Traditional sedans have been taking it on the chin as buyers opting for crossover SUVs in greater numbers. Spending a week in the Pacific Northwest behind the wheel of the 2016 Nissan Murano underscored many of the reasons why this shift is underway.

The Murano itself is somewhat of a tweener when it comes to SUVs. It offers midsize comfort, but unlike many of the vehicles in that segment, it has only 2-row seating instead of three. For that duty, Nissan has the Pathfinder. In terms of overall positioning, the Murano is more akin to a Ford Edge than Ford Explorer.

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Upscale flair

A quick walk around the 2016 Nissan Murano Platinum quickly reveals a major reason for its existence—style. This is a handsome vehicle with fluid lines, Nissan’s signature chrome V-motion grille giving it presence and a profile that is athletic and elegant at the same time. Think of it as a pumped up Maxima. That analogy also works when you slide behind the wheel. The interior features the same upscale features, soft touch materials, use of leather and comfortable seats that you find in the Japanese automaker’s flagship sedan. The only love/hate bit of the cabin is the white trim—these shiny wood-like surfaces are reminiscent of materials you’d see in a Japanese lacquer box. While it’s striking, there’s a question if the look will become quickly dated. But that’s more a matter of personal taste.

The bonus here is a high seating position for both driver and front seat passenger (my co-pilot has gone on record as saying the passenger side seat in our long-term Maxima is too low). This command of the road seating position is further enhanced by precise steering, a good balance between ride and handling and plenty of power from the 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 underhood. The Murano is quick on its feet and for the most part the CVT transmission operates unobtrusively, you are only aware of its presence under hard acceleration where you feel a bit of elasticity in the powertrain and a tendency to drone slightly at high revs.

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 Comfort and safety

Starting at $39,180, the Platinum model lacks virtually nothing. It has all sorts of goodies, from 20-inch wheels and LED headlamps to a huge panoramic power sunroof and a host of driver assists. Nissan’s all-around view camera makes parking and maneuvering the Murano in tight quarters a breeze, and the rearview camera, blind sport warnings and moving object detector are welcome sets of extra eyes in helping to avoid other vehicles as well as cyclists and pedestrians. Nissan also should also be lauded for its front collision warning—it’s loud enough to be noticed without inducing a panic attack.

We spent a lot of time behind the wheel, driving around the entire Olympic Peninsula and the heated/cooled Zero Gravity seats were comfortable and supportive and made long days in the saddle pass with ease. The comfort and convenience coupled with stunning looks is further evidence that the new generation of car-based crossover SUVs are here to stay.


 

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