Buying Used: 2015-2020 Nissan Murano
Typical Used Prices: 2015 - $21,000; 2019 - $31,500
In addition to the stethoscope, mayonnaise and the catalytic converter, France’s inventors are also responsible for the French curve, a template tool used in manual drafting and fashion design to draw consistent curves of varying radii.
It’s not farfetched to suggest that the French automaker Renault introduced Nissan’s stylists to the French curve after the strategic alignment of the two companies in 1999. Patrick le Quément, Renault’s design chief, chaired the conglomerate’s joint design policy group and made sure some Gallic flair was infused into Nissan’s staid automobile designs.
Case in point is the Murano, Nissan’s first crossover SUV. Daring swoops, a steeply raked windshield and upswept D-pillars coalesced to give the 2003 Murano some curbside appeal, making it instantly discernible from the Maytag-inspired Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.
When it came time to restyle the Murano for 2009, product planners decided the second-generation model’s design ought to be evolutionary. Unfortunately, the finished product was a little underwhelming. Returning to the drawing board, designers pledged to do better next time.
With its expressive sci-fi design, the mid-size 2015 Murano is styled to stand out in a world teeming with crossovers and SUVs. Sharing its drivetrain and chassis components with the V6-powered Maxima sedan, it has enough car DNA to make it a decent driving machine while delivering all the SUV traits consumers expect.
In fact, a lot of the oily bits underneath were carried over from the previous Murano, before designers ladled on the style elements, though maybe a little too thickly. The bulbous hood and thick rear roof pillars were criticized by some for limiting the driver’s view outside, making blind-spot camera monitoring and cross-traffic alerts virtual necessities.
“There is a lot of glare that makes it hard to see out of front windshield on sunny days. The way the hood bulges in areas makes it hard to see,” one Murano pilot grumbled online.
At least owners were treated to an award-winning cabin, according to Ward’s 10 Best Interiors judges. While the third-gen Murano rode on an unchanged wheelbase, overall length grew by seven centimetres and it was cast wider, yielding more interior space. By resisting the temptation to cram in three rows of seating, Nissan bestowed plenty of stretch-out room, swaddled in high-quality materials that are soft to the touch. Acoustic laminated glass and copious sound deadening contribute to a serene cabin.
We have to single out Nissan’s NASA-inspired “Zero Gravity” seats. Their unique shape and patented structure is designed with 14 pressure points to put occupants in a neutral position and provide continuous support from the hips to the shoulders. The ergonomic design helps to maximize blood flow and keep energy levels up. Enthusiastic owners confirm the seats deliver on their high-tech promise. They make for a major point of distinction in a crowded segment.
Under the Murano’s sculpted hood lies a venerable engine: Nissan’s VQ-series 3.5-L V6, which continues to make 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque – admirable numbers back in 2003, but merely adequate today. The engine drives the front or all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s been updated with a manual shift mode that emulates a conventional automatic. Curiously, there’s no longer a locking mode for the all-wheel-drive system, signalling its predilection for mall cruising.
All 2018 models added forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking technology as standard issue – optional aids, including blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree parking camera system and a drowsy driver warning, were introduced with the 2015 redesign.
The Murano received a minor refresh for 2019, which included a restyled front fascia with LED headlights, new alloy wheels and more standard (and optional) active and passive safety features. Nissan’s suite of advanced safety aids, dubbed Safety Shield 360, was made standard on the SV trim and above in 2020.
With one lone drivetrain available to buyers since the Murano debuted in mid-2002, the aging all-aluminum V6 has remained unchanged while the CVT transmission has gone through a number of iterations to optimize performance, efficiency and reliability.
Zero to 97 km/h comes up in 7.3 seconds, an acceleration time considered average for the segment. Floor the gas pedal and the CVT draws heavily on the engine and holds the revs, resulting in a loud, droning noise passengers will notice. Fortunately, the cacophony fades into the background during highway cruising and the cabin is almost as quiet as a campus library during spring break.
With the suspension tuned for comfort rather than speed, it can dampen even the harshest of potholes to deliver a smooth ride. The steering maintains good highway stability, but feels dull and uncommunicative on snaky two-lane country roads. Despite the CVT’s panache for seeking out the most efficient gear ratios, owners find the fuel economy disappointing in town.
“I have had my 2017.5 Murano for about three weeks now and I am getting 16.5 litres/100 km in the city,” one driver posted online. “This is a major problem.”
The Murano is an extraverted ute for people and quite possibly families that place a priority on style ahead of practicality. Owners adore the upscale, spacious interior for five, the incredibly comfy seats, pleasant ride and decent V6 power. Downsides include visibility issues, a smallish cargo area and a squishy ride that belies the Murano’s sporty profile.
Nissan’s Jatco subsidiary, responsible for making the CVTs found in numerous products beyond the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, has a spotty reputation for quality. CVTs installed in Nissan Sentras and Altimas have been failing in significant numbers both in and out of warranty. Fortunately, Murano owners have not experienced many failures, though there are enough examples to remind used buyers to be vigilant and note any shudders, hesitation or vibrations in the drivetrain.
A more commonplace issue involves the Murano’s automatic emergency braking system, which uses radar to detect an imminent forward collision with an object or pedestrians. Allegedly, the system may activate the brakes while driving through intersections, bridges, railroad tracks and other road conditions, potentially creating a collision hazard on its own. More often, the system may falsely forewarn the driver of a collision threat.
“Forward collision system keeps malfunctioning. Shows a warning ‘front radar unavailable due to obstruction’ message. Nothing in front of it. Turns on and off while driving. Was told it’s $1,200 to repair from dealer,” notes one Murano owner online. There’s a U.S. class action lawsuit underway that involves several Nissan 2017-2019 models equipped with the technology.
Other reported malfunctions include audio and navigation systems that may malfunction or lose connectivity briefly, intermittent power-steering failures, a few broken engine mounts and prematurely worn tires. Nissan has been cited by owners for its fragile sunroofs that can spontaneously shatter while at speed – a known manufacturing defect.
Overall, the Murano represents a creative entry in the mid-size SUV category that manages to bring a lot of styling flair and advanced features without the luxury badge or pricing. Its VQ engine is growing old, but it’s a proven workhorse. The CVT transmission has benefited from continuous updates to make it a reliable companion for the most part.
2015-2020 Nissan Murano
BODY STYLE: Five-passenger crossover SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive, continuously variable automatic transmission
ENGINE: 3.5-L V6 (260 hp, 240 lb-ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 11.7/8.3/10.2 L/100 km city/highway/combined
CARGO VOLUME: 908 litres (32.1 cu ft)
TOW RATING: 1,500 lbs. (680 kg)
PRICE: $21,000 (2015); $31,500 (2019)