By KBB.com Editors
Nissan's Murano crossover SUV has always been a step ahead of the competition. It was the first such vehicle to offer a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is a more efficient transmission that maximizes both power and fuel economy. The Murano also remains ahead of many rivals in the area of high-tech electronics, and increasingly important factor in many consumer's final purchasing decision. Of course, newer competitors like the Ford Edge, Mazda CX-7 and Kia Sorento now offer many of the same features, but the Murano's edgy styling, performance oriented suspension and Infiniti-like luxury interior place it in a league of its own.You'll Like This Car If... You May Not Like This Car If...
If you need three-row seating, the Murano shouldn't be on your shopping list. Those looking for a low entry price or a four-cylinder engine would be better off looking at the Kia Sorento or Mazda CX-7.What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Murano gains a new trim, the SV, along with revised front and rear fascias, new tail lamps, new 18-inch wheels and an upgraded 11-speaker Bose audio system (up from eight speakers).Driving It Driving Impressions
On the road, the 2011 Nissan Murano's torque-laden V6 engine made driving uphill seem nearly effortless, and the CVT transmission kept the vehicle at the correct RPM for the incline's duration. Rear seat passengers complained that, compared to their time up front, the ride seemed less comfortable. It was later agreed by all that the chief culprit responsible for their discomfort was the Murano's stiff suspension. There is ample head and leg room, more so than in the Mazda CX-7, and the reclining rear seatbacks make for a more comfortable seating position. Our staff reported the Murano's interior felt downright lavish with its leather-clad seats, heated steering wheel and awesome Bose audio, so much so that it was hard to remember that we were in a Nissan rather than an Infiniti. The available iPod adapter interface proved easy to use when scrolling through the menus and songs, but less helpful when looking for specific artists that appear alphabetically on the bottom of the list.Favorite Features
Power Return Rear Seats
No need to wrestle with the rear seats in order to get them back into the upright position; the available power-return rear seatbacks go up with the push of a button.
Auxiliary input jacks are decent for listening to iPods, but the Nissan Murano also has an adapter that makes controlling your iPod through the factory radio easy, enabling you to keep your eyes on the road more when skipping between artists or songs.
Even the base S trim sports an interior so rich and inviting you'd swear you were looking at a more expensive model. Nissan's "mobile suite" interior theme plays out with supportive seating, rich looking materials and a handsome dash design. All the gauges and switchgear are logically laid out and easy to see day or night. Steering wheel controls for the audio, cruise and available Bluetooth mean the driver rarely has to remove his hands from the wheel, and the available voice-activated navigation system makes it even easier to drive while safely operating complex systems. Passengers can enjoy a number of upscale luxuries including heated rear seats and a DVD entertainment system with two LCD screen mounted behind the front seat head restraints.Exterior
The 2011 Nissan Murano retains its distinctive shape, highlighted by a slowing rising beltline that makes a dramatic upturn once passed the rear door. Other distinctive styling elements include a sharply angled nose and prominent chrome grille and enormous 18- and 20-inch alloy wheels. The Murano's 7.3-inches of ground clearance is near the bottom of the competitor set, but it does permit for a comfortable step-in and loading height, and still allows the Murano to navigate over most road hazards. LE trims feature quad-cylinder type HID bi-xenon headlamps, while all but the S trim have standard fog lights.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2011 Nissan Murano S features a 3.5-liter V6 engine, Xtronic CVT automatic transmission, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-disc MP3 compatible CD changer, auxiliary audio input jack, Intelligent Key with push button starter, driver's seat lumbar support and a 60/40 split folding rear seat with cargo area-accessible releases. To this the SV adds a dual panel moonroof, power front seats, auto on/off headlamps, steering wheel mounted audio controls, USB port for iPod, and Bluetooth. The SL trim brings leather seating, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, memory for the driver's seat, a power liftgate, 11-speaker Bose audio and rain-sensing wipers. The LE adds HID head lamps, 20-inch wheels, heated rear seats and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Standard safety features on all Muranos include Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with traction control, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), and six airbags (front, front side and side curtain).Notable Optional Equipment
Most options are bundled according to trim, so if you want rain-sensing wipers, for example, you'll have to order the SL or LE trims. The Navigation Package, available only on SL and LE, brings Nissan's hard-drive navigation with seven-inch touch screen monitor, XM NavTraffic and NavWeather, Bluetooth streaming audio and a 9.3 GB music box hard drive storage system. Some stand-alone options include a rear seat DVD entertainment system, mud guards, retractable cargo cover, illuminated kick plates, rear bumper protector and roof rail cross bars.Under the Hood
The 2011 Nissan Murano offers only one engine: a 3.5-liter V6 with Continuous Valve Timing Control and Nissan Variable Induction Control. This strong performer is linked to Nissan's newest Xtronic CVT transmission, which provides even power distribution whenever it's needed and contributes to the Murano's impressive 3,500-pound tow rating.
260 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
240 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/23
The 2011 Nissan Murano S has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just north of $29,000; nearly $31,000 with all-wheel drive. The SV runs between $33,000 and $34,500, the SL between $36,500 and $37,850 and a fully-loaded AWD LE with navigation tops out around $44,000. Real world transaction prices may vary greatly, so be sure to check Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price before heading to the dealership. As for resale, we expect the Murano to hold excellent five-year residual values, better than the Mazda CX-7, Jeep Grand Cherokee and inline with the Ford Edge and Toyota Highlander.