2014 Nissan Murano

The Nissan Murano is a luxurious and well-balanced midsize crossover with a curvaceous look that sets it apart from its rivals. While it returns only middling fuel economy, the rest of the Murano is strong enough to warrant a serious look from those seeking a solid five-passenger crossover.

The current Murano debuted back in 2009 but recently received a midcycle update that brought more standard equipment along with a restyled front bumper and revised taillights. Overall, the crossover's appearance remains decidedly dynamic, with highlights including bulging wheel arches, dramatic character lines and a sweeping front grille/headlight design. Upswept rear-side windows contribute to the look but compromise rear visibility.

The cabin has an upscale look and feel thanks to high-quality materials that wouldn't be out of place in a vehicle from Nissan's Infiniti luxury division. A simple but highly effective tri-binnacle instrument panel greets the driver, while the wide center stack houses well-organized and intuitive controls. Cargo space is rated at 31.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats, while 64 cubic feet is available with the rear seats folded down to create a flat load floor.

The Murano is built on Nissan's "D" platform, which provides a solid foundation and lightweight suspension components. Handling is predictable, while the ride is comfortable and well-insulated from road imperfections. A curiously named "dual-orifice," speed-sensitive steering system is responsive and accurate.

A 3.5-liter V6 serves up 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, while one of the better CVTs (continuously variable transmission) metes out power smoothly to either the front wheels (the standard configuration) or all four wheels (with an optional AWD system).

Fuel economy is rated at 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway with FWD, while AWD-equipped models drop a single mpg in the highway cycle. While far from terrible, some competitors have surpassed the Murano in efficiency.

Trim-Level Breakdown
Murano buyers can choose between five trim levels - S, SV, SV Value Package, SL and LE.

The S trim comes standard with power windows and locks, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with an aux-in jack and a six-disc CD changer, cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The SV brings niceties like a dual-panel moonroof, a rear parking camera with an interior display, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port for iPod connectivity, fog lights and power-adjustable front seats. Newly added for the latest model year are an auto-dimming rearview mirror and HomeLink Universal Transceiver.

The SV Value Package adds titanium finish for 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a power liftgate, nine-speaker and dual-subwoofer Bose audio system and a Nissan Navigation System.

Those willing to step up to the SL will be rewarded with leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a nine-speaker Bose stereo system and a power liftgate. The latest model year gets a titanium finish for the 18-inch aluminum wheels.

Opting for either the LE Platinum Edition or SL Navigation Package will grant buyers Nissan's Safety Shield technologies that include the Moving Object Detection (MOD), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems.

Finally, the top-shelf LE trim adds 20-inch aluminum wheels, heated rear seats, Xenon HID lights, and silver-accented roof rails.

Occupant Safety
All Murano models come standard with dual front, front side and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Key Competitors
Perhaps the most direct rival to the Murano in terms of size and seating capacity is the Ford Edge; the Chevrolet Equinox is slightly smaller, while the seven-passenger Toyota Highlander is a bit larger. Other competitors that merit consideration include the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Sorento.