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ROAD TEST
Elvis Festival
2008 Elvis Festival

Road Test

Nissan Murano Ti-L


by Ian Barrett


24th March, 2008

www.nextcar.com.au

Nissan has long been a highly respected player in the four-wheel-drive market, with a range of vehicles spanning the deservedly popular X-Trail to the heavy-duty Patrol. But when they decided to start with a clean sheet and design an all wheel drive for the city, they clearly recognised the need for striking design, seamless power, user friendliness and functionality. The result was the Nissan Murano, a refreshingly contemporary vehicle with the "performance and handling of a sports sedan, and the space and interior versatility of a 4WD". We recently spent some time (965 kms) with the top-of-the-line Ti-L version and came away suitably impressed, by a vehicle whose beauty is much more than skin deep.

The Murano certainly has the looks to put it at the top of this class of vehicle. Styled at Nissan's California design studios, the sweeping curves and angles also show an unmistakable Renault influence, with elements of Megane seen in the grille/headlights and the roofline. With the long wheelbase, short front and rear overhangs, wide-track stance and low roofline, the Murano has a more sleek and business-like appearance than most other sports utility vehicles (SUVs) on our roads. Externally, the Murano Ti-L is finished off very nicely with 6-spoke 18" alloy wheels, polished roof rails and an electric slide/tilt glass sunroof.

Inside the cabin, the contemporary dash styling matches the sleek exterior lines, with a 350Z-style instrument pod and a centre display dominated by the large 5.8" multi-functional LCD screen. This serves both the satellite navigation system (with 3-D mapping) and the multi-function trip computer, as well as the rear reversing camera fitted as standard. Nissan is to be commended for making available the latter, which we consider to be mandatory in any vehicle of this type. One niggle with the display, however, is that it dims automatically when parking/headlights are switched on. Fine at night, but very hard to read in low light conditions during daylight hours. An excellent 6-speaker Bose audio system features an in-dash 6-disc CD player with AM/FM radio, in addition to a cassette tape drive.

www.nextcar.com.au

Generous and well-shaped seats offer plenty of adjustment and comfort for five people. The long wheelbase (2,825 mm) endows the Murano's cabin with plenty of stretching room for long legs, rivaling Holden's Commodore in that regard. The one thing it doesn't offer is a 7-seat option. However, we did observe that occupants sit a little lower in the Murano than in some SUVs, which does make for slightly easier entry and egress. Top level safety features include 6 airbags; front, side and curtains. Our only complaint with the interior was that the dash and trim look rather plain and 'plasticky', not withstanding the leather trim. In fact, there was way too much of the colour black for our taste.

The Murano Ti-L delivers a very comprehensive list of standard equipment, including power windows (auto up/down on driver's window); automatic climate control air conditioning (with rear outlets); keyless central locking; cruise control; leather bound steering wheel (with easy to use audio and cruise control functions); adjustable steering column (tilt, but not reach); leather trim; heated front seats (drivers with 8-way power adjustment); and, as Nissan say, a laptop-friendly lockable and powered centre console; and the all important oddment storage and cup holders (front and rear). So comprehensive, in fact, that the only possible addition we could think of would be a DVD player!

The roomy interior extends to the 475 litre cargo area, which contains two generous sized under-floor storage bins (adjacent to the dreaded 'space-saver' spare wheel/tyre). The rear seats flip down very easily in a one-touch operation to increase the load area to 875 litres. In addition to the obligatory cargo blind, there's a cargo net to keep smaller items safely where they belong. There is plenty of luggage space for a family going away for a weekend.

The Murano shines under the skin, too. Plenty of performance is on tap from Nissan's award winning 3.5 litre, all-alloy DOHC V6 engine, which develops 173 kW @ 6,000 rpm and a healthy 318 Nm of torque @ 3,600 rpm. Basically a re-tuned 350Z unit mounted transversely (as with Maxima), it's matched with a brilliant new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). When in 'Drive', shifts are smooth and undetectable. With a CVT there are no gear changes as such, but a manual mode allows for 6 nominal ratios to be selected when desired. This is not just for the sake of 'sporty' driving, but is very useful for engine braking on long or steep descents, or when towing - up to 1,500 kgs (braked), or 750 kgs (unbraked). One of the highlights of the vehicle, this engine/transmission combination maximises both performance and economy. It's smooth and quiet whether dropping the kids at school or cruising effortlessly on the highways and byways. Quoted consumption of PULP is 12.3L/100 kms (combined cycle), quite reasonable for this class of vehicle. But nevertheless an expensive - and environmentally unsustainable - way of moving around suburbia!

www.nextcar.com.au

The all wheel drivetrain is primarily a front wheel driver, with the rear kicking in instantaneously via Nissan's Vehicle Dynamic Control (ESP) when things get slippery. A button on the console enables the whole system to be locked in full-time all-wheel drive when the going gets tough, with limited slip differentials front and rear maximising grip. Like others in its class, the Murano is not intended as a serious off-roader, but will take you somewhat off the beaten track, or to the ski fields for the weekend.

Suspension is taken care of by struts and stabiliser bar up the front, while the rear employs a multi-link system. Handling and road holding are fine, while not really quite up there with sports sedans! The Murano leans more toward occupant comfort, with an excellent ride on the bitumen, but rough surfaces are also taken in its stride. And it always feels surefooted even on slippery or loose surfaces. Stopping is taken care of by vented discs front and rear, naturally with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist.

Nissan appear to have ticked all the right boxes with the Murano. It's a spacious and comfortable alternative to some much more expensive rivals, with near equivalent performance, dynamics and equipment levels. And its class leading good looks are underpinned by some seriously good engineering. At a list price from $60,490 (RRP), it represents surprising value compared to obvious rivals from Lexus and Honda.






Other Nissan content: here.



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