The Nissan Murano has always represented something different. Its rounded shape and edgy design was launched in a world of boxy SUVs, making the Murano look like a concept vehicle rather than something used to schlep the kids to soccer practice. The result was an immediate sales success that managed to grow more popular with age. Redesigned last year, the 2010 Nissan Murano still looks like nothing else on the road, for better or worse. Yet it's the engineering and interior improvements that make this midsize crossover more than a successful design exercise -- it's a class leader as well.
The Murano offers a wealth of sophistication and refinement that places it ahead of the competition. Drive the Murano back to back with a Ford Edge, Chevrolet Equinox or Toyota Venza and you'll notice that this stylish Nissan provides more connection to the road, a more polished ride and an unusually upscale cabin that could easily be confused with an Infiniti's. The powertrain is also a pleasure thanks to the award-winning 3.5-liter V6 under the hood and the well-matched continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
The Murano may offer a bit less cargo capacity than many rivals, and there's no third-row seat like in a Buick Enclave or Ford Flex, but the second row is one of the most spacious and comfortable around. It reclines, features height-adjustable seatbelts and is heated in the LE trim level. There are even rear-facing air vents mounted in the B-pillars. It's thoughtful touches like these that set this Nissan apart from the crossover status quo.
Of course, all of these virtues are moot if you don't appreciate the Murano's particular brand of style. Its strange grille is especially polarizing, and many have said the new Murano isn't as appealing to look at as the last. But you can't deny that it's unique. Despite the fact that Nissan has sold tons of these things over the years, you'll still be cruising down the road in a vehicle that's decidedly different from the pack. Sensible and stylish at once -- now that is something different, and it's why the 2010 Nissan Murano is one of our favorite crossover SUVs.
The 2010 Nissan Murano is a five-passenger midsize SUV available in S, SL and LE trim levels. The base S comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, rear tinted glass, cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a reclining rear seat and a six-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SL adds foglights, roof rails, an eight-way power driver seat, powered rear seatbacks and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. The Premium package adds to the SL a rearview camera, 7-inch color display screen, auto-dimming mirror and a nine-speaker Bose stereo with two subwoofers and satellite radio. The Technology package adds automatic bi-xenon headlights, dual heated mirrors, automatic wipers, a power liftgate and Bluetooth. The Leather package adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver power lumbar and a four-way power passenger seat. A dual-pane panoramic sunroof is optional.
The LE adds 20-inch wheels, the panoramic sunroof, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, heated rear seats, wood trim, an iPod interface and all the optional package content from the SL.
The Navigation package is optional on the LE and the SL with Technology package. It includes a hard-drive-based navigation system, real-time traffic and digital music storage, and replaces the six-CD changer with a single-CD player. A roof-mounted DVD entertainment system is optional on the SL with the Technology package (and without the panoramic sunroof), while a headrest-mounted system is a new-for-2010 stand-alone option on SL and LE models.
The difference between the 2010 Nissan Murano's cabin and the previous generation is like night and day. High-quality materials and excellent fit and finish make it easy to mistake this Nissan for an Infiniti. Although a third-row seat is not available, passengers in the second row enjoy an abundance of leg- and headroom. Kids and short folks will appreciate the height-adjustable seatbelts back there, while everyone should enjoy the LE's heated rear seat. With the rear seatbacks folded, the Murano has 64 cubic feet of cargo space available, a small figure for a midsize crossover SUV.
All the state-of-the-art electronics gizmos one could want are available on the Murano, including an excellent iPod interface (one of the best we've used), a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic plus 9.3GB of memory allotted for music storage.
The 2010 Nissan Murano is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 paired with a CVT. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on all trim levels. Output is a healthy 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. In performance testing, an all-wheel-drive Murano went from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds. EPA estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined regardless of whether it's front- or all-wheel drive.
A finely tuned suspension and responsive steering make the 2010 Nissan Murano a willing and surprisingly communicative partner in daily driving. Among midsize crossovers, the Murano is easily one of the most rewarding and involving to drive. The ride is well-sorted too, soaking up bumps in a sophisticated manner that makes it feel like a more meticulously engineered vehicle than some of its competitors. The LE's 20-inch wheels do add some impact harshness, however.
The 265-hp V6 provides plenty of power for almost all situations, while the CVT offers quick reactions to throttle input and is well suited to this engine. While we sometimes have mixed feelings about this sort of transmission, the Murano's is one of the best and in many ways superior to a traditional automatic.
Antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags are standard across the board. In Edmunds brake testing, an all-wheel-drive Murano with 18-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 126 feet -- a good performance for this class. In government crash testing, the Murano received four out of five stars for frontal protection and five stars for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Murano its highest rating of "Good" in both the frontal-offset and side crash tests.
For 2010, the top-line Nissan Murano LE trim level is now offered with front-wheel drive -- it was previously all-wheel drive only. All Muranos get standard keyless ignition/entry, the SL gets standard roof rails and a security system, and the LE gets a standard dual-panel sunroof. Options packages have also been revised for slightly easier ordering.