Sport-utility vehicles have evolved with as much efficiency as living, breathing organisms. The first sport-utility vehicles were most at home in the wild, cresting grassy knolls and scrambling down boulder-strewn trails. Eventually, though, many of these vehicles migrated to the city, purchased by buyers enamored with their size and brawn, and a new breed of SUV was born. Crafted to shine on pavement, haulers like the 2007 Nissan Murano provide the impressive power and sizable dimensions of their ancestors, but offer the sort of carlike handling that suburban drivers crave. The Murano was among the first of these midsize crossover SUVs, and it continues to be one of the best.
The Nissan Murano -- named after the island off the coast of Italy that specializes in hand-crafted glass -- boasts a futuristic exterior marked by wraparound surface construction, an imposing grille and an ultra-high beltline. (Unfortunately, this styling cue compromises visibility.) The cabin offers lots of cubbies and bins for storage, and cargo capacity is a respectable 81.6 cubic feet. Third-row seating isn't available, however. Still, the Murano is roomy for four or five, thanks to well-bolstered seats and ample head-, hip-, foot- and shoulder room in back.
Nissan's midsize crossover SUV has a tight suspension and quick, well-weighted steering, giving it a more athletic feel than most competitors. Low ground clearance makes the Murano a washout off pavement, which isn't much of an issue for the city dwellers who comprise its core constituency. More troubling, though, is the Murano's power-sapping CVT, which dulls the charms of its 240-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6.
If you're seeking the most distinctive-looking beast in the midsize crossover SUV species, the 2007 Nissan Murano is your ride -- its sleek looks make it a standout and its sporty dynamics back that up. However, the Murano no longer has a lock on athleticism in this class, as the all-new Mazda CX-7 and CX-9 slip past it in this regard, with the latter offering the third-row seat that many families want. Another solid new entry is the Ford Edge, which attempts to match the Murano's strengths one for one while offering another unusual take on SUV styling. For buyers less concerned about aesthetics and handling, the well-packaged Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mitsubishi Endeavor and Toyota Highlander are also worth consideration. That's not to say that the Nissan Murano isn't the one for you: For smaller families who want a vehicle that's practical on the inside but doesn't look that way on the outside, Nissan's crossover makes a lot of sense.
A five-passenger car-based SUV, the 2007 Nissan Murano comes in three trim levels: base S, luxury-oriented SL and sporty SE. The S trim includes 18-inch alloy wheels, cloth seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, a four-speaker CD stereo, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and full power accessories. The Murano SL adds a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar, an upgraded six-speaker stereo and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. On top of that, the SE comes with a sport-tuned suspension, xenon headlamps and a rearview camera.
Minimal options are available on the base S model, but SL and SE models can be equipped with the Touring Package, which provides a sunroof, heated outside mirrors, keyless startup, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 225-watt Bose stereo system with an in-dash CD changer, and your choice of XM or Sirius satellite radio; some of these items can be purchased in smaller, less expensive packages. Stand-alone options include a DVD entertainment system and a navigation system.
Immediately noticeable when you climb aboard the 2007 Nissan Murano is the distinctive "floating dash" design, complemented by the real aluminum trim liberally sprinkled around the cabin. The gauges glow orange and are easy to read. Split-folding rear seats are pretty standard these days, but in the Nissan Murano, they have a reclining feature and a remote flip-down function, allowing the seats to be easily released from the rear cargo area. For storage, there's a two-tiered lockable center console box roomy enough to hold a laptop computer, door pockets with a flip-out function, as well as assorted nooks and crannies for items such as cell phones, sunglasses and coins. With the rear seats down, the Murano's cargo bay offers a healthy 81.6 cubic feet of space.
The 2007 Nissan Murano is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 similar to the one found in the Altima and Maxima that makes 240 hp and 244 pound-feet of torque. The sole transmission choice is a CVT. Benefits of the CVT include smoother operation and greater fuel-efficiency than a traditional automatic. In the Murano's case, though, this setup tends to take the shine off power delivery. Murano S and SL models are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while the Murano SE is AWD only. Properly equipped, the Murano can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Acceleration is lively for the most part, though the CVT can make for sluggish starts in traffic. The Nissan Murano's handling is sharp compared to most other car-based crossover SUVs. Buyers can choose from the sport-tuned SE model and the more softly calibrated S and SL forms. The SE's firm suspension can make for somewhat harsh ride quality, so unless you're really into driving your SUV fast on a curvy road, we'd suggest the S or SL for day-to-day comfort.
Nissan's midsize crossover SUV comes with antilock disc brakes, front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. A stability control system (called Vehicle Dynamic Control) is optional on the SL and SE, as are adjustable pedals (as part of the Touring or Premium Package). The SE comes with a back-up camera, but this valuable safety feature is not available on other Muranos, nor are bumper-mounted parking sensors. In government crash tests, the 2007 Nissan Murano earned a perfect five-star score for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. In side-impact testing, it earned five stars for front-occupant protection and four stars for the rear. Testing conducted by the IIHS returned a top rating of "Good" for frontal-offset impacts.
The 2007 Nissan Murano brings only minor revisions. A tire-pressure monitoring system is now standard, and seatbelt warning lamps have been added.