First Drive: 2019 Nissan Murano

MONTREAL, QC – If evaluating your vehicle’s suspension is your objective, you might say the roads leading out of Montreal are darned near perfect. And that’s probably the most complimentary term ever used when describing them; the pavement is so uniformly, staggeringly bad as to be almost laughable. Fortunately, our vehicle – the 2019 Nissan Murano – has got plenty of cushion to manage the constant slam-dunking of wheel meeting pothole, without too much jarring transmitted to the cabin.

The upgrades for 2019 focus solely on style, and the passenger’s comfort and well-being.

There are absolutely no mechanical differences between the “new” 2019 Nissan Murano we’re driving and the outgoing model, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy a smooth, drama-free ride.

Nissan sold 13,239 units of this stylish crossover in Canada last year – which is less than a third of the number of their top-selling Rogue, also a compact CUV. Aside from its lower price tag, the Rogue boasts more athletic handling, better fuel efficiency, and more cargo space than the Murano – but they appeal to a completely different demographic. While the Rogue is a sporty, practical choice for a small family, the Murano buyer is more likely to be the well-off empty-nester who appreciates comfort and luxuriousness over driving dynamics and utility. Hence, the upgrades for 2019 focus solely on style, and the passenger’s comfort and well-being.

Named after a type of Venetian art glass, the Murano was a roundly sculpted departure from the boxy stylistic norm for crossovers when it debuted in 2003. The segment has evolved dramatically since then, and there are now many CUVs that push the boundaries of design and sophistication. It’s tough to stand out in such a highly competitive segment, but the Murano’s mid-cycle refresh presents a bold, new face with a more dramatic version of the familial V-shaped grille, mirrored by the lower fascia and chin spoiler. Front and rear lighting elements have been updated, as have the LED fog lights, and there are new 18- and 20-inch wheels, and three new paint colours to choose from.

Inside, the upgrades are a bit more obvious. Aesthetically, the Murano’s cabin was already exceptional for its class; and a more generous use of premium material – most notably diamond-quilted, creamy leather, and matte-finish teak trim on upper trim levels – is closer to what you’d expect from a luxury rather than mainstream brand. The cockpit wraps around its occupants in an eye-catching wave of separate shapes – dashboard, instrument binnacle, console, armrests – that’s modern, yet warm and plush. All but the base FWD trim get standard eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way lumbar support. What Nissan calls “NASA-inspired, zero-gravity” seating sounds rather pretentious, but proved extremely comfortable over several miles of Quebec’s tortured concrete.

Currently available on autoTRADER.ca

Of course, in answer to the customer’s never-to-be-sated demand for new technology, there’s a host of tech upgrades including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, motion-activated power liftgate, standard “rear door alert” reminder to check rear seat for articles; and two standard USB type-C ports. Murano already came with “Safety Shield 360”, Nissan’s suite of driver-assist features with intelligent cruise control, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. New are emergency braking with pedestrian detection, high-beam assist, rear intelligent emergency braking, lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition, three years of free navigation updates, and driver alertness warning.

On the road, the Murano is quiet and mannerly, if not very exciting. As mentioned before, the suspension competently absorbs bumps and road imperfections, delivering a smooth ride without any wallow.

Steering is on the numb side, but that’s probably to be expected for this demographic, who might find too much feedback off-putting. Rearward visibility is somewhat limited by the Murano’s raked roofline, but the blind-spot warning is a great help in busy traffic, and the 360-degree camera view aids in backing up.

Acceleration is good, and there’s plenty of power from the familiar 3.5-litre V6, which puts out 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. It’s a carry-over from last year, as is the continuously variable transmission. As far as CVTs go, this is one of the better ones – operating much as a traditional automatic without the elastic shift-lag, nor the tell-tale moaning that was once the hallmark of such transmissions.

It’s hard to stand out in the increasingly competitive crossover segments, and the Murano’s got considerably more competition now than when it first appeared. But it delivers a lot of style and luxury at a mainstream price, without looking like every other crossover in its class.

The 2019 Nissan Murano is on sale now.

Pricing: 2019 Nissan Murano

Murano S FWD: $32,248
Murano SV AWD: $38,748
Murano SL AWD: $42,948
Murano Platinum AWD: $45,998