|Midsize SUV; Built in Japan|
|Good condition price range: $7,300 – $14,500*|
2003 Nissan Murano
2004 Nissan Murano
2005 Nissan Murano
Not everyone falls for its lush exterior look, or for its interior layout, but the Murano brings some seriously fashionable style to the ordinarily-conservative family-SUV world. Secure handling, fine utility, and CVT advantages are assets that add value beneath the skin. While it’s no threat to unseat the Highlander or Honda Pilot for broad appeal, the Murano cuts quite a fine figure on the road and is among our Recommended midsize SUVs.
Nissan launched a third SUV for 2003, a midsize Murano “crossover” built on the Altima sedan platform. Murano aimed at such car-based models as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, which it matched in general size, except for standing as much as four inches lower–despite standard 18-inch wheels. In their initial form, Muranos also seated only four passengers, versus rivals’ five to seven.
A 3.5-liter V6, as used in various Nissan car lines, was the sole engine. The only transmission was a new continuously variable automatic (CVT) which, like other CVTs, provided a near-infinite range of gear ratios. Muranos came with front-drive or all-wheel drive.
Antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist were standard. So were front torso side airbags, front/rear curtain side airbags, and seatbelt pretensioners for all passengers. Muranos had front bucket seats and a two-person split folding rear bench with backrest recliners. The center console offered bilevel storage, with space for a purse or laptop computer.
Muranos came in two trim levels: base SL and sporty SE. Standard features included a tilt steering wheel/gauge cluster, and dual-zone climate control. A video-type information display controlled climate, audio and trip computer functions, along with the available navigation system. An antiskid/traction system, xenon headlamps, power-adjustable pedals, and leather interior trim were optional. Available for the SE was a manual-mode CVT with seven preprogrammed “gear ratios.”
Towing capacity was 3500 pounds. In addition to the Pilot and Highlander, competitors included the Ford Explorer–though none were as curvaceously stylish in profile as the Murano.
Satellite radio became available this year, and a manual shift mode was incorporated into the SE’s automatic transmission, allowing the driver to select pre-set “gears.” The Murano’s liftgate lacked separate-opening glass. Low-range gearing was absent, too, making the Murano inappropriate for serious off-road tasks. But a console button could lock its AWD into a 50/50 power split for extra traction up to 30 mph. SE models had a firmer suspension. Both rode on 18-inch wheels. Xenon headlamps were standard on the SE and optional for the SL model. Options included heated front seats and rear DVD entertainment. No third-row seating was offered, but official passenger capacity rose to five.
An entry-level S model joined the Murano lineup for 2005. On the safety front, a rollover sensor was designed to trigger the curtain airbags if a tipover appeared imminent. A keyless entry/ignition system was now available for SL and SE models.
Minor styling and equipment changes mark this car-type SUV for 2006. Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls are illuminated for ’06, and all models get revised grille and exterior trim.
Murano carries over unchanged.