- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

Nissan named its all new urban crossover SUV after the Murano islands in the Venetian lagoon area near Venice in northern Italy. Murano glass is considered a leader in both cutting-edge design and glass-making technologies. The elegantly sculpted glassware designs also befit the styling of this "conceptlike" vehicle.
While many competitors have slab-sided, look-alike entries in this newly created carlike/utility sport wagonlike (without ever calling them wagons) segment, the 2003 Murano stands out from the others. With its wraparound sculptured exterior surface, an architectural crescent-shaped grille and a sporty up-swept D-pillar that blends with the rounded rear hatchback, it projects a three-dimensional feel and look.
The Murano is the first entry into the crossover-SUV group for Nissan, joining the Pathfinder and Xterra on the truck side of the product lineup. The Murano is distinguished by the ride and comfort of a sport sedan compared with the rugged pair of established SUVs. Mitch Davis, Nissan manager of sport utility marketing does expect the Murano to attract about 10 percent of Pathfinder sales, however.
The company doesn't seem too concerned as the Pathfinder plans to continue to offer more differences, perhaps like third-row seating in the next generation coming out in a year or so. Past Nissan customers should account for about 30 percent of Murano sales, Mr. Davis said.
The Murano was developed, designed and engineered specifically for the North American market. Nissan is debuting its first use of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) in this country as well, listed as standard equipment for the new Murano. This is Nissan's first coupling of a CVT to a V-6 engine. Unlike conventional stepped-gear automatics, the Xtronic CVT operates as essentially "one gear" through the use of a belt and two pulleys.
The 3.5-liter engine produces 246 foot-pounds of torque, also a record for CVT use. Xtronic CVT also adds about 2 mpg to the fuel economy, estimated at 20/25 mpg city/highway for two-wheel-drive models and 20/24 mpg city/highway for all-wheel-drive models.
All models of the Murano come equipped with a standard 245-horsepower, dual-overhead camshaft V-6 derived from the award-winning VQ engines used in the 2002 Altima and Maxima sedans as well as the 350Z and Infiniti G35. Acceleration and low-end power reflect the generous torque numbers put out by this powerful but economical power plant. Front-wheel drive is standard, but the Murano also offers an optional torque-on-demand, all-wheel-drive system.
Inside, the Murano is designed to offer comfortable, "first class" seating for four passengers, although five persons can be accommodated easily. The driver's seat offers a wide range of features including standard eight-way power, adjustable throttle and brake pedals that provide further personalization, along with a tilt-adjustable steering column. Rear seats include a reclining feature as well as a remote flip-down function that is operated from the rear cargo area. Standard dual-zone climate controls and rear air conditioning vents located on the pillars all contribute to the luxury appointments.
The Murano is available in two trim levels, the base SL with 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and a heated driver seat. The premium SE package adds high-intensity xenon headlights, sportier aluminum six-spoke 18-inch wheels and two-toned bumpers.
Standard appointments include a two-tier lockable center-console storage box with room to hold a laptop computer or purse and door pockets with a flip-out design. Optional power sliding sunroof, heated seats and a navigation system are also available.
Expected annual production volume for the new Murano is slated at 50,000 units and is available in dealerships now. The price starts at $28,739 including destination charge.

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