Sales of small and mid-sized SUVs remain white hot in North America, and few automakers seem as well positioned to take advantage of it as Nissan.
With the addition of the compact Qashqai (pronounced CASH-KAI), Nissan will have six such vehicles in its fleet, among the most for mainstream manufacturers.
And it’s not hard to figure out why – just look at the sales figures.
Through the end of May, Nissan’s truck division sales – which includes all of its SUVs (except for the Juke and Qashqai which are grouped with cars), plus the Titan and Frontier pickups and the NV200 van – are up 16 percent over the same time period in 2016, while car sales are down six percent.
As for the Murano, its sales are down 10 percent year-to-date, but at 5,446 units sold, it is still Nissan’s third best-selling vehicle in Canada behind the Rogue and the Sentra. This performance continues a trend from 2016, when it ranked third behind the same two vehicles and posted a 36.6 percent increase over 2015.
The cayenne red Platinum test vehicle I drove recently is not my first experience with the Murano – I drove it at the Canadian press launch in early 2015 which coincided with the launch of the third generation model.
For the Canadian market, the Murano is available in four trims: S ($30,998), SV ($37,498), SL ($41,048) and Platinum ($44,548). All models are powered by Nissan’s venerable 3.5L V6 (260 hp / 240 lb-ft.), which is mated to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). All-wheel drive is standard across the range, except for the S which is available in front-wheel drive only.
As mentioned, my tester is a range-topping Platinum model, which comes loaded with a long list of standard equipment, including 20-inch aluminum wheels, heated and cooled front seats, 7-inch infotainment display with satellite radio and navigation, power liftgate, moonroof, and a whole lot more, including a lot of collision mitigation safety tech.
From a design perspective, there aren’t many changes in store for the ’17 Murano – it was just redesigned for 2015, after all – but it retains the bold styling of many contemporary Nissans, thanks to a prominent V-motion grille, large wedge-shaped headlights, fluid character lines and boomerang-style tail lights.
In short, the Murano is a handsome vehicle that has a sleek, contemporary design character that feels much more modern that some if its boxier competition.
It’s a similar story on the inside, where the Murano offers a pleasing level of passenger comfort, content and build quality. In many ways, the look and feel is corporate Nissan, which isn’t a bad thing as Nissan interiors have improved markedly in the past half-decade or so.
Generally, the knobs and switches operate with precision and a nice tactile feel and are laid out in a logical fashion. The leather seats look good and are quite comfortable, and while there are some harder plastics (piano black, brushed satin, etc,) in the centre stack and console, they at least look good. Softer touch plastics are found in the dash cowl and doors, which helps to give the Murano’s interior a more upmarket feel.
The only thing I thought looked a little low-rent are the telematics in the 7-inch display. While the navigation system itself works fine, the graphics are grainy and low-res. Given that its competitors now offer HD resolution (720p at least), this is something Nissan should address.
Most screens Murano customers interface with (phone, laptop, TV, etc.) are much higher-res, and they will expect the same in their vehicle. I should note this is a company-wide issue with Nissan / Infiniti vehicles, and isn’t specific to the Murano.
On the road, the Murano acquits itself well. At highway speeds, it’s a comfortable and reasonably quiet cruiser that has more than enough power, relative to its size, to transport its occupants with ease while delivering a ride that is neither too firm or too harsh.
The power output from the 3.5L V6 doesn’t seem all that impressive these days, until the gas pedal is mashed and the 1,824 kg Murano accelerates hastily. While I wouldn’t call it neck-snapping performance, it’s more than adequate for a five-passenger SUV. Thanks to the presence of the CVT, acceleration is also quite linear which is a plus when facing highway on ramps.
In sum, the Murano has a lot to offer in terms of style, content, versatility and value. The Platinum trim offers a lot of extras, but those that opt for lower trims still get the same core driving experience for less money, albeit with less stuff. That said, the other trims (SV and SL, in particular) are also quite well equipped.
Given all it has going for it, the Murano should remain one of Nissan Canada’s best sellers for some time to come.
SPECIFICATIONS – 2017 Nissan Murano Platinum
BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $44,548 / $46,478 (incl. $1,795 destination)
FINAL ASSEMBLY: Canton, Mississippi
ENGINE: 3.5L V6
HORSEPOWER: 260 hp @ 6,000 rpm
TORQUE: 240 lb-ft. @ 4,400 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 1,824 kg
CONFIGURATION: front engine, all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: Xtronic CVT
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 11.2 / 8.4 / 9.9
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000
ALTERNATIVES: Ford Edge, Jeep Cherokee, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, Toyota Highlander
Accessories and / or Stand Alone Options
Metallic cayenne red paint ($135)
Total – $135
Photography by Lee Bailie