It's aging. But is it aging gracefully?
Chances are, you probably forgot about the Nissan Murano - we'll admit, we almost did as well. Nissan's smaller mid-size SUV (the Pathfinder also qualifies as mid-size) competes against other two-row models such as the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Edge, and Jeep Grand Cherokee. But those SUVs all offer over 300 horsepower (or over 700 hp in Jeep's case) while the Murano's 3.5-liter VQ Series V6 has barely changed since 2009. The whole car, in fact, hasn't changed significantly since 2015.
With SUVs dominating the market, it is of the utmost importance to keep rolling out updates to keep products fresh. Nissan introduced a refreshed Murano for 2019 but is it enough to keep pace with the strong domestic options from America? We recently tested a 2019 Murano SL AWD and after a week of driving it, here are a few of our favorite features and changes we'd like to see when the next model arrives.
During our week with the Murano, it became clear most people enjoy the most recent styling update. For 2019, Nissan made subtle changes to the V-motion grille, LED headlights, and wheels, improving what was already a fairly attractive design language. Our tester was finished in a new shade called Sunset Drift Chromaflair, which in addition to being extremely eye-catching, is one of the coolest color names we've seen in 2019. The Murano is easily Nissan's most stylish SUV.
It is way beyond time for Nissan to retire its 3.5-liter V6 engine in the Murano. It only produces 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, which lags behind nearly all of its competitors. This same engine has been around in this iteration since 2009 and Nissan should replace it with a newer engine like the VC Turbo found in the current Altima.
On the plus side, Nissan has managed to squeeze 28 mpg out of this V6, even with AWD, and the power delivery is buttery smooth. The continuously variable transmission is among the best we've tested as well. It allows for near-instant access to the power and decouples the AWD system to achieve better fuel economy when cruising.
Many Nissan vehicles are equipped with what the automaker calls Zero Gravity Seats. The chairs are built with 14 different pressure points designed to put the body into a neutral position. It is difficult to explain but over a long journey, the Murano's seats are remarkably comfortable, more so than other vehicles in this segment. We did not get a chance to drive the highest Platinum trim, which includes semi-aniline leather with diamond quilting and ventilation.
We tend to like touchscreen infotainment systems because they are simple to use but Nissan's system tries (and fails) to replicate how a smartphone functions. The main screen is arranged with "apps" but they aren't very useful and it becomes difficult to navigate. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard to make the experience a bit better but Nissan's new infotainment system being co-developed by Google cannot come soon enough.
What's more baffling than the infotainment is Nissan's choice of materials. The cabin is filled with two different kinds of fake metal (one looks good, the other looks cheap), chrome, gloss black trim, and beige. There is no cohesiveness to the design and some of the controls, like the steering wheel buttons, haven't changed much in over a decade, leaving them with a stale feeling. The shifter is one of the cheapest items on the interior - it feels like it came straight out of a vehicle from 2002 and the noise it makes when you shift does not belong in a $20,000 vehicle, let alone one costing over $40,000.
Even after spending a week with the Murano, we are struggling to remember what it is best at. It's not "bad" at anything, but it doesn't shine in any single area. It's comfortable to drive at times but it feels like Nissan also wanted to dial a little sportiness in there too, meaning it doesn't really do either very well. We hope for the fourth generation Murano, Nissan chooses a lane: either make it a comfortable cruiser or sporty, not both. As it sits, the Murano just feels confused about what it wants to be, making it a forgettable proposition in a segment filled with strong competition.