Nissan’s “Innovation that Excites” marketing tagline often falls a bit flat—we’re still searching for any excitement or innovation in the Versa orSentra, for example—but in the case of the 2015 Murano, it’s right on the money. Whether or not you think the Murano is attractive, its design certainly couldn’t be called derivative or boring. This is a design that busts the mid-size crossover segment wide open like the Kool-Aid man bursting through a wall. Heck, we think the design of the production crossover looks even more expressive than that of the Resonance concept on which it is based, which doesn’t happen often.
No, This is Nissan’s Flagship Crossover
The 2015 Murano’s look might seem extreme, but the nameplate has a history of envelope-pushing design dating back to the first-generation model introduced for 2003. With its high-style-on-a-budget mission statement, the Murano’s long been positioned as the semi-luxurious choice in the mid-size crossover segment, straddling the line between mainstream offerings such as the Ford Edge, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander, and edgier entries like the Acura RDX and Infiniti QX50. Without a drop of irony, Nissan calls the two-row, five-passenger Murano its “flagship crossover,” essentially relegating the larger three-row Pathfinder to pedestrian family hauler duty.
Relative to today’s soft-edged Murano, the 2015 model exhibits a far more aggressive countenance. The Murano’s V-shaped front end, boomerang-shaped headlights and taillights, and robust fender sculpturing carry over nearly verbatim from the sporty Resonance concept. Most surprisingly, the show car’s rear quarter panel “hump” that reaches for the corner of the roof panel survived the design’s evolution to production. A cleverly placed blackout trim piece covers each D-pillar and gives the impression of a floating roof supported by a thin wand of glass extending from the front windows on back.
Nissan added 2.5 inches of length and 1.3 inches of width, and also shaved some height to make the 2015 Murano appear lower and wider, and it pays off. This is an athletic-looking design, especially in profile, and we like the crossover’s aggressive stance. It stands apart from the crowd—which is no small feat in the typically milquetoast mid-size crossover arena. And the amped-up style doesn’t come at the expense of passenger space, which is roughly equivalent to that of the previous generation. Rear legroom increases by 2.4 inches, while headroom, hip room, and shoulder room don’t change appreciably.
We’re fairly certain, however, that the interior’s minor dimensional tweaks will garner less attention than the exterior. Nissan calls the cabin’s appearance “lounge-like,” but we think it’s more womb-like. Every surface is rounded and conveys a warm, enveloping feeling—especially cuddly when the light-hued Cashmere color scheme is specified.
Stylish Wrapper, Pedestrian Mechanicals
Underneath the Murano’s designer duds lies a fairly run-of-the-mill chassis. Nissan again utilizes a front strut, rear multi-link independent suspension setup, and front-drive is standard with all-wheel drive remaining optional. Every Murano is powered by a carry-over 3.5-liter V-6 engine making 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, and Nissan’s JATCO-supplied Xtronic CVT is the only transmission choice. While the V-6 should be sufficient, we’re a bit disappointed Nissan didn’t squeeze more power out of it; 260 ponies isn’t a lot of output for a 3.5-liter, especially in the face of similarly powerful—but more efficient, at least to the EPA—turbo fours from competitors.
EPA fuel-economy estimates are forthcoming, but should improve at least a little bit over the front-drive previous-generation model’s 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway rating. (All-wheel-drive 2014 Muranos were good for 18/23 mpg.) Nissan claims fuel efficiency could rise by as much as 20 percent, thanks to a claimed 130-pound weight reduction, active grille shutters, and aerodynamic work that’s resulted in an ultra-low 0.31 coefficient of drag (the 2014 Murano punched the air with a 0.37 cd). Soon, however, buyers seeking even better fuel economy will have the option of a hybrid Murano, so there’s that.
The Murano’s four trim levels carry over to 2015 nearly unchanged, with the exception of the top-spec LE trim, which is renamed Platinum. Otherwise, the S, SV, and SL trim levels remain on offer with either front- or all-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes a seven-inch touch screen display, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear-seat USB port, backup camera, keyless entry with push-button ignition, Bluetooth, LED taillights and front running lights, automatic headlights, and 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Nissan will offer optional navigation, LED headlights, fog lights, an eight-inch touch-screen display, power front seats, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rear seats, a heated steering wheel, an 11-speaker Bose audio system, the trick AroundView monitor, a power-opening tailgate, power-folding rear seats, remote start, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, forward collision warning and avoidance, cross-traffic alert, 20-inch wheels, and an absolutely gigantic panoramic sunroof.
The Murano will become the latest Nissan vehicle to be built at the automaker’s production facility in Canton, Mississippi. It goes on sale later this year, and pricing will be announced closer to its on-sale date. That might be a while off, but we’re fairly certain the Murano won’t be knocked off its style-leader pedestal anytime soon; we’re just happy to see an automaker go risky in a segment known for everything but. Now, Nissan, how about that two-door, convertible CrossCabriolet version? Nah, just kiddin.’ View Photo Gallery