If you’re a regular reader and had a chance to catch our look at the freshened Nissan Maxima this month, you’ll know ours was a rather tepid take on a Nissan product with a long – and mostly noteworthy – history. While remaining a big fan of the conventional sedan, especially when ‘sport’ is part of that descriptive, there seem to be better choices in the 4-door universe – a couple of which are from Nissan itself – if investing between $35K and $40,000. Take that same V6 drivetrain, however, add available all-wheel drive to a more upright 5-door crossover, change ‘Maxima’ to ‘Murano’, and in this viewer’s view you have a far more compelling argument for your $40 Large. And it’s on the very same showroom!
While the Murano hasn’t enjoyed the same generational history as its Maxima counterpart, it has been no less successful in resonating with consumers. With a V6, available all-wheel drive and attractive – albeit restrained – sheetmetal, the Murano has never attempted to be something it’s not. There’s never a nod to boulder-hopping adventure, nor does it pay homage to trackday heroism. It is, instead, a practical, upright 5-door with tidy proportions, decent visibility and an urban/suburban duality that works beautifully in, well, urban/suburban environs.
For ’19, Nissan’s Murano receives a ‘freshened’ exterior design, which includes a ‘bold’ front fascia with standard LED headlamps. In combination with the wave effect on the side surfaces, the newest Murano certainly doesn’t lack for drama, but it’s a more reserved confection than that served by other carmakers, including Toyota, Lexus and – to a lesser extent – recent Hondas. It is a shape that is seemingly color sensitive, and while it’s all subjective, I like it better in the greys and blacks than the dark metallic blue of our press Murano.
Inside of our Platinum trim, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to Maserati. While not sure the diamond-quilted seat inserts are what we’d spec for the trailhead, they sure look nice when it gets close to tee (or tea) time. Beyond the diamond quilting is the semi-aniline leather appointments, which combine super soft with adequately supportive. Within the context of Nissan badging, the design and materials may not be first class, but make a valid argument for business class. And while there’s no option for a third row in the Murano, we’re talking empty nester. There’s plenty of room for the second couple, or – if needed for a weekend – three grandkids.
Under the hood, and in contrast to some of its near-luxury competition (Infiniti’s QX50, Lexus NX 300) with turbocharged fours, the Murano utilizes Nissan’s venerable 3.5 liter V6, developing 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Within the platform’s two tons, responsiveness is good, and the Murano’s CVT – for reasons not yet fathomed by your correspondent – seems better here than it did in the Maxima; perhaps we simply come to a sport sedan like the Maxima with different expectations. And while April didn’t provide much of a test of the Murano’s all-wheel drive, we have no reason to believe it would disappoint when confronted by less-than-ideal weather.
If you like the more-or-less traditional packaging provided by the Murano, but hesitate budgeting the $46K required of our Platinum all-wheel drive model, know you can sneak into the Murano S at just $32K; even with all-wheel drive, a transaction price of under $35K should be feasible. That’s a lot of bang for the modest buck, with levels of refinement that simply don’t seem present in the more modest, compact nameplates. And even if thinking the near-luxury OEMs, like Infiniti, Lexus and BMW’s X3, there’s something reassuring about the unassuming way in which the Murano goes about its business. In short, we’d put it on our short list – and hope to keep the investment/trim level under $40K.