The Sell: One of the biggest five-passenger SUVs is now more luxurious
The Test: The third-generation AWD Murano (Estimated: $29,560; 22 city/27 hwy) is clearly the best yet. It’s big, but it doesn’t drive that way. It’s 20 percent more efficient without losing power. It’s slick and serenely quiet inside. In every way, it’s more like a luxury crossover than the price would lead you to believe.
To make the fuel economy jump, Nissan cut 165 pounds of fat and greatly increased aerodynamics. Yes, it lowered the Murano a half-inch, but that also makes it more hush at interstate speeds. Nissan even added laminated glass on the windshield to deaden road noise. The cabin is design-focused, with deeply sculpted shapes to the dash and doors, all edged in a soft-brushed metallic. We especially dig the optional pearl trim that’s sharper than the staid choices of wood or metal, and knurled dials that are easy to adjust.
Nissan’s offering luxury-car options like LED headlamps, and a capacitive-touch display that pulses under your finger as you adjust settings, so you feel when a change has been made without needing to eyeball the screen.
Sizewise, this sucker’s huge inside. We loaded four tall passengers into our tester and nobody felt smushed. The cargo room (39.6 cubic feet) is ampler than in a Jeep Grand Cherokee, whether the rear seats are flipped down or left upright. That pays off when loading gear, too. The Murano’s cargo bay with five passengers in place is nearly as large as that of the Volvo V60—with its rear seats folded down.
Most compelling of all: even as the Murano has gained utility and style, it’s become easier and more fun to drive, with athletic steering, a responsive ride, and seamlessly integrated AWD.
What’s Missing? A transmission built for off-roading. The CVT can simulate lower gears, but you'd want something else for very steep fire roads.
The Verdict: Class meets utility without breaking the bank.