2004 Nissan Murano Review
The sports sedan of crossover SUVs.
The Murano is named after the glass sculpted in the islands near Venice, known for both its high-tech production methods and its beauty. In the Nissan Murano, this duality is most obvious in the styling.
The Murano is designed to blend the look of a car and a truck. The top half of the body is sleek like a car, while the bottom half is bulky like a truck. Overall, the look is much sleeker than tall wagon-shaped SUVs, yet still rugged.
Contributing to Murano's muscular styling are the huge 18-inch wheels, which come standard. Sculpted, vertical-stack headlights define the front corners. The exotic rear hatchback is made of reinforced plastic because steel won't bend easily in such a complex shape. The windshield and front side windows are tinted green to deflect UV radiation; the rear side and rear windows are near black for privacy.
As its looks suggest, the Murano is an aerodynamic machine. Details in the design help it slip quietly through the air. Airflow-improving devices include an underbody engine cover, front and rear tire deflectors, a rear spoiler, and aerodynamic mirrors. Combined with the low frontal area and roof, these enhancements increase fuel efficiency and limit wind noise at high speeds.
To finish the high-fashion look, Nissan offers eight color combinations for the exterior two-tone scheme, with three interior hues to mix and match. The colors were chosen carefully to promote a luxury look.
Climbing into the Nissan Murano is easier than climbing into a Honda Pilot. Slide into the driver's seat and you'll notice that outward visibility is excellent in all directions. It's a mild surprise that the view rearward isn't compromised by the stylishly thick D-pillars, but the Murano is full of surprises. The seating position and steering wheel orientation make it feel more like a car than the typical SUV.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, even for people six-feet, four inches tall. Petite drivers are also able to get comfortable, and power-adjustable pedals help ensure a good seating position, particularly for shorter women. The overall interior fit and finish are good, though Nissan interiors are generally not quite as good as Toyota and Honda interiors. Murano's instrument cluster is garnished with genuine brushed aluminum trim that gives it a younger, sportier look.
A prominent pod juts from the center of the Murano's dash, presenting both audio and climate controls. We aren't crazy about the pod's appearance, but it puts the switches close at hand. Murano's standard dual-zone, fully automatic climate control is a step above in this class, and features rear air-conditioning vents located on the B-pillars, good for passengers and dogs.
Buttons on the stereo are on the small side, but easy to use once you get the hang of them. The preset buttons, for example, can be programmed to select both AM and FM stations at the same time, without have to press the separate mode button first. Controls on the steering wheel allow easy volume adjustments. The navigation display has the latest three-dimensional birds-eye view. We sometimes find this easier to follow, and certainly more fun, than the typical flat map.
Useful features make the Murano a satisfying car for day-to-day use. A large center console separates the front seats, so no one is likely to feel like their sitting in a minivan. The center console features a two-tiered lockable storage box with enough room for a laptop computer or a purse, cell phone, sunglasses, coins, cups and bottles. The door pockets flip out for easy access, and there's a hidden storage tray and two bins under the cargo floor. There are also three power outlets: front-passenger footwell, center console and rear.
Because the Murano's body curves inward toward its occupants, the expectation might be that it feels cramped inside. It does not. Instead, the cabin feels airy. The Murano is a five-seater that's roughly the same size as seven-seat SUVs, such as the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. As a result, the Murano's back seat is like a limousine's. A six-foot, four-inch driver found he could cross his legs in the rear seat. The rear seatback rake adjusts easily by pulling a strap, which makes Murano's rear accommodations more comfortable than the second-row seat in many SUVs where passengers must sit uncomfortably upright.
The rear seats flop forward in one easy step, either by pulling on a strap from either of the side doors or by moving clever manual levers accessed from the rear hatch. Flopping both seatbacks down presents a big cargo area with a nice flat floor. And we mean big. The load floor measures about the same length as the seven-seat Honda Pilot's. Indeed, with maximum cargo capacity of 81.6 cubic feat, Murano dwarves nearly all of its five-seat competitors and some of the seven-seaters as well. Even with five passengers aboard, there's still a substantial 32.6 cubic feet of storage space. Moreover, the rear seats split 70/30 when they fold, so the Murano can carry one or two passengers in back with long items like skis laid flat across the other side.
On the down side, at 30.4 inches, the rear load height is a bit higher than the class average. And the Murano's bulky cargo cover seems to flap around and take up room. We'd be inclined to store it in the garage.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2004 Nissan Murano, click here: 2004 Nissan Murano.