2019 Nissan Murano

Do you really need a luxury nameplate to get a luxury vehicle? It appears not …

From its 2003-model-year beginnings, the five-passenger Nissan Murano has appealed as much to buyers’ hearts as it has to their heads. Both intangible qualities continued with the tall wagon’s last major overall for 2015 and, four years later, have been amplified to a slightly greater degree.

Fortunately for Murano followers, Nissan didn’t mess too much with the basic design. The automaker’s trademark V-Motion grille is more pronounced, as are the boomerang headlights. The pods for the optional fog light have been redesigned and new 18- and 20-inch wheels (depending on the trim level) have been installed. The revised look adds a greater degree of separation from the more conservatively shaped seven-passenger Nissan Pathfinder and the smaller five-passenger Rogue.

Left unaltered is the Murano’s crisply formed sheetmetal that extends along the door panels. The fin-like hitch above the rear fenders also remains. It’s a design cue that other automakers have since begun to copy. For proof, check out the GMC Terrain and the Lexus RX.

Likewise, the roomy passenger compartment is mostly untouched, but the materials and trim pieces are upgraded for a richer appearance and feel. Those aboard are treated to accommodations that qualify as sumptuous, especially when the Murano is optioned with leather seat coverings (climate-controlled in front) and the Bose audio system.

The clean, clutter-free dashboard remains user friendly, and the standard 20-centimetre touchscreen is integrated within the control panel instead of being perched on top as it is with other utility vehicles.

Many of those competitors have also traded their six-cylinder engines for turbocharged four-cylinders, but not the Murano, at least not yet. Returning for 2019 is a non-turbo 3.5-litre V-6 rated at 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. The powerplant delivers a healthy kick from at launch and the low rumble emanating from the exhaust is a reminder that there’s plenty of punch to propel the 1,820-kilogram Murano.

On the down side, the tow rating maxes out at 680 kilograms, which is far less than many competing utility vehicles.

Bolted to the 3.5 is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Murano was an early adopter of the technology and the current version with built-in steps mimics the characteristics of an actual multi-gear automatic. It’s only when pushed hard that you’ll notice the rubber-band-acceleration sensation of the CVT. Why even bother with a CVT, then? They’re claimed to improve fuel economy. There are no steering-column-mounted paddles, but the floor shifter can be used to manually control the faux ratios.

Fuel economy is rated at 11.7 l/100 km in city and 8.3 on the highway.

The Murano’s all-wheel-drive system — standard on all but the base S trim — is certainly effective in slippery conditions. It also reduces the natural tendency of the vehicle to continue in a straight line when turning (called understeer).

At a starting price of $34,100 (including destination charges), the price-leader Murano S comes with the usual assortment of basic content plus dual-zone climate control, emergency braking and heated front seats. A drowsy-driver alert is standard as is a rear-door alert that warns if traffic is approaching from behind when the rear passengers are attempting to exit.

At the top of the trim spectrum, the $47,800 Platinum is loaded with diamond-quilted leather seats (heated in front), dual glass roof panels and a 360-degree around-view monitor. It’s also fitted with virtually every active-safety technology that Nissan offers, including traffic-sign recognition, lane-departure warning and intervention, and a system that automatically applies the brakes if a person, vehicle or object is in your way when backing up.

Ultimately, though, it’s the stylish appearance and exemplary comfort and road manners that have been the key selling points from the Murano’s earliest beginnings.

What you should know: 2019 Nissan Murano

Type: Four-door, front- /all-wheel-drive midsize utility vehicle

Engine: (h.p.): 3.5-litre DOHC V-6 (260)

Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT)

Market position: Luxury brands are going down market with their utility offers, while companies such as Nissan appear to be going up. The Murano offers an entry-luxury experience without a matching sticker price.

Points: Mild makeover improves on an already first-rate design. • Interior appointments have also improved in style and content. • Standard V-6 performance is average in class, but it is relatively easy on gas. • Wide range of standard and available active-safety tech. • A solid performer in most weather conditions and over a range of road surfaces.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (std.); drowsy driver alert (opt.)

L/100 km (city/hwy) 8.3/11.7; Base price (incl. destination) $34,100

BY COMPARISON

Chevrolet Blazer

Base price: $37,100

New 2019 vehicle revives a name from the past in a modern package.

Jeep Grand Cherokee AWD

Base price: $40,500

Popular utility available with a gasoline or turbo-diesel V-6, even a 707-h.p. V-8.

Honda Passport AWD

Base price: $44,000

Newly revived brand is based on the larger Pilot. Both use the same V-6.

-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media.

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The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has a number of steps to simulate the driving characteristics of a conventional automatic transmission with separate gear ratios. Although a CVT doesn’t need shifting, per se, the Murano has a manual mode that works via the shifter. PHOTO: NISSAN

The Platinum trim level is highlighted by the quilted-leather seat covers. Not seen here is the dual-panel moonroof and the crash-preventing/mitigating active-safety technology standard with this model. PHOTO: NISSAN

Regardless of trim level, the inside of the Murano is a pretty cushy place. Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control and a 20-centimetre display. PHOTO: NISSAN

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