A Life Less Beige
To some people, the thought of owning a midsize family SUV is about as terrifying as the thought of their local coffee place forgetting the recipe for their morning half-fat Venti chilled mocha latte thereby forcing them to see that their whole life, wardrobe, home and even the family dog is dull shade of beige. There is nothing wrong with beige as it feels comfortable and home-like when presented properly but that could also be said of Tapioca pudding. So are we saying here that the 2012 Nissan Murano LE Platinum Edition we road tested for a week was as exciting as Tapioca pudding? Perhaps.
One a more serious note, our test Murano not only blended easily into South Orange County and its miles of look-a-like subdivisions thanks to a very subtle “Tinted Bronze” (read: Gold) paint job and the most endlessly beige interior we have ever experienced. Usually carmakers try to use contrasting interior trim, some wood or chrome to keep their vehicle interiors from looking like the inside of a real estate agent’s corner office but apparently Nissan felt that its SUV should shout from the rooftops that it totally and utterly lacks a soul.
You see, despite the fact that this Murano has a 3.5 liter 260 horsepower/240 lb. feet of torque V6 that in a different form once powered the mighty Z sport coupe, when you drive this SUV you will never get any untoward tingling sensations from the unmentionable regions of your body. In other words, the Nissan Murano is pretty boring to drive and with that engine it shouldn’t be lacking in that sort of appeal.
No, the 2012 Nissan Murano was not let down by poor packaging or any handling defects but rather we blame the characterless nature of this SUV on the CVT automatic transmission that is used by this automaker in everything from the Altima to Cube to Juke to Maxima. We have had better experiences in the past with this moan happy self-shifter that essentially damned this SUV to oversized Rogue status in our eyes but unfortunately for the Murano this review is going to be a bumpy ride.
The first thing you notice about the 2012 Nissan Murano’s exterior style is that chrome is the dominating theme here with its toothy and somewhat evil looking front grille taking center stage. Darker colors really do wonders for the shape and style of the Murano so we advise not picking white or one of the other hues chosen mainly because they don’t absorb too much heat when it’s a sunny day. Really people, that’s no reason to pick an exterior color.
With the optional Sapphire Black exterior paint color, we think that your 2012 Nissan Murano will truly be ready for its new life acting as Darth Vader’s personal transport whenever he is in Hollywood making a “Star Wars” sequel or for those times when he needs to see his asthma doctor about getting a new inhaler. Now, Nissan messed up the Murano’s lines in a criminal fashion with its ill-thought out Cross Cabriolet so try and show some respect for this SUV as it can look very upscale and fashionable given you make the right decisions when buying one. We will, of course, leave this decision up to your own judgment no matter how misguided it may be should you choose not to listen to our advice.
Interior Design and Cargo/Family Hauling Capability
Admittedly, there are some compact SUVs from even the size class below the 2012 Nissan Murano that can match or only slightly break the cargo hold measurements (31.6 cubic feet behind the second row, 64 cubic feet when the seats are all folded flat) but if someone chooses to point that out to you as a personal failing of your character then perhaps they need to stop imitating Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “Rainman” and fixating on one subject. Seriously, it’s only ten minutes until Judge Wopner comes on. And quite honestly, the Murano’s interior offers all the cargo and passenger hauling capability most anyone would rationally ever want or need.
One other thing to note about the 2012 Murano is that older folks will find it very easy to get in and out of as you don’t have to hoist yourself up in the cabin like you are getting into a lifted pickup (or fall down into it as one does in a Miata) due to the fact that it rides low enough to offer that convenience. It also means that the cargo hold is not inordinately high off the ground meaning a lot less grunting will be heard during visits to buy heavy objects at your local Home Depot. Although grunting and trips to that store do tend to go hand in hand.
As we mentioned before, we felt that the beige interior in the Nissan Murano wass just a bit much to take but despite that one issue of personal preference, we feel that the rest of the cabin is laid out with style, convenience and logic in mind. We quite liked the quick and easy to understand interface of the high mounted central screen where you access navigation, audio, phone and other essential controls via a cleverly designed control knob. Then below that are controls for the audio system and dual zone climate control giving the overall appearance of the Murano’s dashboard a pleasingly architectural tone echoing the bank vault solidity of most of the materials used to assemble it.
Continuing with the positives, the 2012 Nissan Murano offers plentiful room for even five adults with rear leg and elbow room proving to be quite generous. Most customers who buy the Murano will find it to be a comfortable and relaxing interior with very comfortable seats and driver controls so straightforwardly designed that they can be understood with little need of an owner’s manual.
That last sentiment about the Murano, dear readers, is something we cannot say about the drab 2012 Ford Edge’s interior when that rival mid-size SUV comes equipped with the utterly confounding My Ford Touch system. Why the Edge now has an analog speedometer and a very fake looking digital tachometer is just the tip of the iceberg in regard to that SUV’s problems and to this day lies totally beyond our understanding. The Edge’s wooden steering feel also doesn’t help matters.
And we admit that no matter how much we hated our Murano’s fake wood trim, we can safely say that at the end of the day that it is also really no worse than what is to be found on the dash of a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Someone really needs to take some auto designers from Nissan, Ford and Jeep out on a day excursion to a forest so they can actually look at some real trees. It’s just a thought but perhaps they could get there in some of their SUVs with the hideous wood trim.
Value, Features and Fuel Economy
Our 2012 Nissan Murano LE Platinum Edition did not come with the optional all-wheel drive system but came replete with pretty much every other option available with this SUV thereby causing the MSRP to balloon to $42,840 with destination charges. That’s a lot of coin to be spending on an SUV from a non-luxury automaker especially considering a 2013 Acura RDX with the Tech Package costs a few thousand dollars less but comes with most of the features we found in the Murano. Also, the RDX’s transmission didn’t annoy us constantly as did the CVT in this Nissan but we’ll get to that further in the Driving Impressions section.
