the passenger seats in the "driving experience" section because really, there isn't much difference between driving this car and riding in it. That's the point; you just kind of nudge it in the right direction as the 3.5 V6 hums at a ludicrously low RPM and the CVT makes acceleration as smooth as your Van Heusen tie after a pass with the steam iron.
The Murano will charge from cruising speed to passing speed without much complait, but you won't get any satisfaction snapping it off a stoplight or carving canyons. Understeer is palpable in aggressive cornering and grip diminishes quickly when the Murano's whipped recklessly down the Pacific Coast Highway. So I'm told.
As for fuel economy, conservative tuning and sleek aerodynamics (0.31 cD) help the 4,000-pound Murano hit a highway estimate of 28 MPG, 21 in town. We turned out 26 MPG in about a hundred miles of normal suburban driving.
You're not buying a Murano for a thrill behind the wheel, you're not buying it to go off-road. You get one to move four people and a weekend's worth of luggage in comfort with a shell that looks a little cooler than your father-in-law's luxury sedan with a smaller footprint than an SUV and cheaper entry price than the equivalent Lexus. To that end, the Murano is a sweeping success.
The Platinum AWD Murano with all the toys is a little over $40,000, and you can have a nice one in the high $30's. Prices actually start at $29,560, but Nissan says the take-rate on low-trim Muranos is "something like five percent." Meanwhile a Lexus RX350 starts at that $40,000, and though its leather feels significantly more robust, its price quickly surges beyond $50,000 when equipped comparably to the Nissan. Right now the Lexus interface feels impossibly dated next to the new Nissan, but the RX is due for a refresh in the near future.
The 2015 Nissan Murano is extremely comfortable and well-equipped for the price. It's a truly pleasant place crush miles in, as long as none of those miles are driven with anything resembling "enthusiasm."
Price puts it in a good position in its own segment, while luxury and fuel economy make a compelling case against full-size SUVs for people who don't do any towing.
Images by the author via Nissan