Nissan has extended its four-wheel drive range in New Zealand with the American-developed Murano wagon.
Designed originally as a US market car, the Murano has gone into other markets, notably Europe, following demand from Nissan distributors and dealers. It has been hugely successful in the USA where it has been on sale for two years, and in Europe. In New Zealand, it's available in two specification levels, the ST and the more luxurious Ti.
Nissan New Zealand is insisting that the Murano is a vehicle that can't be easily pigeonholed. "The 3.5-litre V6 engined Murano could be a car, or a 4WD, or a station wagon - 0r all three combined," says managing director John Manley.
Its styling picks up some current Nissan cues, the nose being reminiscent of the French-influenced Micra supermini (Nissan is owned by French manufacturer Renault). Follow the car down the road and from some angles there are faint echoes of Porsche's Cayenne SUV. It will seat five rather than the seven people common in SUVs, which leaves a roomy luggage boot.
Manley says the Murano has the "functional aspects of a 4x4 and the styling and ride of a sports car, which is echoed with the integrated rear spoiler." It has a feet-firmly-planted widetrack stance, and the muscular attitude is reinforced by the 18-inch diameter alloy wheels which give the wheelarches a well-filled look. The trapezoidal head and taillights echo those on the 350Z. The lightweight tailgate is made from advanced composite plastics with steel reinforcement. The construction method is designed to make it easy to open and close.
Nissan's California Design Studio styled the Murano, working to a brief to create a new crossover sports utility vehicle with a highly sculpted shape combining a typical four-wheel drive stance with stylish lines.
The Murano is powered by the same 3.5-litre V6 engine as the 350Z sports car, driving through Nissan's six-speed Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).
In the Murano, the VQ series V6 develops 172kW of maximum power and 318Nm of peak torque. The X-Ttronic CVT has been paired with the V6 engine to provide smooth and responsive acceleration while virtually eliminating shift shock. Nissan says the CVT transmission (expect to see it in the Maxima at a later date) also delivers better fuel economy than a conventional automatic, and eliminates gear hunting on long uphill sections.
The transmission also has a six-speed manual mode. Drive is fed through an All-Wheel Drive set-up based on Nissan's All Mode 4x4 system, combined with VDC (vehicle dynamic control) and traction control (TCS) to offer strong levels of traction and stability in all environments.
The ABS (anti-lock braking system) sensors monitor wheel slip and a rear-mounted electro mechanical clutch engages drive to the rear wheels - as much as 50 per cent - as soon as the front wheels begin to slip. Though there is no low-range gear as such, the transmission can be locked in 4WD below 10km/h for use in mud, snow and ice or when starting on slippery surfaces. The Murano has a 1500kg towing capacity with a braked trailer.What lies underneath
The Murano is build on Nissan's new FF-L platform (front-engine, front-drive, large). It has a long wheelbase for maximum interior space.
The same platform is the basis of the Maxima sedan, but the Murano's 2825mm wheelbase is 50mm longer and the 1620mm track is 80mm wider.
Front suspension is by MacPherson front struts, with a multi-link set-up at the rear. Extensive use of aluminium components in the suspension has reduced unsprung weight. The rack-and-pinion steering is speed-sensitive.On the inside
The Murano has reclining rear seats with a 60/40 split and a particularly easy-to-use folding mechanism. Pulling a single lever in the luggage area folds the rear seats flat. Interior storage is generous.
A double deck lockable centre floor console is deep enough to house a laptop computer and is supplemented by flip-out door pockets and a storage area for coins, mobile phone, sunglasses, cups and bottles. Underfloor storage in the boot ensures valuables can be hidden.The safety story
Active safety on the Murano includes all-wheel drive, TCS and VDC, along with ABS brakes with EBD (electronic brake force distribution) and BA (brake assist).
The xenon headlights have power washers and automatic levelling to cater for heavy loads.
Passive safety components include front, side and front and rear curtain airbags, active front head restraints and anti intrusion beams in the doors.
There are three point seatbelts for all five occupants, with pre-tensioners and load limiters on the front seatbelts. All seat belts apart from the middle rear seat have height adjustment.What you pay and what you get
Standard equipment on the $55,450 ST model includes 18-inch alloy wheels, Bose audio system with in-dash six-disc Compact Disc auto-changer and steering wheel controls.
It also gets climate-control air-conditioning, power-adjustable driver's seat, leather-covered steering wheel and gear shift lever, cruise control, remote central door-locking with alarm and anti theft immobiliser, electric windows and mirrors and a multi-function drive computer.
The $59,950 luxury Ti model adds an electric tilt and slide sunroof, roof rails, heated seats, and leather upholstery.A glassy name
The Murano takes its name from the island of Murano near Venice, Italy. The island is the home of internationally-renowned Murano glass.