This special Platinum Edition 2012 Nissan Murano LE came equipped with leather seats, heated and powered front seats, dual zone climate control, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a back-up camera, XM satellite radio, USB/iPod integration, Bluetooth, in-dash navigation, a dual panel moonroof, ambient lighting, push button starting and a keyless-go system that allows you to always leave your key in your pocket, a power liftgate, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels and a dual screen rear seat DVD entertainment system. EPA fuel economy ratings are 18 city/24 highway running on regular unleaded and we averaged 19.2 miles per gallon during out time in the Murano which is average for this class of vehicle.
Do keep in mind that the 2012 Murano starts out at just under $30,000 with a more sensibly equipped (read: affordable) SV variant going for about $33,000 which is a smarter price point for a mainstream brand’s mid-level SUV. Once you cross the $40,000 threshold with a new suv purchase, customers start to demand things like ownership prestige, badge appeal and a Starbucks in their local dealership’s service department. We’re just not sure Nissan is ready to deliver on that and still sell models like the $10,000 Versa.
Driving Impressions and Safety
The 2012 Nissan Murano got top safety marks from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) in its frontal offset impact, side impact and rear impact whiplash tests but scored only a “marginal” rating for roof strength. This means that in the unlikely event that your Murano flips over onto its roof in an accident there could be issues. The IIHS usually looks for SUVs to be able to support three times their curb weight when flipped over onto their roof. This is an important consideration in the purchase of a family SUV so before buying any model check the iihs.org website to see how that vehicle scored.
Now, from a driver’s perspective the Murano should be a winner given the fact that it comes equipped with Nissan’s sporty, proven and very reliable 3.5 liter 260 horsepower/240 lb. feet of torque V6 engine that also currently serves duty in the Maxima sport sedan. This motor is known for its flexible power delivery, throaty roar and addictively rev-happy character. Unfortunately, the Murano’s CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) totally ruins all of those attributes.
Nissan claims on its website that its CVT automatic offers “incomparably seamless shifting” which is an odd choice of words since their gearbox is gearless and never really shifts. Instead, the CVT emits an obnoxiously annoying moaning noise as the engine’s revs rise slowly to the redline making it necessary to turn up the radio just to tolerate the process of accelerating. Nissan also claims that its CVT “tailors the engine’s power output based on how you are driving” so perhaps it got confused during its stay with us and turned the 3.5 liter V6 into a gutless shadow of its usual self.
Moving along from that, the 2012 Nissan Murano is one of the better handling midsize suvs on the market today with body roll kept well in check when cornering. The steering, while lighter than we would prefer given our experience with the sporty Juke SUV, offered up sufficient feel to ensure most drivers will be able to engage in spirited driving should the CVT transmission decide to oblige them that day. The brakes also felt very strong and there was no sponginess or fade felt from the pedal during repeated panic stops performed in an empty parking lot after we got really, really frustrated by the performance of the Murano’s transmission. Did we mention how much we hated the transmission?
Not to beat a dead horse but we find it sad that this one poor work of engineering ruins what might ordinarily be a very fine SUV worthy of being cross shopped with premium brand offerings. Given Nissan’s time proven experience with creating exciting and sporty vehicles of all types, we have no doubt that they could give the world an affordable BMW X5 rival. But as it stands now, the 2012 Nissan Murano’s driving experience is at best uninvolving and at worst will make you want to bang your head against the nearest brick wall.
The 2012 Nissan Murano is an attractively styled, right sized SUV that can easily fill the needs of any family who, much like the girl in the fairy tale about “The Three Bears,” is just looking to buy a bowl of porridge that is “just right.” But despite its near perfect size and clever packaging, there is something rather cold and soulless about the Murano’s demeanor and overall driving experience.
To our way of thinking, life is too short to buy even a family SUV that is boring and doesn’t inspire any emotion from the driver. Admittedly, our 2012 Nissan Murano LE Platinum Edition came to us blinged out to the max with every available toy and gadget but its sky high sticker price would also make us think twice before signing on the dotted line.
But easily the biggest failing of the Murano is found with Nissan’s insistence on sticking with their CVT automatic transmission which in this application truly saps the soul and power from the 3.5 liter V6 that once was a force to be reckoned with in the Z sport coupe. An SUV with the exterior styling appeal of the 2012 Nissan Murano promises a whole heck of a lot but quite frankly doesn’t really deliver. This feeling, we imagine, must be much like going on a date with a supermodel who you later learn is really only interested in finding someone nice who wants to listen to her talk about her cat. It’s just a big letdown in the end.
What we Love About the 2012 Nissan Murano LE
- For the price we must admit that our test Murano came with every gadget, gizmo and luxury feature that a Lexus RX buyer would pay a whole lot more to find at a dealership.
- An impressive for the class 3,500 lb. tow rating, a super-sized 21.5 gallon fuel tank and a handy 31.4 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats means the 2012 Nissan Murano works as a road trip or “boat trip” SUV for the whole family.
- Our tester was not equipped with a pointless convertible top.
What we Loathe About the 2012 Nissan Murano LE
- Seriously Nissan, you are asking $42,030 for this admittedly well-equipped SUV? At that price point there should be an Infiniti suv available with a decent sized and Murano-like cargo hold. Yes, we are knocking the EX35.
- The beige interior option needs to be toned down as does the light wood trim that comes along with it. Nissan, check the Audi design book that demands use of subtly contrasting beige plastics and other materials to create a more harmonious and glare-free interior.
- Give the Murano a proper double clutch, the sporty 7-speed automatic from the Z or at least make some effort to improve the performance of the CVT automatic. Remember when you were the fun Japanese automaker and people called you Datsun?
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