The 2019 Nissan Murano Platinum is as close to a mid-size luxury crossover as you can get without a luxury nameplate.
SUVs may have started out as boxy, utilitarian vehicles, but along the way many consumers clamoured for a dose of style to go with the ruggedness.
Crossovers — SUVs with more curvaceous bodies — have been the answer, with the Murano one of the earliest examples of the breed.
Introduced in 2003, the Murano was a breath of fresh air among the boxy Nissan Pathfinders and Toyota Highlanders of the day. A true international child, the vehicle was designed by Nissan’s design team in California and gets it name from an Italian city famous for its art glass.
This is the third generation of the mid-sized five-passenger vehicle, with the 2019 receiving a mid-cycle refresh to keep up with the competition.
It is the middle child in Nissan’s six SUV/crossover fleet, larger than the Kicks, Qashqai and Rogue, but smaller than the Pathfinder and Armada.
There are four trim models, starting with the S at $32,898. My tester was the Platinum, with a list price of $46,398.
Regardless of the trim, all Muranos are powered by a trusty 3.5-litre V-6 producing 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque.
The base S is the only model offering front-wheel drive — all the others are equipped with an all-wheel-drive system (the most popular choice in Canada).
Power is delivered to the wheels on all models via a continuously variable transmission.
If you have been shopping in the near-luxury category, you will probably encounter a number of turbocharged four-cylinder engines. Manufacturers have embraced turbo fours because they can give more power than a V-6, as well as better fuel economy.
But if you are a traditionalist, you will fall in love with the V-6 in the Murano. Unlike the turbocharged engines, the V-6 delivers peppy performance without turbo lag when you bury your right foot to the carpet.
It doesn’t feel particularly fast, but if you glance down at the speedometer, you might get a pleasant surprise (or unpleasant, if the reason for the glance coincides with the appearance of flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror).
Despite the power, Nissan only recommends you tow up to 680 kilograms (1,500 lbs.), which pales to the 1,588-kg limit of the Mazda CX-7.
When driven with less urgency, the powertrain is almost silent. While serenity is expected of a luxury car, such a level of quietness is unexpected — and appreciated.
You can flog the Murano on back roads, but the experience isn’t one that makes you go back for more. The suspension is more tuned for comfort, smoothing out the roughest, meanest potholes. The light steering is likewise a welcome companion on the highway and lacking in talk-back on twisty roads.
But all gripes about the Murano’s powertrain vanish when you open the door and get your first impression of the cabin.
The badge on the grille might say Nissan, but you will think that you are gazing at an interior of an Infiniti or similar luxury car.
Soft, diamond-quilted semi-aniline leather seats are framed with a tasteful combination of wood, chrome and brushed aluminum.
There is a warmth to the cabin, which features soft, flowing lines and impeccable fit and finish. This is the go-to vehicle if you are not a fan of high-tech interiors with nary a control in sight. The Murano is more in the old-school segment, with analog displays, buttons and knobs.
One major disappointment is the lack of a wireless charging port, a must-have at this price range. There is, however, a convenient slot on the centre console for you to fit your cell phone, keys and other knick-knacks (I know most people use the cupholders instead).
All Muranos come with an eight-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. By the time you reach the Platinum trim, you will get nice features such as a panoramic sunroof, remote start, around-view monitoring, 20-inch wheels and a Bose audio system, as well as heated and cooled front seats.
Its safety suite deserves mention. Even the base model gets intelligent emergency braking and forward collision warning. The upper models take it a step further, with emergency braking with pedestrian detection and rear emergency braking.
Along with a back-up camera, certain models also come with a rear cross-traffic warning and moving object detection (works up to 8 km/h). This last feature is meant for small children or pets that move into the path of a backing-up vehicle.
If you are travelling with family, you might have to pack lightly, as the cargo volume is on the small size — 880 litres with the rear seat up and 1,840 down (you can thank the sloping roof and hatch, since a vehicle with a square exterior design always holds more).
But that’s the compromise when it comes to the Murano. It isn’t the fastest, the most modern, the most rugged or the most utilitarian mid-sized crossover. It is, instead, a smooth and comfortable vehicle that comes with a large dollop of luxury and style — and thousands of dollars less than a luxury nameplate. Which would you park in your driveway?
THE SPEC SHEET
Type: Mid-sized crossover, front-engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6, 260 hp at 6,000 r.p.m., 240 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 r.p.m.
Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,897; width, 1,916; height, 1,722; wheelbase, 2,825
Curb weight (kg): 1,873
Price (base/as tested): $32,898/$48,613 (includes $1,815 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)
Options: Metallic paint $300 Platinum model $46,398
Tires: 235/55 R20 on alloy wheels
Fuel type: Regular
Fuel economy (L/100km): 8.5 highway/ 11.7 city
Warranty: Three years/60,000 km new car, five years/100,000 km powertrain and three years roadside assistance program