Four-wheel drives look great bashing through the bush, but they're not so attractive cruising our city streets, as most do. When that reality struck home at car central the boffins hit on the idea of prettying up their box-like creations to make them more appealing to city slickers.
Cars like the Nissan Murano were the result; cars with decent four-wheel drive systems that didn't look out of place in town.
The Murano comfortably slotted into the crossover scene alongside cars like the Toyota Kluger, Holden Adventra and Ford Territory, but took the concept to a higher level.
It looked even less like a clunky four-wheel drive than any of its rivals, with a slinky, wraparound shape that clearly set it apart.
Housed within the swept back sheetmetal was the same sweet 3.5-litre V6 that powered many Nissan models, most notably the 350Z sports car.
In the Murano it boasted 172 kW at 6000 rpm and 318 Nm at 3600 rpm.
The smooth revving V6 is a revelation after some of the clunky old nails that lurk under the bonnets of some of the Nissan's rivals. Backing up to the V6 was a CVT continuously variable belt-drive transmission that offered variable drive without the usual steps of a fixed ratio transmission, but at the same time it had a manual shift option that mimicked a six-speed for a more normal drive feel. Final drive was through all four wheels using a version of Nissan's intelligent All Mode 4x4 system as used on the Pathfinder.
The system has two settings, Auto and Lock, the former a set and forget deal that operates as a front-wheel drive for most of the time, but when sensors find wheel slippage drive is sent to the rear axle as needed.
In Lock the system is permanently locked in four-wheel drive mode to handle more demanding conditions.
The ride is smooth courtesy of independent suspension all round, ABS controls disc brakes at each corner and the steering is power-assisted. Rear vision is limited by the curvy shape and drivers have to be cautious when changing lanes or reversing.
IN THE SHOP
Carsguide has received no complaints about the Murano, which suggests owners are a contended lot.
Nissan service agent Jerry Newman is so impressed by them that he drives one himself. He also services a number of Muranos and says they are very reliable and don't have any issues worth reporting. Regular servicing is crucial and it's important to check potential purchases for a service record before buying.
IN A CRASH
ANCAP hasn't tested the Murano, but with a comprehensive array of safety gear, including ABS brakes EBD electronic brake distribution, BA emergency brake assistance, head, side and curtain airbags, plus electronic stability control it would be expected to achieve a high star rating if tested.
AT THE PUMP
The official fuel consumption for the Murano was 12.3 L/100 km, which would seem a relatively accurate guide given that Carsguide road tester was able to get 12.7 L/100 km in road test conditions. Nissan recommended PULP for the Murano, but have approved it for E10.
RAY BOUGHT ONE
Ray Williams is very happy with the ride, comfort and fuel consumption of his Murano Ti, but is concerned about an intermittent vibration at the bottom of the windscreen that the dealer has not been able to fix, and a weep from the transfer case which appears to be a common complaint.
"I am concerned the transfer case weep could become a major and expensive issue after the warranty runs out."
NISSAN MURANO - 2005-2008
Price when new: $51,990 to $60,490
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol; 172 kW/318 Nm
Transmission: CVT, all-wheel drive
Economy: 12.3 L/100 km
Body: 5-door wagon
Variants: ST, Ti, Ti-L
Expect to Pay: $20,000 to $31,500 for the ST; $22,000 to $36,000 for the Ti; $26,000 to $38,000 for the Ti-L
Good looking, well equipped wagon with a great engine.
BMW X5 - 2005-2008
Has stacks of showroom appeal, and drives and performs well, but can be expensive as reliability issues surface over the long term. Think twice about buying cars that have done more than 150,000 km.
FORD TERRITORY AWD - 2005-2008 Great concept from Ford with proven mechanical package, but can be let down by mechanical maladies. Avoid early examples with front suspension, driveline and diff mounting issues.
TOYOTA KLUGER - 2005-2008
Good all-rounder with town manners and reasonable offroad capability, and Toyota build quality. Hard to beat.
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