USATODAY com Nissan’s Murano crosses over nicely

17 Апр 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи USATODAY com Nissan’s Murano crosses over nicely отключены
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Murano $33,000 to $37,000 with popular options went on sale earlier this month. It’s smaller than Acura MDX and has no third-row seat as MDX does, and it’s bigger than Lexus RX 300.

Murano is built on a modified version of the car platform that Nissan introduced in the latest Altima. Named after fancy Italian glass, it’s available with front-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Marquee features are oddball styling and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). All Muranos come with CVT; neither conventional automatic nor manual transmission is available.

CVT is a type of heavy-duty belt drive. A reinforced steel belt runs between two pulleys. One is hooked to the engine.

As the engine turns that pulley, the belt transfers power to the other pulley that powers the drive wheels.

The pulleys vary their diameters according to driver demands and other conditions. Varying the diameters is the same as changing the gear ratios, but it happens in a flow, instead of in four or five or six steps.

The obvious benefit is smoothness because there’s no shifting. But CVTs are more efficient, too, and thus save a little fuel.

A typical CVT’s performance is mildly marred by reluctance to get going. Step on the gas, and there’s a sluggish response for a moment, then things wake up nicely. Nissan’s seems to be the least sluggish.

The other quirk is that CVTs can keep the engine revved longer than usual. Nail the gas, and the engine zooms to near its red line and stays there until the vehicle picks up quite a bit of speed. Once a CVT vehicle is rolling along briskly, the CVT ratios begin to change and the engine speed eases back.

You get used to a CVT’s personality quickly, but you might never come to like it.

Murano’s styling is unusual because there are so many crossover SUVs and we wanted to stand out from the get-go, says Mitch Davis, senior marketing manager for SUVs at Nissan North America. One nice touch: 18-inch-diameter wheels and tires are standard, rather than 16-inchers.

Compared with the two vehicles it most resembles in appearance and philosophy MDX and RX 300 Murano comes out reasonably well. Its biggest weakness is price. While the $29,000 base number sounds alluring, almost everything you want is extra.

It’s easy to boot the sticker price past $37,000. At that point, you could buy an MDX or RX 300. The Lexus, especially, is more nicely furnished and seems far classier than the Murano.

But the Nissan is more fun to drive than others, having a sportier-feeling suspension and agreeable chemistry with brisk driving on curvy roads. That’s supposed to be the beauty of crossover SUVs car-like handling. Murano is unusual in keeping that promise as well as it does.

Other notables from the test drive of a preproduction model in the daily grind:

Sprightliness. It’s hard to dislike a machine that gets right to work when you ask it to. Murano uses Nissan’s lively 3.5-liter V-6 that’s rated 245 horsepower (vs.

220 hp in RX 300, 260 hp in the MDX).

It seems a good match with the CVT. The transmission is well-tuned to keep the engine zipping along. The powertrain also gets you up to safe speed on the big roads without stress.

Details. Murano uses the same unattractive, watered-down orange color for instrument panel lighting. Easy enough to read, but so are the better-looking greens and blues that rivals favor.

One of the cupholders can be modified for taller or shorter beverage containers, but can’t be adjusted to hold fat ones.

Affectation. Murano has a faux feel inside. Metallic-finish plastic trim is supposed to look modern and expensive, but it just looks like silvered plastic.

The stack of stereo and climate controls are in a center pod. They seem a contrivance, done for fashion, not convenience. The controls work fine and are handy enough, but the pod is a gimmick.

Styling. Conservative colors such as silver look better than bold ones. The copper-tone test machine was jarring, like a jumble of mismatched styling details.

The styling is not just a taste issue. It actually interferes with the vehicle’s usefulness. Upswept rear panels reduce outward visibility by slicing the rear-most side windows into small triangles.

Those overdone pillars also creep into the driver’s periphery enough to give the false impression that a big vehicle is lurking close to your blind spot. You find yourself turning your head to the side to double-check.

The hood bulges at the center, then falls forward, making it hard to know when the pointy front end is about to get bent.

Nevertheless, attributes outweigh disappointments except for that troubling issue of price. Is Murano best? No. Is it a fresh and welcome alternative among crossover SUVs? You bet.

It’s a rare blend among such machines: fun, feisty and distinctive.

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2003 Nissan Murano

What is it? Midsize, four-door, five-passenger sport-utility vehicle based on Nissan Altima sedan; available in front-wheel drive (fwd) or four-wheel (4×4) drive; manufactured in Japan.

How soon? On sale just now at most Nissan dealerships.

How much? SL fwd model starts at $28,739, including $540 destination charge. SE fwd is $29,539. SL 4×4 is $30,399. SE 4×4 is $31,139. says typical Murano would be an SE 4×4 priced at $34,638 and expect to pay full window-sticker price.

What’s the powertrain? 3.5-liter V-6 rated 245 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, 246 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm; continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

4×4 system is front drive until front wheels slip, then sends up to 50% of power to the rears. Driver can lock the system so that, at low speed, half the power goes to each end, regardless of wheelspin.

What’s the safety gear? Front-seat, side-impact air bags and side-curtain, head-protection bags; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

What’s the rest? SL comes with dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat ducts; power steering, brakes, driver’s seats, windows, locks, mirrors; AM/FM/CD stereo; steering wheel audio controls; trip computer; cruise control; leather-covered steering wheel; tilt-adjustable steering column; rear-window defroster; auto on-off headlights; auto-dimming inside mirror; fog lights; HomeLink remote control; three 12-volt outlets; 235/65R-18 tires on five-spoke alloy wheels; mini spare tire.

SE adds or substitutes high-intensity-discharge headlights; six-spoke alloy wheels; different bumper trim and interior trim.

How big? Longer, taller, wider than Lexus RX 300; shorter, narrower and lower than Acura MDX. Murano is 187.6 inches long, 74 inches wide, 66.5 inches tall on a 111.2-inch wheelbase. Passenger compartment is listed as 109.9 cubic feet. Cargo space is listed as 32.6 cubic feet behind rear seat, 81.6 cubic feet when seat’s folded.

Weight ranges from 3,801 to 3,960 pounds, depending on model. Rated to carry 1,057 to 1,098 pounds of people and cargo, depending on model. Rated to tow 3,500 pounds.

How thirsty? Rated 20 miles per gallon in town, 24 (4×4) or 25 (fwd) on the highway, on premium fuel. Regular is OK but causes slight power loss.

Test model’s trip computer showed an average of only 13.5 mpg in vigorous, short-trip, suburban driving.

Overall: Surprisingly sporty and expensive.

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