Taking center stage in the Murano's front console is a seven-inch information display. It shows you air conditioning settings, outside temperature, and audio system information, among other things, but if you've test-driven a number of LCD-equipped cars, you may think this one looks cheap. The colors and rendering of text and images seem a little crude and unsophisticated. It's a letdown, considering the rest of the vehicle displays the hip Nissan design ethic that has been a hallmark of the company's turnaround over the last five years.
The good news is that the Murano's GPS navigation system retains Nissan's Birdsview mode that we've come to adore in the company's luxury cars. As the name would imply, this perspective shows the terrain ahead as if you are flying above and slightly behind your Murano. It's not unlike the view found on many car-racing video games, and it gives you a natural sense of where you are and where you're going. As with most other vehicles' OEM navigation systems, you are unable to enter a new destination while the car is moving. Once we pulled over to enter a destination, we found its guidance works quite well.
Just below the main LCD is an array of clearly marked and functional buttons for controlling the display. That's more than we can say for other cars that have additional technology and use attendant menu levels, such as the Acura RL 3.5. You'll find smooth interaction with the Murano's information center until you come to the minijoystick control mounted high in the middle of the console. It moves left, right, up, and down just fine, but its "click to enter" function is dicey. The spring-loading is too light and requires conscious thought to make sure you don't tilt the knob in the process. As a result, we never felt confident selecting menu choices by feel alone.
For audio and visual treats, our Murano was equipped with an optional Bose seven-speaker, 225-watt stereo audio system with an in-dash six-disc changer and XM satellite radio ($400). It's nothing remarkable, but the sound quality is clean and loud, and it plays MP3 CDs. Unfortunately, there's no 5.1 surround-sound system available for the Murano.
The optional DVD entertainment system ($1,720) for rear-seat occupants is decent but could use some improvement. The system's LCD swings up from under the front console armrest to face the rear-seat passengers. It's a standard 4:3 ratio, and the 6.4-inch screen isn't very large, all of which contribute to a less-than-stellar experience when viewing a wide-screen movie. Included wireless headphones bring the audio to the rear-seat passengers. The actual DVD player is awkwardly mounted under the front console armrest, as is a set of auxiliary input jacks for connecting audio or video portables to the rear-seat entertainment system. More than that, what absolutely baffled us was the utter absence of a Bluetooth hands-free rig for the Murano, either as standard or optional equipment. We hope Nissan was just caught flat-footed on that one and will rectify this with the 2006 Murano. In the meantime, bring a headset.
Our 2005 Nissan Murano SE was powered by a 245-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Unlike conventional gearboxes with four, five, or six gear ratios, a CVT has infinite ratios, thanks to a steel drive belt and variable pulleys in the transmission. The benefits of the CVT include having optimal torque on tap in most driving conditions and improved fuel economy from running the engine in its RPM sweet spot. The highest praise we can pay Nissan's Xtronic CVT is that it took us two days to even notice the Murano had one. Shifting and drivability were just like those of a excellently designed conventional automatic, and that's a major compliment. The Murano SE gets 20mpg and 24mpg, city and highway, respectively.
We were to glad to see that Nissan's solid backup camera system made its way to the Murano as part of the Technology Package ($2,350). It offers a wide view of what's behind the Murano whenever the transmission is in reverse and has color-coded marks along the image to show the distance between your vehicle and objects. Unlike the 2006 Infiniti M45, the Murano's system doesn't include predictive lines that show where you are aimed as you back up and steer.
Other technologies on our Murano included Intelligent Key technology for accessing the vehicle and starting it without physically inserting the key, as well as power-adjustable driver's pedals.
For safety, the 2006 Nissan Murano SE comes with dual-stage front air bags with seat belt sensors that determine the level of air bag inflation based on the severity of the impact. There are also curtain/side air bags. Nissan's warranty includes three-year/36,000-mile coverage and five-year/60,000-mile power train coverage.