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Driven: 2012 Nissan Murano
|Date: 09 Jul 2012
||Author Type: Registered Journalist
|Author: Julian Lurie edited by Gary Mackay
I’ve just spent a few days with the new upgraded Nissan Murano, and came away very impressed. When Nissan first introduced the Murano in South Africa in 2004, with its more rounded and sporty appearance was one of the first SUVs bold enough to break away from the box shape of other SUVs. The test car was in a brilliant white, with colour coded bumpers and door handles, black surrounds around the windows, twin aluinium roof rails, dual exhausts and a rear window wiper/washer.
The new Murano follows the original theme, but with a major update, a new sleek coupé-like profile on top of a substantial mass of sports SUV, a design that’s an almost uninterrupted wedge from front grille, to rear window.
The new model is more refined, more futuristic, and augmented by a new heavily chromed front grille, new bumpers and a new LED tail-light design, and body mouldings said to have yielded a shape with improved aerodynamics for improved fuel efficiency.
The Murano rides on sporty 18” ten-spoke titanium-finish alloy wheels, which on the test vehicle were shod with low profile 235/65R18 Bridgestone Dueller Sport takkies, and the spare is a full-sized wheel.
The Murano has one of the nicest interiors in the mid-size SUV class. There are plenty of soft-touch surfaces and high-quality plastics; and the seats are upholstered in soft, perforated leather with new design patterns. It seats five comfortably with ample headroom and leg room, and at the rear, the nearly flat floor makes it better for the middle passenger. Modest ground clearance means no-hassle entry and exit through wide doors front and rear.
The updated centre console has “raised the bar’ with improved finishes and brushed aluminium trim that creates a more luxurious ambience. Another new feature is the Double Panel Moon-roof complete with power retractable sun shades and tinted glass for UV protection, and a tilting front panel that lets fresh air in. The new instrument dials, with white backlight illumination, known as Fine Vision, are designed to reduce driver fatigue on extended journeys.
The new Murano comes standard with an “Intelligent Key” whereby the driver needs never to take the key from his pocket to access the vehicle, and the engine is started or stopped via the stop/start button on the dashboard. The seats, windows and mirrors are all electrically-operated, with the latter also being heated, and the large tailgate is also electrically powered, and can be opened or closed via buttons on the Intelligent Key, a switch on the dash, or by the tailgate itself.
The front seats are electrically heated to augment the dual-zone automatic climate control in cold conditions, while the rear seats can be folded completely flat, to enlarge the cargo area. A nice feature is the rear- and side-view parking cameras, which makes parking so much easier.
In keeping with its more up-market status, standard features include the Nissan Premium Connect infotainment system, featuring a 40GB hard drive, a Satnav system and 9.3GB HDD Music Server– all controlled via a touch screen display. This latest-generation electronic system includes full Bluetooth capabilities, USB and iPod connectivity for digital music sources, and DVD playback functionality. All of this is integrated with the premium 11-speaker BOSE audio system, and I can report that it has one of the best sound systems in any modern luxury car – makes you just want to sit in the Murano, play your CD, or plug in your I-Pod, relax and listen to your music.
Safety has also been improved, and the Murano has a full complement of safety systems and electronic driver aids including Vehicle Dynamic Control, as well as front, side and curtain airbags, while for night driving it’s fitted with powerful Bi-xenon auto-levelling headlights.
Murano’s powerful brake system, with ventilated discs at each corner, and ABS and Brake Assist, in the emergency stop from 100 km/h, stomping hard on the brake pedal brought the 1800 kg SUV to a stop in just on three seconds.
Lift the bonnet and you’ll find the same 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine which powered the growling 350Z sports coupe. In the Murano it produces 191 kW of power and 336Nm of torque, and will make the 0-100km/h dash in 8.0-seconds with a top speed in excess of 200 km/h. It drives the Murano through an X-TRONIC Continuously Variable Transmission revised with new advanced shift control logic.
There’s also 6-speed “manual” gearshift mode, which in turn drives the Intelligent full-time 4WD system, incorporating Vehicle Dynamic Control and Active Brake Limited Slip, for those few who decide to go off-road, but with just 185 mm of ground clearance, that particular drive mode is only meant to help you through the occasional soft sand or muddy situations, not for serious off-roading.
On the road the Murano is a comfortable cruiser. The marriage of the eager V6 engine and CVT also works well. While other CVTs tend to respond sluggishly or keep the engine revving at a nearly constant drone, this unit performs very near as well a normal automatic.
Around town, despite its size, with the light electric power-steering, it’s quite easy to maneuver in tight spaces and all round vision from the driver’s seat is good.
However, the Murano, with that sporty V6 engine, is most satisfying to drive when you when you start pushing it. It responds well, goes where you point it, and sits fairly flat through corners. In fact it feels very much car-like in normal driving.
Ride quality is good over most surfaces and the handling is good for an SUV. Noise and vibration suppression is excellent, and the V6 motor can barely be heard at cruising speed. Also the CVT doesn’t have the belt whine that I found so irritating in some of the other CVT gearboxes.
The price of the new Nissan Murano X-Tronic CVT is listed as R545 600 which includes all of the advanced features and premium equipment as standard specification, as well as a 5-year/90 000km service plan.