2011 Nissan Murano SL AWD: Into the light

20 Aug 2011 | 1,630 views | No Comment
       By Don Hammonds It's tough living in somebody else's shadow.  Just ask anybody who's got a more popular overachiever as an older sibling. Or anybody who's toiled away in an office for years while a more flamboyant co-worker gets all the glory.       Now consider the 2011 Nissan Murano.  Once the darling of the crossover world, the Murano has been pushed out of the spotlight by its more glamorous younger sibling, Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet.     But the Murano SL has plenty of good stuff to claim its own time in the sunlight: Beautiful styling, exceedingly comfortable accomodations, strong acceleration, and handling that seems more like a sports car than a crossover.  Very cool! Along with its refreshed grille and bumper design, new taillights, a new 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheel design and a number of interior and content additions, Murano again combines its noteworthy “mobile suite” interior with advanced technology and a refined, premium driving feel to create a modern crossover SUV like no other. Also for 2011, two new models have been added to the lineup: SV FWD and SV AWD. They join the Murano S FWD, Murano S AWD, Murano SL FWD, Murano SL AWD, Murano LE FWD and Murano LE AWD to provide buyers with a wide range of equipment and features to match any need or budget. Other changes include the addition of one new exterior color, Graphite Blue, and a new wood grain hue on LE models.  Power comes from a 3.5 liter 260 horsepower V-6, with mileage ratings of 18/23. Estimated annual fuell cost is $2,250 based on 15,000 miles at $3.00 a gallon. Based price of our Murano SL AWD was $37,060, which includes as standard equipment all power accessories, eight way power drdiver seat with power lumbar support, heated front seats, 60/40 fold-flat rear seatback with power return, leather seating, aluminum trim accents, cruise control,  halogen headlights, satellite radio, all wheel drive, traction control and stability control, electronic brake force distribution and a host of other items.     The very first thing you notice about the Murano is the styling.  It remains, after a refresh two years ago, a sleek, robust-looking crossover with a futuristic grille and unusual looking rear end.  I's definitely 21st century, and you won't see any boxy, trucky styling elements here.  Given its' "with it" looks and its well-crafted, gorgeous interior,  the Murano is clearly an upscale crossover.  We think of it as a product aimed at design conscious, affluent young childless couples who have a hankering for weekend hiking and biking trips, antique shopping and the like. That message comes through loud and clear given that the Murano does not have a third row seat--a big problem for many people with established families, but not a big deal to us. There's too many other things to like about the Murano.       The handling is quite good, too.  It corners flat, the steering feels pretty well balanced and stable, and the presence of  anti roll bars back and front help explain why this car feels so firmly planted on the road.   Speaking of firm, you will feel the bumps and imperfections in the road while behind the wheel, but we like that. We want to know what the car's doing.  But for those who want marshmallowy road manners, and lots of softness, our advice is to look elsewhere.      Inside, we saw leg stretching, generous space front and back, and the hatch area is surprisingly large and accommodating in spite of the Murano's compact, muscled dimensions. The Murano is just a way cool, practical, fun-to-drive crossover that won't cramp your car enthusiast soul.

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