Competent Nissan Murano is fun to drive
By JOHN STEIN Automotive Editor June 6, 2012 3:18PM
2012 NISSAN MURANO SL
ENGINE: 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable transmission
DRIVETRAIN: all-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 18 city/23 highway
BASE PRICE: $38,830
AS TESTED: not available
The 2012 Nissan Murano is one of the more notable crossovers in a sea of competent entries in this segment, and it certainly has to be considered a significant value when ride and performance is considered.
I found the Murano SL I tested to be a huge surprise when it came to ride comfort and drive response. While exterior looks are definitely a plus for the Murano, it is the comfortable ride and sure-footed responsiveness that really sold me on this Nissan.
Murano is available in front-wheel drive or with an advanced all-wheel-drive system that automatically adjusts to road conditions. During my test week in the Murano SL, I found the all-wheel-drive system to provide above-average traction in a variety of driving conditions.
Helping to make the Murano such a good performer is standard vehicle dynamic control with traction control.
The Murano’s suspension, in combination with high-performance shock absorbers, delivers outstanding ride comfort on rough surfaces (we have plenty of those in the Chicago area). Nissan’s D-platform offers a firm foundation for virtually any crossover duties a family might encounter. This platform, which is similar to that used in the Altima, offers a standard four-wheel independent suspension with lots of aluminum as well as a multilink rear design featuring large front and rear stabilizer bars.
The Nissan Murano is available in eight models: Murano S FWD, Murano S AWD, Murano SV FWD, Murano SV AWD, Murano SL FWD, Murano SL AWD, Murano LE FWD and Murano LE AWD. Murano also comes as a unique convertible model, the CrossCabriolet.
My Murano SL tester featured the 260-horsepower VQ-series 3.5-liter V-6. When paired with the Xtronic continuously variable transmission, I found the Murano to be a sporty crossover that performed well and was fun to drive.
The Murano’s exterior is still one of the most unique and most recognizable on the road. The wide front end and wide grille make a bold statement while dramatic character lines flow rearward across pronounced wheel arches.
Standard 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels create a pouncing stance that is both elegant and athletic. Large chrome door handles and available roof rails added a superb visual styling cue while providing actual function for the overall vehicle.
Murano offers some great exterior features such as a huge dual-panel power sliding glass moon roof with second-row skylight and high-discharge headlights and fog lamps.
Inside the cabin of the Murano, Nissan likes to refer to the “mobile suite” form and function as embodying warmth and modern style. I would have to agree with the warmth of the overall style, including the use of high-quality soft-touch materials and impressive fit and finish throughout.
I really thought the dash and center stack that sweeps up from the lap line seems to envelop the driver with easy-to-read gauges and easily manipulated audio and climate controls.
My SL tester featured eight-way power seating adjustments, outstanding lumbar and bolster support as well as heated double-stitched leather seats and a 60/40 fold-flat rear seat.
The 2012 Murano also offers a bevy of convenient storage spaces inside. From the dual-level center console and extra large glove compartment, to the dual seatback pockets and spacious rear cargo area, Murano was designed for families and optimal convenience.
Other standard interior features include an automatic door lock feature, dual-zone climate controls and an AM/FM/CD6/six-speaker audio system with auxiliary jack and MP3/WMA capability.
The Nissan hard-drive navigation system includes a user-friendly graphic interface, menu structure and intelligent search capabilities, XM NavTraffic real-time traffic information, XM NavWeather (XM subscription required, sold separately), power return rear seats and a power lift gate.
At a base price of $37,230 for FWD and $38,830 for AWD, the Nissan Murano is a solid crossover option for families and on-the-go couples looking for great value in a powerful and fuel-efficient package that is both unique on the outside and technically advanced inside the cabin.
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