The Nissan Murano was an early entrant into what is now a sprawling universe of midsize crossovers, first appearing as a 2003 model. Against a rising tide of fellow two-row midsizers such as the Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorrento, and Subaru Outback, the Murano has attempted to retreat to more luxurious ground. The vehicle's most recent full redesign in 2015 saw it adopt a much more stylized exterior and more upscale interior. And now, four years on, the 2019 Murano gets a mild update.
From the outside, the Murano gets restyled LED headlamps and taillights, new LED fog lights, a black-painted front bumper section that visually heightens the grille, and redesigned 18- and 20-inch wheels. Inside, the top-spec Platinum model gets fancier with diamond-stitch patterned, semi-aniline leather, and all models up the airbag count with side airbags for the rear seat and knee airbags for the front passenger. Additionally, Nissan's rear door alert is now standard (if a rear door is opened before a trip but not reopened afterward, the system honks the horn to remind the driver to check the rear seat). The available navigation system features enhanced graphics including satellite imagery and adds traffic-sign recognition and online POI search capability.
Prices increase by $660 to $1,620 depending on trim level, and now range from $32,315 for a front-wheel-drive Murano S to $46,175 for a Platinum AWD. That quasi-premium positioning makes the Murano, in some ways, the crossover counterpart to the Maxima. But whereas the Maxima bases its high-falutin' self-image on performance, the Murano does so based on comfort and style. The two models share Nissan's 3.5-liter V6, but the Maxima is good for 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque, while in the Murano it's detuned to 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet.
The Murano's use of a naturally aspirated V6 is increasingly a rarity in the segment, where competitors have moved to turbocharged fours. Compared to the 2.0-liter turbo fours in the Ford Edge and the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Murano has more horsepower (260 versus 250 for the Edge and 235 for the Santa Fe), but less torque (its 240 pound-feet trailing the Ford's 280 and the Hyundai's 260).
As has always been the case with the Murano, the V6 is mated to a continuously variable transmission, which gives this crossover a slightly syrupy throttle response. Nissan's V6 isn't the most sonorous engine, but acceleration is plenty peppy.
The Murano comes with either front- or all-wheel drive, with AWD available on all four Murano trim levels for a $1,600 upcharge. All-wheel drive Muranos get the same 20 mpg city, 28 highway, and 23 combined as their front-drive brethren. Those all-wheel-drive numbers just about match the Ford Edge's 21 city and 28 highway and handily beat the Hyundai Santa Fe's 19/24 mpg ratings with its turbo four.
There are no drive modes to vary powertrain action or steering effort, and the helm is more heavily boosted than we'd like. The driver looks out over a fairly high cowl and around beefy A-pillars, a view that further diminishes the sporty vibe. The chassis is clearly tuned more for ride comfort than for cornering prowess. We drove the Murano on an ice-covered low-speed handling course, and those low-grip conditions served mostly to drive home the point that crossovers inevitably feel taller, heavier and less nimble than their sedan counterparts. And that's certainly true here. Out on the road, however, the Murano showed the upside to its soft suspension tuning, which soaked up battered midwinter pavement with aplomb.
Inside, the top-spec Platinum model we drove provided comfy and plush environs that still outshine most competitors. (Lesser versions, in descending order, are SL, SV, and S.) Platinum-exclusive diamond-pattern stitching adorns the cream-colored leather seats, and seat heating and cooling are standard. Door panels and armrests are nicely padded, and the wide center console provides ample storage and now includes USB-C ports, supplementing the standard USB outlets.
A mechanical shift lever offers simple, intuitive action, but there are no shift paddles. In between the mechanical gauges is a seven-inch information screen, and the center of the dash houses an eight-inch touchscreen located amidst a wide swath of gloss-black trim. It's not the most dazzling infotainment screen out there, but it's crisp and easy to use, supplemented with physical buttons and welcome knobs for volume and tuning.
The Murano offers spacious accommodations, easy ingress and egress, and a generous cargo hold. It is strictly a five-seater, though — think of the Murano as the crossover offering for the dual-income, no kids demographic, the same folks who can have a white linen sofa at home. Buyers needing something more family-friendly presumably are steered toward the three-row Pathfinder.
While some of the newest entries in the two-row midsize crossover space — such as the Chevy Blazer and the Honda Passport — try to affect a rugged countenance, the Murano is happy to stay on pavement, preferably in the nicer parts of town. Not every SUV has to feed the off-road fantasy, of course. The Murano is fine to stay in its lane, but this generation is now midway through it lifecycle. While the relatively minor changes for 2019 may be welcome, they're not likely to be a bulwark against the rising tide of entrants flooding the segment.