By David Colman
Pros: Tidy size, Thoughtful interior, Industry best CVT transmission
Cons: Rolls on incline when in gear, Goofy valet driver’s seat
Nissan freshened the appearance of its Murano for 2011, and the same freshly scrubbed face greets you in 2012. The grill integrates better with the front fascia than before, new LED taillight clusters look like jewels, and redesigned 10 spoke alloy wheels measuring 7.5” x 18” complete the styling update. The front-wheel-drive version of this crossover is affordable, with a base price of just $36,400. This crossover SUV is utilitarian and luxurious at the same time. The utility comes from the Murano’s ability to transport five adults, with enough storage space behind the second row of seats to store their luggage as well. Dual-zone temperature control, complete with front and rear vents, acknowledges rear seat passenger comfort. But the rear windows open only part way, and the angle of the second row backrest is too vertical and non-adjustable.
If you flip the rear seatbacks flat, the Murano affords enough storage area to slide a full size bike through the power tailgate. The load floor is flat, heavily upholstered, and protected at its rear load point by ribbed stainless steel plates. The cabibn interior is an airy place thanks to the standard dual pane moonroof. Forward vision is unimpeded thanks to the sloping engine lid and large windshield. Generous second row windows plus a pair of triangular back glasses assist side vision. The tailgate glass comes complete with its own washer and wiper and provides rear vision good enough to make an available back-up camera system unnecessary.
The Murano’s V-6 engine works happily with the CVT transmission to provide sufficient power delivery for all driving occasions. The CVT never hunts for a ratio sweet spot like so many of its brethren, nor does it ever emit the annoying drone so typical of this type of gearbox. The 260hp V6 is more than strong enough to cope with the rigors of daily driving. The SL Murano will even handle a decent trailer load of 3,374 lbs. Handling on wet and dry pavement is exemplary, thanks to the all-weather tread of the mud and snow (“M+S”) rated Bridgestone Dueller H/T 265/35R18 tires. The FWD Murano makes a tidy winter package, with its aggressive traction, good exterior vision, and lovely heated front seats. Unlike so many other seat heaters, these do not automatically turn themselves off every time you shut the ignition down. This setting retention is a nice way to personalize your surroundings. Along those same lines, the Murano offers the driver a pair of memory positions for the left front seat. I could, however, live without the front seat’s proclivity to slide aft each time you enter or exit the vehicle.
Because the Murano is a cross-over SUV based on a sedan platform, it will never have the suspension or ground clearance to travel with confidence off-road, even in available AWD form. But as a practical, affordable form of transport, the Murano shines as an every day driver. It offers a higher seating position and more storage space than any similarly priced sedan, boasts a flawless drivetrain, and sensible interior, complete with huge glovebox and lidded between seat locker. The Murano is handsome in a non-threatening way, and more practical than an REI sleeping bag. The SL will check most of the boxes on your shopping list at a price you can afford to pay.
2012 Nissan Murano SL FWD
- Engine: 3.5 Liter DOHC V6
- Horsepower: 260hp
- Torque: 248 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 18 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $39,255