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Nissan Murano, 2012: Quick, sporty SUV fares well in tight market

The Nissan Murano debuted in 2003, but updates have kept it sharp and competitive with other mid-size SUV/crossover vehicles. It’s luxurious enough to wear a badge from Nissan’s upscale Infiniti division.

Sculpted body lines and chromed exhaust pipe tips help give the Murano a sporty look, and it has definite sporty performance.

The Murano was overhauled for 2009 and updated a bit for 2011, so the 2012 model has small trim changes and the addition of a new Platinum Edition equipped with such things as 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

There are minor changes for the 2013 Murano.

The 2012 Murano, which I tested, comes with front-wheel drive or an advanced all-wheel drive system that automatically adjusts to road conditions. The Murano also has stability and traction control systems.Nissan Murano, 2012: Quick, sporty SUV fares well in tight market 1While solidly built, the made-in-Japan Murano has a strong, advanced 3.5-liter V-6. It kicks out 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque.(A convertible version’s 3.5-liter V-6 provides 265 horsepower.) Merging into fast traffic and quick passes on highways are no problem.

The Murano V-6 is hooked to a smooth continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which is one of the best in the industry.

That combo provides smooth, fast acceleration. Only regular-grade fuel is needed, and estimated economy is 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23-24 on highways.

The steering is nicely geared for safe maneuvers, and the all-independent suspension helps provide a comfortable, supple ride, which is never mushy. The Murano has sporty car handling,while the all-disc brakes confidently stop it. They have electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist features.

Prices range from $29,960 to $40,560 for the four-door hardtop models, which come in S, SV, SL and LE versions. I tested an all-wheel-drive SL, which stickers at $38,830.

The rather offbeat four-passenger convertible, which comes only witih all-wheel drive, is called the CrossCabriolet and lists at $44,540.

Standard for the Murano S are a pushbutton start, six-speaker audio system, multizone automatic air conditioning, keyless entry, no less than six windshield washer jets, 18-inch alloy wheels and power windows and mirrors.

There’s also an adjustable steering wheel. But the foot-operated emergency brake feels awkward.Nissan Murano, 2012: Quick, sporty SUV fares well in tight market 2The SV adds power front seats, dual-panel moonroof and steering wheel audio controls. It also has a standard back-up camera. That’s a handy item because it’s almost impossible to see objects close behind the Murano out the rear window. Large dual outside mirrors for all Muranos help rear visibility.

The SL has a premium sound system, heated front seats, leather seats and a handy power hatch, while the LE adds heated rear seats, woodgrain interior trim, 20-inch wheels with a titanium colored finish and HID headlights.

The two-door CrossCabriolet adds the five extra horsepower, 20-inch wheels and a slick convertible soft top.

There are several option packages that contains items such as a navigation system and 7-inch VGA touch screen.

Safety features include a bunch of air bags.

Getting in or out of the quiet interior is easy because doors open wide and the Murano’s floor is only moderately high. It’s filled with upscale materials and comfortably seats four tall adults.

Five would fit, but the middle of the rear seat is too firm for comfort and best left to the fold-down center armrest, which contains dual cupholders. Two front cupholders are conveniently located on the console.

The interior has backlit gauges that can be quickly read in bright sunlight, and most controls are easy to use. However, some secondary controls at the center of the dashboard are a bit awkward to use because they’re on a mildly slanted surface.

Front seats provide good support during spirited driving. There are a good number of storage areas, including a large center bin and spacious glove compartment, although rear-door pockets are too small to be of much use.

Front power window operation is annoying because it’s hard to stop the windows when they’re zooming down and up.

The opening for the roomy cargo area is wide, but relatively high.The 60/40 split rear seatbacks easily flip forward to impressively enlarge the cargo area.

The lined hood opens smoothly on twin struts, revealing easily reached fluid-filler areas.

The Murano shows that a vehicle need not have a clean-sheet design to be desirable.

Pros: Stylish. Roomy. Strong acceleration. Carlike handling. Available all-wheel drive.

Cons: Poor rear-window availability.

Bottom Line: The Murano has gotten older, but remains very competitive.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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