Sunday, July 1, 2012

Nissan Murano - First of the Upscale Crossovers Continues

The Nissan Murano is what every crossover claims to be--a nice car with the height and utility of an SUV. It gets in some of the "sport" part, too, thanks to a 260 horsepower V6.

I wasn't looking forward to my test of the Murano with breathless anticipation, but it turned out to be a very happy experience. Despite weighing two tons (!) the car feels light through the steering, and the suspension delivers a bit of road feel.

Nissan does a great job with its V6 engines--they are often recipients of industry awards. This one, through an "intelligent" continously-variable automatic, knew what to do when a freeway entrance ramp loomed ahead and didn't run out of juice during passing maneuvers.

I got 18.3 miles per gallon--the EPA's numbers are 18 City, 24 Highway (20 mpg average). EPA Green Vehicle numbers come in at 6 for Air Pollution and 4 for Greenhouse Gas--midpack.

The Murano still looks sleek and rounded, as did the original. This model, upgraded last model year, got an almost wacky horizontal grille and oddly proportioned headlamps.

The original Murano had a shockingly fluid appearance when it arrived, ushering in the burgeoning era of upscale non-trucklike tall people carriers now known as "crossovers."

You can order it in four levels: S, SV, SL and LE. Pick from front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. If you have to go on an occasional dirt road or head to the ski slopes in the winter, the latter would be your best choice. As it is, the Brilliant Silver SL I tested was front-wheel drive, and worked great for the highways and byways that constitute my urban life. Best to save the weight (139 lb.) and expense ($1,600) of all-wheel drive if you don't need all four wheels pushing the car.

The SL is the second highest model, so I had niceties like an eight-way power driver seat wrapped in leather and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. I got the rain-sensing wipers that know when to work and how fast. The power liftgate saved effort. The Bose nine-speaker audio system spoiled me for many of my other test cars. You can get used to this level of pampering.

Prices start at $30,365 for the S with front-wheel drive. My SL tester came to $39,225, including the optional Navigation package and shipping. No wonder it felt luxurious--it's a luxury car!

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