- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

Have no fear, there will be those who aren't appreciative of the design exercise of Nissan's Murano sport utility vehicle. What do they know? Presumably nothing at least not in the taste department.
The Murano is both bold and exciting, going where others have feared to tread. The Murano is no cookie-cutter in terms of its refreshing styling in a word, it's totally cool (that's two words though). OK, I know that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but if you're not enamored with the Murano, then you're not with it.
Performance in the midsize SUV range walks a pretty close line, and most of the vehicles that play on this field are also quite similar in their appearance, so why not go for the gusto in terms of styling innovation and execution.
The Murano is futuristic in its approach it is anything but boxy. On the exterior, curved edgy lines and contoured masses are key in the Murano. The frontal look is aggressive without being gaudy and the impression going away is reminiscent of early "boat-tail" designs, with Z-Car-look taillamps flanking the curvy rear. The side view offers a swept-up "D"-pillar that completes the sporty greenhouse.
Inside, the Murano follows suit with strong purposeful forms and textured treatments that provide a richness to the ergonomically correct layout with spaciousness for five adults, though actually designed for two couples. The second-row seatbacks recline comfortably, or fold easily forward for cargo versatility.
The pleasantly striking Murano is available in two trim levels: SL and SE. Both models are powered by a 3.5-liter dual-overhead camshaft V-6 from Nissan's award-winning VQ engine series found in the Maxima and both are mounted to Nissan's FF-L platform. The healthy power source generates 245 horsepower and 246 pounds-feet of torque and power is delivered through an electronically controlled automatic, Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). A seven-speed manual shift mode function is available on SE models. One may choose either front-wheel (2WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD).
My test Murano was a preproduction SL model with AWD, sporting a Sheer Silver metallic exterior over contrasting charcoal rockers and fascia extensions. The interior was finished in aluminum trim with a combination of brick and gray tones. The base price was set at $29,799 while the final tabulation came to $37,383 after loading it up with the Premium Package, sunroof, SL leather package, cold package, dynamic control package, DVD-based navigation system and destination and handling fee.
The Murano offers itself up as an upscale SUV without an upscale sticker price. The power from the 3.5-liter V-6 is more than enough to scoot the new Nissan along at more than the speed limit, and gear changes are nonexistent with the smoothly transitioning CVT operation through both acceleration and deceleration. The exhaust emits a pleasant resonance when the engine is prodded.
Ride quality is relatively firm, though not really harsh, despite the 18-inch wheels and tires. The handling characteristics of the Murano are more sedanlike than trucklike due to its crossover format, providing a stable agility.
Power adjustable pedals, the tilt steering wheel and power adjustable seat allow for establishing the optimum position for virtually any driver.


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