Nissan delivered real game-changer when it introduced the original Murano back in late 2002, the midsize crossover breaking with the styling trends of the day that made most CUVs look like traditional, truck-based sport-utility vehicles.
The Japanese maker is back with an all-new Murano which will reach showrooms later this year, and the challenge was to come up with something that pushed the envelope even further. The maker will get a sense of how well it succeeded when the third-generation CUV makes its official debut at the New York Auto Show this week.
As with a number of other recent Nissan products, the 2015 Murano began life in show car form – the design signaled through the recent Nissan Resonance show car.
“At Nissan, we create concept vehicles with an eye toward production, rather than just for entertaining auto show audiences,” said Andy Palmer, chief planning officer and executive vice president at Nissan Motor Co. “Likely few people who saw Resonance in its North American International Auto Show debut imagined that we could build such a futuristic design. But here it is, ready to hit Nissan showrooms less than 24 months later.”
Like the original, 2003 model, the 2015 Nissan Murano didn’t settle for me-too, truck-like styling. As before, a key goal was to avoid “the heaviness and chunkiness of the traditional sport-utility vehicle,” explained Nissan’s chief designer, Shiro Nakamura.
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There’s a familiarity to the design, even though virtually every detail has changed, starting with the new grille and headlamps which flow into a more sculpted hood, roof and body sides, the 2015 remake getting a more solid and planted feel thanks to more pronounced wheel arches. The roof itself appears to almost float freely above the passenger compartment’s so-called “greenhouse.” Both the headlamps and boomerang-style taillights were strongly influenced by the Nissan 370Z sports car.
The overall effect is both sportier, more elegant – and more expensive, at least in appearance. And there are plenty of new features and details that help move the new 2015 Murano up-market.
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That’s signaled through the use of more premium materials in the cabin, along with a more advanced interior lighting system. Like the Resonance Concept, the goal was to create what Nissan describes as an “upscale social lounge interior.” The instrument panel is lower than before and anchored by an optional, 8-inch color touchscreen display.
The maker reduced the number of audio and navigation switches by 60%, from 25 to just 10. It claims the goal is a “more user-friendly experience.” Some competitors have run into problems, owners complaining about the need to drill down on a touchscreen display to do simple tasks like changing radio stations or adjusting seat heaters, so it remains to be seen if Nissan was on target here.
But Nakamura claims the strategy was based on carefully studying how motorists actually use their vehicles – and consumer electronic devices.
“We’ve learned from personal electronics that consumers aren’t always looking for devices that do more, they just want it done better,” said Nakamura. “People rarely read the directions for their smartphone because they know intuitively how to operate them. We believe vehicles should behave the same way – it’s a new and better way to travel.”
The 2015 Nissan Murano will also adopt the NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats first used on the latest-generation Altima, and there are even heated seats available for second-row passengers.
Other upscale features include a dual-zone automatic climate control, push button ignition, heated leather steering wheel, memory seats and remote engine start. The optional new panoramic roof is also about a third larger than before.
On the safety front, there’s a range of technologies, including Blind Spot Warning, Forward Collision Warning and Emergency Braking, Intelligent Cruise Control and Cross Traffic alert, as well as the familiar Nissan Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection.
Flexibility and utility are critical to buyers in this segment, so Nissan projects that with the rear seats up, the new Murano will have best-in-segment storage capacity.
All Murano grades will be powered at launch by a 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 making 260 horsepowwer and 240 pound-feet of torque. The engine will be paired to an Xtronic CVT gearbox.
In part due to a 130-pound reduction in mass, improved engine efficiencies and improved aerodynamics, Nissan is projecting a 20% improvement in fuel economy. The maker isn’t releasing final EPA numbers yet but for comparison, the current Murano yields 18 mpg City, 24 Highway with front-wheel-drive, 17 and 23 with AWD.
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