Only a few tweaks away from being a decent, and stylish, alternative to the upmarket SUV crowd.
29 June 2004

Nissan used to sell all sorts of tackle that never made it to Europe. But not any more. The company’s new diktat means that everything makes its way to Europe and the new Murano SUV, arriving next spring, is the first fruit of that policy.

Because it was originally designed for US tastes, however, the Murano isn’t yet seasoned for European palates. For a start, the only power choice is an anaemic version of the 350Z’s 3.5-litre V6, pushed through a CVT auto ’box, with no diesel or manual options. And while there’s no denying that it is distinctive and elegant to look at, the styling’s markedly mid-Atlantic.

But there’s plenty about the Murano that should see Nissan GB selling the 1000 examples it plans to ship over. Your £30,000 gets you a high kit count that includes sat-nav and leather, while the cabin is far more spacious than that of rivals such as the Lexus RX300.

It warrants comparisons with the RX on the road, too. The V6 sounds civilised and in cruising mode it makes a decent ally for the CVT ’box which flits between its ‘ratios’ imperceptibly and only gets in a tizzy on full-throttle upchanges.Drive is normally to the front wheels only, with torque going to the back only if the going gets slippy. Alternatively, you can switch to permanent four-wheel drive.

The US-spec car we drove coped well with road ruts and felt sure-footed, but it crashes over the worst road scars and lists in hard cornering. So the chassis needs attention to work well in the UK, but Nissan is promising upgrades before it crosses the pond. Likewise, road and wind noise need better isolation.

Even so, it’s only a few tweaks away from being a decent, and stylish, alternative to the upmarket SUV crowd.

Chas Hallett

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