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Nissan Murano 2005 review

They often have a crack at sharpening up the style in their cars. However, the Land of the Rising Sun cannot often be credited with delivering the goods.

But the Murano works in the looks department - and has the performance and handling to match thanks to the variant of the 350Z powerplant under its hood.

Designed in Nissan's California-based studio, the Murano changes the face of the all-wheel-drive . . . in a positive way. The smooth lines and curves show a real French influence - it's very Renault in its looks - adding more class to a segment known mostly for its rough and rugged charm. One thing for sure, the Japanese are forward thinkers, producing concept cars ranging from Toyota's Pod which displays, with front bumper lighting, the mood of the driver, to the Honda WOW which caters for families with dogs. But in the Murano is a futuristic design which is not over the top - one that will age gracefully and keep this vehicle at the forefront of style in years to come.

Japan-based Mitsubishi designers must be chatting with those at Nissan, we think, given the futuristic design of the Thailand-built Triton dual-cab utility and the awesome muscle look of the Evo 10, which is some years off hitting Australian shores after its unveiling at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Akinori Nakanishi, in charge of global design for Mitsubishi and based at the car maker's Okazaki design and research centre, is proud of his work with the Triton - released in Australia early next year - and promises something "special" with a new Challenger four-wheel-drive in the near future.

Back to Nissan's Murano. Even though I'm more than won over by its exterior styling, I'm afraid Nissan has not got the goods in the Murano to back its claim that it is "as stylish inside as out".

It looks as though the designer's cash pot was already well and truly empty by the time they opened the doors of this well-sculpted vehicle to add the finishing touches.

The leather seats of the Ti Murano tested were quite respectable and having a rear seat release lever in the hatch compartment is handy, but anything forward of the front seats is less than impressive.

The digital watch I got for my fifth birthday was more impressive than the central trip and information meter and dash shelving - although probably practical - really detracts from a ride which promises so much style.

What lies under the hood of this all-wheel-drive does go a long way to making up for its poor interior design, however.

A 172kW V6 engine, a variant of the same engine that powers the 350Z, is mated to one of the smoothest transmissions around - the Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) plus all-wheel drive helps make Murano a sure-footed, all-weather performer.

It is an all-surface performer also, feeling almost as comfortable and confident on sweeping dirt tracks as it did on tarmac.

By selecting from a near-infinite number of ratios, Xtronic CVT keeps the engine in its most efficient range. The result is better fuel economy.

There is no jumping from gear to gear, no matter what the gradient of the road. Xtronic tailors the output to suit the incline to do away with shift shock. It also features a six-speed manual mode to let you shift. The race-bred lightweight 3.5-Litre 172kW V6 engine generates 318Nm of torque at 3600rpm. The multi-link independent suspension features an advanced rear suspension design with aluminium components for better reaction. A unique lateral link and control rod that helps keep the wheels perpendicular to the road to give you more tire-to-road contact.

The suspension setup certainly helps the Murano to hug the road and softens the bumps out dutifully. However, there is a bit of rock'n'roll which comes with it.

A seamless switching from all-wheel drive to front-wheel drive - therefore getting improved fuel economy - is a bonus, and all-wheel drive can be locked in at lower speeds at the press of a button.

Murano certainly has delivered hope that the style school is in session in Japan and there is at least some from the automotive industry attending. Here's hoping Nissan realises it's on to a good thing and polishes u this product with interior improvements.

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ST 3.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $6,813 – 8,368 2005 Nissan Murano 2005 ST Pricing and Specs
Ti 3.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $3,990 – 8,995 2005 Nissan Murano 2005 Ti Pricing and Specs
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