First drive: 2019 Nissan Murano

Nissan's segment-defining CUV gets some minor updates.

The midsize, two-row segment is kind of a strange one. Sitting astride the gap between compacts and three-row midsizers, it seems to exist in no man's land, and yet it's growing larger and more crowded by the year. Players here include the Ford Edge, Jeep Cherokee, Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda's forthcoming Passport. Prolific company, you have to admit.

Ostensibly, this segment exists to capture both ends of the child-rearing demographic in the modern age of late-onset parenthood. These are the cars to which you upgrade when you want something nicer than your compact but don't need space for family accouterments, and the ones to which you downsize after you've put the last bag of hockey gear on craigslist. 

Nissan has played in this space since the very beginning. Murano is a nameplate which many credit with fundamentally shaping the crossover market. That's a point which could be argued ad nauseam, but the fact remains that Murano was here at the beginning, and will probably be here at the end. If you doubt Nissan's stubbornness, look no further than Maxima. More on that later this week. 

What's new?

The 2019 Nissan Murano gets a few updates, but nothing earth-shattering. Like most face-lifts, the new Murano's most noteworthy changes are of the aesthetic variety. The new "V-motion" nose and front fender design brings Nissan's midsizer more in line with the rest of the lineup stylistically and some new interior decor brightens up what has traditionally been a fairly ho-hum cabin. 

Maybe the most significant hardware update to note is the 2019 Murano's new NissanConnect infotainment head unit, which now offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration (standard to boot). Nissan was late to the game with smartphone integration, but has made up for it by taking opportunities like these to inject it into the existing lineup. 

What's not?

Mechanically, the Murano hasn't changed at all. It's still powered by a 3.5L, 260-horsepower V6 (also good for 240 lb-ft of torque) mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Power goes to either the front or all four wheels depending on how much money you feel like spending. Thanks to Nissan's frugal application of AWD, it gets the same 20 mpg city, 28 highway and 23 combined either way. 

What's the point?

A reasonable query. We asked ourselves the same question more than once. After all, why invite us to drive something that isn't actually new or different? Well, the answer seems pretty obvious to us, and we've actually already mentioned it in this write-up. 

Like many crossover niches, the two-row midsize segment is pretty dynamic. With the redesigned Santa Fe on sale now and the Passport just around the corner, we're of the belief that Nissan simply wanted to make sure that even slight updates to its offering don't go unnoticed. 

What's it like?

Can we just say it's the same and end it here? No? OK, fine. 

Thanks to the precarious in-between role these midsizers play, most are targeted at the more affluent customer in the two-row market. Murano is not (nor has it ever been) an exception. The emphasis here is on comfort, premium features and above-mainstream-market appointments. 

It should come as no surprise then that Nissan aimed for luxury-car buyers when tuning the Murano's ride, handling and overall comfort (NVH, materials, etc.). The ride is quiet and relatively plush without being too loose, but there is obvious body lean in turns, which can make a mid-corner adjustment feel a bit dramatic.

One might argue that pushing a Murano to the extent that a mid-corner adjustment is a matter of any urgency is missing the point, and we'll allow that. While it's certainly not all over the road when being hustled, it's more at home at cruise on an open road than it is being tossed around on a curving two-lane. 

It's also very quiet and composed even on rougher stretches, though we did note that the 20-inch wheels could get a bit choppy over particularly nasty sections. That's a fact of life in the world of larger-diameter wheels, however, and not necessarily a strike against the Murano specifically. 

Our biggest beef is with the steering. We'll readily acknowledge that every auto journalist seems to feel obligated to hate any steering system introduced after 1999 or so, but our complaint is far narrower than that. We specifically dislike the lack of feedback when cruising, where the Murano can drift slightly off-line without telling you. Look away for a second and chances are you'll have to make a correction.

We've noticed this on some previous Nissan products, so it's not isolated to the Murano. But it was not a noteworthy issue with the Kicks or redesigned Altima, so we suspect the sedan's setup is more reflective of what to expect from Nissan down the road.

Leftlane's bottom line

The 2019 Nissan Murano might not really be new, but that's not much of a strike against it. It's still a solid entry in a segment it helped create and a good value for a premium experience, and still uses an old-fashioned V6 to boot. 

2019 Nissan Murano base price, $31,270

Exterior photos by Byron Hurd. Interior photos courtesy of Nissan. 

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