2012 Nissan Murano Review

2012 Nissan Murano - Just the right size make it just right for many shoppers.


Vehicle Tested
2012 Nissan Murano SL AWD
Base Price: $38,000
At-Tested Price: $40,855
Built in Japan.

Floor mats and carpeted cargo mat
Navigation system

Engine: 3.5 -Liter V6
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Drive Wheels: All-Wheel Drive

In the crossover game, Nissan was nearly first to the party when the Asian manufacturer--with recent roots in Nashville--launched the Murano back in 2003. It's a midsize SUV that shares chassis and components with the Altima sedan and competes with vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sedona and Toyota Highlander. Murano seats five passengers on twin front buckets and a three-place rear bench seat. Front- and all-wheel drive models are offered.

Murano's roster includes S, SV, SL and LE models. All use a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine that mates to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). When properly equipped, maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, tire-pressure monitor, front-seat active head restraints and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags with rollover deployment. A rearview camera is standard on all but the S.

The AWD SL lists for $38,000 and includes air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate controls and interior air filter, leather upholstery, heated leather-wrapped tilt/telescope steering wheel with radio controls, heated front seats, eight -way power driver seat, four-way power passenger seat, memory system, sunroof, cruise control, front bucket seats, driver-seat lumbar adjustment, center console, split-folding rear seat, power-return seatbacks, aluminum interior trim, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, keyless access and starting, Bose AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio with USB port and digital-media player connection, satellite radio, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, outside-temperature indicator, trip computer, automatic headlights, illuminated visor mirrors, rain sensing variable-intermittent wipers, universal garage door opener, automatic day/night rear-view mirror, compass, power liftgate, rear defogger, intermittent rear wiper/washer, theft-deterrent system, rear privacy glass, roof rails, fog lights, 235/65R18 tires and alloy wheels

Options include navigation system with rear-time traffic information and voice recognition and dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The Murano is built in Japan and has a destination charge of $810.

Get Up and Go  Murano's 3.5-liter V6 is one of the smoothest and most powerful engines in the class. Though Nissan doesn't quote a 0-60 mph time, it's likely less than eight seconds. The engine has ample low-end torque, which gives it plenty of pop away from stoplights, and ample giddy-up in passing situations.

Even more impressive that the silky V6 is the performance of the continuously variable transmission, which seamlessly transitions between gear ratios and delivers power quickly and promptly. It' so smooth and shudder free that it makes you wonder why every automaker wouldn't use this design.

The all-wheel-drive system isn't intended for off-road use, but there is a push-button to manually lock the center differential in the event you encounter deep snow or a particularly slippery section of road. There's little indication the system is working as it quickly transfers power from the front wheels to the rear when the need arises.

When equipped with all-wheel drive, the Murano is EPA rated at 18 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. Those numbers are slightly below competitors like the Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Toyota Highlander.

In routine city driving Murano is likely to average about 17-19 mpg. Throw in a fair amount of highway driving and that average can climb to about 21 mpg. In straight highway driving, it's easy to average more than 25 mpg. Nissan recommends premium-grade gasoline for maximum performance and economy.

On the Road  Murano's ride is never flaccid or soft, but it generally leans toward compliance rather than sport. Still, the ride is firmer than Highlander or Santa Fe, but still absorbent enough to be comfortable on long trips. Interestingly enough, there's little difference in ride quality between models.

The crossover-SUV formula calls for a vehicle that drives like a car but hauls like a wagon, and the Murano doesn't disappoint. Steering is accurate and nicely weighted. Brakes have plenty of stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate. Body lean is modest and the tires have plenty of grip. Large bumps occasionally upset the chassis, but Murano feels considerably more maneuverable than many competitors.

Interior noise levels are generally acceptable. By far, the biggest annoyance is wind noise at highway speeds. Tire noise is nicely suppressed and the engine only intrudes in hard acceleration.

Behind the Wheel  The interior layout will be familiar to owner's of current Nissan products and features plenty of soft-touch plastics and padded surfaces. Standard aluminum trim adds an upscale flair missing in many competitors. Gauges utilize amber lighting that's easy to read day or night. Radio and climate controls are simple and have a sophisticated look. The optional navigation system is easy to operate and programming destinations is a snap.

Front seats are large and comfortable. Six-footers have ample head and adequate leg room, even with the optional sunroof. Most drivers will find it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel thanks to the tilt-telescope feature. Since the Murano rides slightly higher than a sedan, the overall view of the road from behind the wheel is excellent. Thick rear pillars are offset by large outside mirrors. While the backup camera is a nice touch, it would be nice if Nissan also offered park assist--at least to the rear. Passengers will find a slight step up when entering, but it's not nearly as off-putting as the step in on a traditional SUV.

Because Nissan chose to do without the third-row seat, there's no compromising second-row seat comfort. Murano offers genuine adult-size leg and head room for back-seat passengers. The seats are nicely padded and adult comfortable. The small driveline hump is a boon for foot space. Wide rear doors mean no-hassle entry-exit.

Murano features a wide and low cargo floor, though the steeply sloped rear tailgate does eat into overall cargo space. Rear seats fold in a snap and there's no need to remove the headrests. Interior storage is highlighted by an extremely large glove box and door map pockets. There's also a multi-tier center-console bin and a few open storage spaces.

Bottom Line  Because it's been around so long, Murano is often overlooked by crossover shoppers. That's a shame, because it's an admirable entry and a formidable competitor. Where Honda Pilot feels too big, Murano feels maneuverable. Where Toyota Highlander feels too soft, Murano feels nimble. Where Hyundai Santa Fe feels unrefined, Murano feels polished.

The omission of a third-row seat works in Nissan's favor. It allows engineers to create a vehicle that delivers true five-passenger comfort without compromising fuel economy or maneuverability. True, there are some shoppers that crave the utility of that extra-passenger capacity and that somewhat limits Murano's appeal.

Prices are reasonable and certainly in line with competitors, though a loaded LE can tip the scales at past $40,000. Obviously, you'll want to shop around with nearly every automaker offering steep discounts on crossovers and SUVs. There's little debating the utility of the wagon body style and for some buyers that's a must. If you fall into that group, be sure to visit your Nissan dealership before you buy. You'll find plenty to like in Murano.

Specifications, 2012 Nissan Murano SL AWD
4-door wagon
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
3.5 / 214
Length, in.
Horsepower @ rpm
260 @ 6000
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
240 @ 4400
Height, in.
CVT Automatic
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
18 city / 23 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.

Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
3 years / 36,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
5 years / 60,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
5 years / Unlimited miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
3 years / 360,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.