The Nissan Murano entered its third generation in 2015, and for 2019, receives a host of visual and tech updates. That's a good thing, as the competition in the two-row crossover SUV set is stiffer than ever.
Nissan's stylish Murano brings a lot to the table, but it has to contend with the brand-new Chevrolet Blazer and Honda Passport, not to mention the refreshed Ford Edge. Can a refreshed Murano still hang in a segment that's bringing its A game?
The Murano is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine pushing 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque through a continuously variable transmission. Go easy on the throttle from a stop, and the CVT makes the most of the V6's low-end torque, keeping revs at a minimum while still allowing the Murano to build speed at a respectable, traffic-keeping pace. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive can be had on all Murano trims for an additional $1,600.
If you need to dart away from a stoplight or dash up an onramp, the Murano's powertrain is more than up to the task. Whenever I need to pass slower traffic on the highway, the engine and transmission always seem to be alert and ready for action.
Enter a bend in the road, and the Murano's steering provides decent heft, albeit with not much feedback. At a parking lot pace, however, there's too much weight in the wheel, making slow-speed maneuvering a little more difficult than it needs to be. At no point do the Murano's ride and handling characteristics really stand out, but it's certainly not bad to drive. Braking feel, however, is right on the money, thanks to a nicely-tuned pedal that's easy to modulate.
Regardless of whether it's equipped with front- or all-wheel drive, the Murano is estimated to achieve 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway. After 337 miles of testing, I saw 25.8 mpg.
The Murano doesn't look like any other two-row, midsize crossover in the segment, and I respect that. Does it look better than the others because it's different? No, but it certainly isn't a bad-looking SUV, either. For 2019, the Murano's more pronounced "V-Motion" grille and revamped headlamps do help to make it look more attractive than last year's model.
Inside, the look is much more dated. But while the cabin looks old, it's still comfortable as ever. The driver's seat, for instance, is one of the most cosseting in the business, and if you need to bring people along for the ride, there's plenty of room for up to five occupants.
Aside from bargain-basement plastic on the steering column, the rest of the cabin materials are fine for a crossover that starts at $32,315 (including $1,045 for destination). Overall, the Murano's interior is a rather quiet and serene place in which to spend time.
Cargo capacity comes in at 32.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 67 cubic feet with the second row folded flat. Muranos with the optional panoramic sunroof offer slightly less storage space: 31.1 cubic feet behind the second row and 65 cubic feet with the back seats folded. Either way, this should be enough for most people, but those numbers fall on the smaller side of the segment. The Honda Passport, for example, offers up to 77.9 cubic feet of space.
The Murano can tow up to 1,500 pounds, which is enough for a small trailer. But if towing is a regular occurrence in your life, the Murano's spec pales in comparison to the GMC Acadia's 4,000-pound tow rating, not to mention the Chevy Blazer's 4,500 pounds.
With an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and two USB-C ports, there's a pretty solid suite of standard tech that comes baked in with the Murano. My $42,885 SL-trim tester adds other features like embedded navigation, HD radio and an 11-speaker Bose premium audio system.
While there's plenty of standard tech, it's not really that good. Nissan's infotainment interface isn't the simplest to work through, and its graphics appear a generation or two behind the times. It even seems like the vehicle's hardware isn't fast enough for the Apple CarPlay data transfer -- my Spotify music frequently skipped as though I was playing a scratched CD.
Standard driver assistance features aren't as abundant as the standard cabin tech. The Murano only comes with collision-mitigation braking as standard equipment. My nicely-optioned tester, however, features adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree camera, plus front and rear parking sensors.
With all the bells and whistles and a couple of accessories, a fully loaded Nissan Murano can hit $47,000. My SL tester, on the other hand, has everything I could want for about $4,000 less, with its standard leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, hands-free power liftgate and 20-inch wheels (replacing the 18-inch units that come on the base S trim). I'd also recommend adding my tester's $1,970 Tech Package that gets you a panoramic sunroof, automatic high beams, traffic sign recognition, pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking, brake-actuated lane-keep assist and rear automatic braking.
The Nissan Murano finds itself in a bit of an uphill battle at the moment. Even though it boasts updated looks and more tech for the 2019 model year, it's got to compete with brand-new entries that, ultimately, are more capable and compelling. Unless your top priority is seat comfort, and fuel economy that's only slightly better than the Blazer and Passport, it's hard to recommend the Murano above its fresher competition.