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2011 Nissan Murano ReviewThe Good
The 2011 Nissan Murano offers a stout engine/transmission combo and an abundance of room for passengers and cargo alike.The Bad
With a too-soft suspension, a lack of rearward visibility and frustrating ergonomics, the 2011 Murano has places to improve.
The CarGurus View
Nissan's Murano certainly has nothing to apologize for in 2011. With a long list of accolades, a strong contender for the best engine/transmission combo in the segment and a versatile platform, it's positioned to be a class leader. Still, the small annoyances of a less-than-perfect suspension, frustrating ergonomics and a lack of useable rearward visibility, the Murano has a lot of work to do before it reaches its potential – keep an eye on this curious crossover.
At a Glance
American-made from a Japanese manufacturer and slapped with an Italian name. No wonder the Nissan Murano doesn’t know its place. Shoehorned between the Xterra and the Pathfinder, the Murano actually eclipses its bigger brother’s price, placing it in a unique position.
Perhaps that’s why so much attention was paid to this midsize crossover SUV in 2011. With a new trim level and a redesign that encompasses changes inside and out, Nissan seems to have decided to pour some new life into the Murano. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the Murano is powered by a single powertrain setup, regardless of trim.
For 2011, the front and rear fascias have been redesigned, along with new 18-inch wheels and some interior tweaks.
The Murano has been powered by the same V6/continuously variable transmission (CVT) setup since showing up in 2002 – a 3.5-liter version of the VQ engine. With all-aluminum construction, DOHC design and variable valve timing, it’s actually a retuned version of the same engine found in the 350Z, albeit here making 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. That’s a drop from 2010 of 10 hp and 8 lb-ft, but Nissan has dropped the octane requirements of the Murano for 2011 from premium-grade down to regular old 87.
Regardless, the Murano has no problem motivating. Its 3.5-liter V6 provides ample power both off the line and passing, with peak hp showing up at 6,000 rpm. The CVT provides near-seamless shifting with only a modicum of the rpm lag experienced with lesser systems. While fuel economy hasn’t changed this year – staying at 18/23 mpg - you’ll still pay less at the pump thanks to the change in required octane.
Ride & Handling
The Murano offers a frustrating combination of light steering, plush ride and sloppy suspension that makes any type of spirited driving a borderline scary experience. Taken as it was intended, the Murano performs adequately thanks to its 4-wheel independent suspension, which provides stable tracking on straight roads, even at speed. Traction and stability control do keep things composed, but the Murano can’t handle hard cornering with the poise it displays in a straight line.
Cabin & Comfort
Here again, the Murano presents a dichotomy of comfort and confusing choices. Front bucket seats are comfortable and provide adequate room for legs and heads alike – even for the taller drivers out there – but fail in any type of spirited cornering, with a lack of bolstering that will quickly find you in the passenger seat in a right-hand turn. A standard tilt and telescoping steering wheel helps provide precise positioning, but non-LE trims have a 2-lever setup for operation as opposed to the LE’s power. It’s too complicated for simple on-the-fly operation.
The same can be said of the audio and trip-computer display. Controls are placed just out of easy reach from the screen, and while this wouldn’t normally be much of an issue, when coupled with the screen’s reduced readability, it presents a dangerous situation with regard to attention removed from the road.
The navigation screen and amber gauges provide the same issue, only multiplying the frustration. Thankfully the same complaints haven’t been heard regarding the rear seats, which are both comfortable and supportive, even for three adults. They fold flat, too, providing a large cargo area, although raking rear pillars impede on overall capacity as well as visibility. Overall construction and assembly is of high quality, and aluminum and wood accents provide style and an upscale ambiance that would leave the Murano feeling stark in their absence. Noise is muted well, although the 3.5 can scream a little at higher rpm.
The Nissan Murano is one of the models chosen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to undergo its new testing procedures under its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). However, results of this testing have yet to be released.
Regardless, in addition to the aforementioned traction and stability control, all Murano trims come standard with dual front, front-side and curtain-side airbags, front-seat active head restraints, and 4-wheel antilock discs.
What Owners Think
While the mid-cycle refresh of the 2011 Nissan Murano has been received with general approval, aesthetics weren’t the most pressing issues the Murano faced. Sloppy suspension tuning, a lack of rearward visibility and clunky interior ergonomics are still unaddressed. That said, the Murano has been a popular model throughout its lifecycle, winning safety awards from both the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as well as “Truck of the Year” at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.