2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD

2018 Nissan Murano Platinum AWD

Needing a roomy back seat and the convenience of large cargo compartment accessed by a handy rear liftback? Not willing to put up with a boring, run-of-the-mill mid-size crossover SUV? Nissan has the answer.

The Murano has long offered a lot more style than its class average, which works perfectly considering how well it balances premium levels of execution with mainstream branded value. While positioned below the Pathfinder when it comes to family hauling and cargo loading capability, the five-seat Murano delivers at a higher level when factoring in styling, refinement and performance.

In fact, the Murano bests plenty of its mid-size rivals when it comes to wow factor, both by its eye-catching design from the outside in, and by its impressive interior materials quality that makes it look and feel more like a luxury branded crossover SUV than it truly has a right to.

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Every time I slide inside a Murano I’m reminded how car companies should do interiors. Truly, this Platinum trimmed version is finished better than some luxury brands’ offerings. Small but much appreciated details include fabric-wrapped and padded A-pillars, padded soft-touch leatherette door uppers front to back, the same rich leather-like synthetic across the front portion of those door panels and the armrests, which are French-stitched as well. The instrument cluster hood and section ahead of the front passenger is finished similarly, which perfectly matches the stitched and padded steering wheel rim, plus the side edges of the lower console.

Of course the entire dash-top is soft to the touch too, while Nissan applies some wonderfully artistic mother of pearl-style inlays to the instrument panel and door panels, not to mention the lower console surfacing and center armrest decoration. Granted, this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I’m guessing those who like it love it. Of note to most male readers, Nissan offers a new Murano Midnight Edition that might suit your sporting performance aspirations more thanks to a cool black grille, black side mirror caps, dark alloy wheels, roof rails, and a more down to business interior, while there are also more conservative interior motifs in between. Either way, this detail, along with all of the chrome, satin-silver and piano black lacquer accents, provides a true sense of occasion that sets this mid-size crossover SUV apart from the masses, while making all of its occupants feel special.

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As noted, my tester was in top-line Platinum trim, which is priced at $42,230, so there were more attributes making its occupants feel pampered than just the style and quality of finishings. Standard Murano Platinum features include unique 20-inch machine-finished alloy wheels, LED headlamps, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, memory settings for the latter as well as the eight-way powered driver’s seat and side mirrors, ventilated front seats, a powered panoramic sunroof, power return rear seatbacks, and more.

Other features you can see in the photos get pulled up from lesser $30,800 base S, $34,100 SV and $38,500 SL trims, such as my tester’s heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, perforated leather upholstery, heated front and rear outboard seats, adjustable ambient lighting, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, remote start with Intelligent Climate Control, dual-zone automatic HVAC, electroluminescent gauge cluster, large 7.0-inch full-color TFT multi-information display, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, upgraded Around View parking monitor, navigation, great sounding 11-speaker Bose audio system, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton start, motion activated powered liftgate, adaptive cruise control, predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking, blindspot warning, rear cross traffic alert with moving object detection, automatic on/off headlights, fog lamps, and much more.

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Nissan’s Intelligent all-wheel drive is a $1,600 option across the entire line, and it’s an excellent system that not only improves traction in slippery situations, but also provides handling advantages in the dry, and thanks to its standard 3.5-liter V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque the Murano really benefits from the extra stability AWD provides while traveling at high speeds.

Key to Murano performance is a nicely sorted fully independent suspension, the crossover SUV’s capability around curves a strongpoint since this model first came on the scene back in 2002. Likewise, that model was one of the first SUVs I can remember with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and while Nissan has steadily improved its Xtronic gearbox over the past decade and a half it’s always been a cut above the rest. In fact, thanks to an immediate punch off the line and smoothly stepped gear ratios I think you’ll be hard pressed to notice it’s a CVT at all, yet it still benefits from better fuel economy than a regular automatic transmission, the Murano rated at 21 mpg city, 28 highway and 24 combined in both FWD and AWD.

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I’ve got to say Murano ride quality is particularly impressive, made even better thanks to the incredibly comfortable NASA-inspired “zero gravity” seats. The Murano is spacious too, especially from side-to-side, making those seats ideal for larger folk. The only complaint I can think of is two-way lumbar adjustment instead of four, but such is the same for some similarly sized premium-branded SUVs, so we can overlook this faux pas.

The rear seats are sizable too. With the driver’s seat positioned for my five-foot-eight frame I had about 10 inches remaining ahead of my knees when seated in back, and almost enough space on the floor to stretch out my legs. My feet went underneath the front seat nicely too, even when wearing winter boots, while I also had about four inches above my head and about five next to my shoulder and hip. Additionally, a tug on a mesh loop lets you recline the rear seatbacks for greater comfort, while Nissan provides a decent sized folding center armrest as well, complete with two integrated cupholders. If you need to transport three abreast it won’t be a problem either, just flip that armrest up and your rear passengers can enjoy this SUV’s generous width.

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The cargo compartment is roomy for the class too, and nicely finished with carpeting on the floor, seatbacks and sidewalls, its attention to detail once again unusually impressive for the mainstream sector. What’s more, levers on each cargo wall automatically fold the rear seatbacks flat when pulled, while a button powers them back up again. I like this system better than fully powered seats, because they hardly take any time at all to fold flat.

Features like these make the Murano easy to live with, while its updated electronics and beautifully designed and finished interior keep it modern and inviting. The driving experience continues to be a high point, ideally combining comfort and control into a highly substantive SUV that rises above most of its peers, the Murano coming across as extremely well made and solid feeling. I can easily recommend the Murano to anyone in the mid-size five-person SUV market.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press

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