2011 Nissan Murano SL: Mid-range SUV with luxury aspirations
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
The second-generation Nissan Murano continues as a near-luxury mid-size crossover and receives a freshening for 2011 with an exterior facelift and some increased standard interior electronics.
From its familiar trapezoidal grille center, to its new wide elongated headlights and lower bumper, the Murano looks slinkier than before and bolder and more confident than ever.
It doesn’t get a power upgrade this year and remains reliant on a 3.5-liter V-6, but Murano does get a new trim level – the SV that combines lower-level S features with upper-echelon SL accouterments at a mid-range price. I tested the SL and was pleased with the standard additions that included leather-appointed seats; heated front seats; driver's seat and outside mirror position memory; 60/40 fold-flat rear seatback with power return; power liftgate with hatch closure assist; heated steering wheel; 2GB Music Box; Bose premium audio system with 11 speakers (nine speakers plus two subwoofers); rain-sensing front wipers; heated outside mirrors and auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink Universal Transceiver.
In fact the only optional electronic add-on Nissan even offers on Murano is an advanced touch screen Nissan Navigation System with 7-inch VGA screen and Bluetooth streaming audio.
Also installed as standard inside are power windows, dual-zone automatic climate control with microfilter, cruise control, Nissan Intelligent Key and push button ignition.
Back to the exterior, my Merlot Murano weighed in at a curb weight of 4172 pounds with a 58-42 weight distribution, and measured in at 189.9 inches long, 74.1 inches wide and 67.0 inches high on a 111.2-inch wheelbase with a minimum ground clearance of 7.3 inches and a step-in height of 18.6 inches.
Aggressively standing on optional 20-inch wheels, with a wide hood, sweeping sides, powerfully wide wheel arches, integrated rear roof spoiler, one-touch moonroof and second-row skylight, large redesigned rear LED taillights and dual exhaust outlets with chrome finishers, Murano is a hip-looking SU-Crossover that combines lavishness with utility. The exterior is finished off nicely with heated outside power mirrors, body-colored bumpers quad-cylinder style High Intensity Discharge bi-functional Xenon projector headlights, standard fog lights and variable intermittent rain sensing wipers.
Power comes from its holdover 3.5-liter 60-degree V-6 DOHC engine that produces 260 horses and 240 lbs-ft of torque, teamed with a Nissan induction control intake system. The set-up provides solid response in all ranges as I was able to coax the Murano from zero to 60mph in 7.5 seconds and floored a best quarter-mile run of 16-flat.
The vehicle reacts well and its twin-tube independent struts with coil springs up front and a multi-link tubular rear suspension with twin-tube shocks and stabilizer bar smooth out most road irregularities. Steering is a bit vague at times and understeer is apparent in quick-and-tight maneuvering. Some top wobble is also exhibited in S-curve situations, but driver and passengers never lose a sense of security and street stickiness thanks to Murano’s traction control, and the stopping power of its ventilated anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution. Two stainless steel mufflers and excellent dampening provide a quiet ride that moves this near-luxury vehicle into the class above.
EPA rated at 18mpg in city driving and 23 on the highway, mixed-use tests garnered a real-world average of 19.8mpg on regular unleaded gasoline.
Safety is a Murano watchword for the 4-door ute, enforced by its zone body construction with front and rear crushable zones, energy-absorbing steering column, hood buckling creases and safety stops. Body side reinforcements and shift interlock system, break-away rear engine mount, collapsible propeller shaft, high-strength side door guard beams, slide-away brake pedal assembly and knee bolsters round out construction safety features.
Interior safety also includes Nissan’s advanced airbag system with dual-stage supplemental front air bags and occupant sensors, front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags, roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags, load limiters active head restraints, child safety locks and LATCH system, emergency trunk release and tire pressure monitoring system.
The cabin is roomy, supple and electronics-heavy. With seating for five, interior headroom measures 40.1 inches up front and 39.4 in row two (38.3 and 38.1 with a moonroof), leg room is 43.6 in row one and 36.3 in the second seats, and shoulder room of 59.6 and 58.7.
Conceived with Nissan’s “mobile suite” interior, embodying warmth and modern style, Murano provides a premiere feel from the sweep of the instrument panel to the wide console and ambient lighting, Its new center stack colors and a new wood grain hue on upscale Muranos offer a cabin personality inherent in vehicles levels above in price.
In addition to standard trim items mentioned above, the Murano SL comes with 8-way power driver seat with memory, power return rear seats, analog instrumentation and power windows.
The 2011 Nissan Murano had not been stickered when tested, but it has reached the dealerships and the SL trim starts at $30,460 with a destination fee of $800 and an expected priced as tested of $33,260. Muranos should range from $29,900 to $40,900, and that shows aggressive pricing for a mid-range SUV with luxury aspirations.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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