Nissan Murano – 2003

Despite selling well in North America from 2003, the Nissan Murano’s first generation wasn’t sufficiently refined for European taste. However, by the time it came across the Atlantic in 2005 an extensive upgrade had taken place, with modifications in the areas of safety, comfort and handling.

These were designed to fulfil Nissan’s aspiration for the Murano — which was going head-to-head with the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Volvo in the booming luxury crossover market sector (combined 4×4 plus plush car) competing on quality and especially cost. The Murano did indeed represent great value for money with a host of standard features, many of which others only supplied as extras.

Nissan only offered a 3.5 litre petrol engine with the Murano, despite the fact that most of the competition boasted a turbodiesel option. No matter, the Murano with its high spec, clean styling and flowing lines was undoubtedly an attractive SUV — becoming more so with the introduction of a second generation in 2008. This reflected lessons learned from the first, offering a more powerful engine, improved interior trim and an altogether better driving experience.

The new Murano has a distinct family resemblance to the compact Nissan Rogue, though the larger model has a more aggressive front end. There are three trim levels — a base Murano S, mid-range SL and top-line LE. This big SUV makes little pretense at serious off-road capability, which means on-road performance has to be exemplary. By and large it is.

The automatic gearbox pulls smoothly and this solid machine is pretty nimble around country roads and city streets alike. Roadholding is good and there is very little roll when cornering. The well-planned cabin is beautifully appointed and accommodates five adults comfortably. Nissan has promised a diesel version and has also announced a convertible model for some time in 2011.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

Japan

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

2003

ENGINE:

3,498 cc DOHC V6

PERFORMANCE:

Second generation — top speed of 130 mph (209 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The Murano is one of those modern cars that can heal itself (within reason) — a special paint coating repairs light surface scratches, which vanish within hours (or days, depending on ambient temperature) The hotter it is, the faster blemishes vanish. Clever stuff.

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