Nissan Murano Ti 2005 Review
But that's possibly as close as the Murano will ever get to venturing off the bitumen — and that's the way Nissan prefers it.
Built in Japan with the US market clearly at the forefront, the Murano — named after the island off Venice noted for stunning yet fragile glass art — comes with all the right gear to be a winner.
It enters the ring with some heavyweight and long-standing players in the competitive SUV market, but differs by being affordable, attractive and surprisingly economical.
Murano is built on a Nissan Maxima framework with all-wheel- drive and a different body.
That's not cheating, just common sense.
A Toyota Kluger is a Camry on the same philosophy, as is a BMW X5 that is built on the architecture of a 530i wagon.
The Murano gets a 3.5-litre V6 engine shared with the 350Z and Maxima. The suspension is shared around the group — a street-oriented MacPherson strut system up front and a multi-link independent design at the rear.
It is basically a front-wheel-drive wagon — like the Maxima — but gets power delivered to the rear wheels when the front wheels lose traction.
A smart driver will press a dashboard button to ensure all wheels are equally driven, preventing in theory a situation where the vehicle will be bogged.
A smarter Nissan-oriented driver will buy a Patrol, or a new Pathfinder 4WD.
The Murano isn't one for the bush. It would prefer to be just a front-drive wagon that seats four adults in plenty of room, five adults for shorter trips and luggage for all for a weekend.
The engine's lovely, but the transmission is to die for. Call me soppy and nostalgic, but a CVT box — that's continuously-variable transmission — offers a seamless roll out of ratios.
There is no bump between gearchanges because, rather illogically, there are no gearchanges within a CVT box.
It'll take the engine power and find its own ratio on a cone-shaped transmission that — I am told — is similar to that of a junior go-kart.
The result is 10.6 litres/100km fuel economy on a brisk two-day drive through the Mt Macedon region of Victoria. In city traffic, that fell to 13.8 litres/100km, but still pretty impressive for a five-seater, all-wheel-drive wagon.
Better perhaps is the Murano's $51,990 starting price.
This is a wagon that is very presentable on the road, has limited but sufficient off-road ability, excellent comfort, lots of room, and an appreciated list of features — all for a price that is $4000 above Nissan's own top-line Ti Maxima sedan.
Nissan Australia product manager Michael Hayes admits there's a small chance that Nissan buyers will pick the Murano over the Maxima. He expects the Murano, which is now on sale, to win a lot of luxury SUV buyers from the European segment.
He bases this prediction on the tremendous success of the Murano in the US, where it has been on sale for two years and, by July this year, had sold 327,000 units.
More modest results are expected in Australia, with monthly sales of 300 forecast. While more are possible, Mr Hayes says supply will be a major problem.
On the road the Murano is a welcoming wagon with a host of hidden attributes.
The dashboard is dominated by a stand-alone binnacle, behind which is a wide dash-top parcel shelf.
The impression of cabin space comes from the big, curved windscreen and deep side glass.
The bulbous rear of the Murano is formed from a plastic hatch with a steel frame — saving space and solving stamping problems with steel sheet — and inside is an excellent cargo area.
You can open the hatch and flick the rear seats flat using levers hidden in the vehicle's C-pillars.
But the spare tyre is a space-saver, unnecessary given the available room under the floor for a full-size spare. This diminishes the exploration — on and off-road — potential of the Murano.
It has comfortable seats borrowed from the Maxima, and the dashboard is neat and simple with good-quality equipment.
The foot-operated park brake replaces a more traditional hand unit in the centre console. I hate foot brakes, but given the expanse of storage space within the centre console, I may make this an exception.
Standard in the base model are six airbags, ABS brakes, a trip computer, 18-inch alloy wheels, a Bose sound system, an electric driver's seat, stability control and traction control, xenon headlights and roadside assist for its three-year warranty.
The Ti model costs $56,990 and adds leather upholstery with heating for the front seats, and an electric sunroof.
When you get into a car, you know if it will work or if it will fall flat on its face — and this one is a winner.
It's affordable, surprisingly economical, looks great and is smooth and quiet on the road. Nissan will do very, very well with this one.
Range and Specs
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