Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The Nissan Murano is the only vehicle in the midsize SUV segment to offer a standard Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) as well as a rare convertible variant. The sporty and sophisticated exterior cloaks the attractive starting price, while a multitude of standard features including a lively V6 engine reinforce the 5-passenger Murano’s value message.
You'll Like The 2012 Nissan Murano If...
If you’re looking for a crossover vehicle with plenty of space for people and cargo but that doesn’t look like a rolling bread box, the 2012 Nissan Murano SUV is the logical choice.
You May Not Like The 2012 Nissan Murano If...
If a low base price or fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine is on your wish list, the Kia Sorrento, Hyundai Santa Fe, or Mazda CX-7 is more likely to please. Those seeking a third-row seat won’t find one in the 2012 Nissan Murano SUV.
For 2012, Nissan adds a new Platinum Package that brings 20-inch wheels and standard navigation. The Murano S models gain a new 7-inch monochrome screen.
Where the 2012 Murano SUV really shines is its interior, not just for the quality of the materials, but in the execution of its design. Seating both front and rear is firm and supportive, and the texture of the leather coverings is as good as in any Infiniti luxury car. With the exception of the oddly placed controls for the traction control, heated steering wheel and power liftgate down by the driver’s knee, the 2012 Murano’s instrument panel is logically arranged and easy to connect with. Unlike in some SUVs, Nissan designers wisely avoided the temptation to litter the dash with multiple buttons and knobs. Handsome wood inlays grace the door armrest and center console on the LE trim, while all others receive tasteful aluminum trim that looks particularly fashionable when contrasted against a black interior. Placing redundant controls for the audio, cruise and Bluetooth activation on the steering wheel helps the driver keep control of the vehicle, as does the available voice-activated navigation system. Rear-seat passengers enjoy generous head and legroom, and can be pampered with such luxuries as heated seat cushions and a DVD entertainment system complete with headrest-mounted LCD screens.
After nine years, the Murano’s basic shape remains unaltered. Although it has had numerous face lifts and sheet-metal changes, the familiar profile, with its slowly rising beltline that swings sharply upward once past the rear door, remains a staple of the Murano design. The windshield A-pillars are set low and angled back to create a sports-car-like appearance that contradicts the Murano’s 7.3 inches of ground clearance, a decidedly SUV-like attribute. Fancy 18- and 20-inch alloy wheels look sharp and set off the Murano’s sportier side without compromising its available all-wheel-drive (AWD) ability or fuel economy. All but the S trim models include front foglights, while LE trims are equipped with HID headlights. An available dual-panel moonroof allows fresh air and sunlight to fill the cabin, but if sacrificing respectable looks for pure open-top freedom seems sounds like a reasonable proposition, the CrossCabriolet’s double-lined retractable soft top is sure to raise the fun factor, and some eyebrows.
We spent a few days with the 2012 Nissan Murano and came away feeling really good about this crossover’s abilities. Steep hills were no problem for the Murano’s torque-happy V6 engine, and the CVT transmission holds that torque at peak levels until you let off the throttle. The 2012 Nissan Murano’s handling is among the best in this class, with excellent steering and brake response and a stiff suspension that keeps body roll and lean to a minimum. Unfortunately, that same stiff suspension seemed to cause our back-seat passengers to complain of a stiff ride that sometimes made it difficult to get comfortable. All agreed, however, that the Murano provided ample head and legroom for 6-footers, and the reclining rear seatbacks did somewhat help them relax. We were also very impressed not only by the quality of the Murano’s interior, but by its available features that included a heated steering wheel, voice-activated navigation, a huge dual-panel moonroof and awe-inspiring Bose audio system. The available iPod adapter interface proved easy to use when scrolling through the menus and songs, but less helpful when looking for specific artists that appear alphabetically on the bottom of the list.
The 2012 Nissan Murano S crossover has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just north of $30,000; nearly $32,000 with all-wheel drive. The SV runs between $33,500 and $35,300, the SL between just over $37,000 to just under $39,000 and a fully-loaded AWD LE with navigation tops out around $44,000. The soft-top Murano CrossCabriolet commands the top step of the pricing podium with a $45K starting price. Real-world transaction prices may vary greatly, so be sure to check Kelley Blue Book’s Fair Purchase Price before heading to the dealership. As for resale, we expect the Murano to hold excellent 5-year residual values, better than the Mazda CX-7, Jeep Grand Cherokee and in line with the Ford Edge and Toyota Highlander.
The 2012 Nissan Murano S crossover features a 3.5-liter V6 engine, Xtronic CVT automatic transmission, dual-zone automatic climate control, 6-disc MP3 compatible CD changer, auxiliary audio input jack, Intelligent Key with push-button start, driver’s-seat lumbar support and a 60/40 split folding rear seat with cargo area-accessible releases. To this the SV adds a dual-panel moonroof, power front seats, auto on/off headlights, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, USB port for iPod, and Bluetooth. The SL trim brings leather seating, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, memory for the driver’s seat, a power liftgate, 11-speaker Bose audio and rain-sensing wipers. The LE adds HID headlights, 20-inch wheels, heated rear seats and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Standard safety features on all Muranos include Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with traction control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), and six airbags (front, front-side and side-curtain.)
Most options on the 2012 Nissan Murano SUV are bundled according to trim, so if you want rain-sensing wipers, for example, you’ll have to order the SL or LE trims. The Navigation Package, available only on SL and LE, brings Nissan’s hard-drive navigation with 7-inch touch-screen monitor, XM NavTraffic and NavWeather, Bluetooth streaming audio and a 9.3 GB music box hard-drive storage system. Some stand-alone options include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, mudguards, retractable cargo cover, illuminated kick plates, rear-bumper protector and roof-rail cross bars.
POWER RETURN REAR SEATSNo need to wrestle with the rear seats to get them back into the upright position; the 2012 Murano’s available power-return rear seatbacks go up with the push of a button. IPOD INTEGRATIONAuxiliary input jacks are decent for listening to iPods, but the 2012 Nissan Murano crossover also has an adapter that makes controlling your iPod through the factory radio easy, enabling you to keep your eyes on the road more when skipping between artists or songs.
Under the Hood
The 2012 Nissan Murano SUV offers only one engine: a 3.5-liter V6 with Continuous Valve Timing Control and Nissan Variable Induction Control. This strong performer is linked to Nissan’s newest Xtronic CVT transmission, which provides even power distribution whenever it’s needed and contributes to the Murano’s impressive 3,500-pound tow rating.3.5-liter V6260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm240 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/23 mpg (Front-wheel drive), 18/24 mpg (AWD), 17/22 mpg (CrossCabriolet)
As it was when introduced in 2003, the 2012 Nissan Murano SUV remains a step ahead of the competition. Where many manufacturers are just now trumpeting the efficiency of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Murano has always been equipped with the technology. And, where other small SUVs are moving away from the boxy and bland design, the Murano has always been a sleek and stylish trendsetter. The Murano crossover is packed with all manner of modern amenities. Nissan’s response to the rapidly changing world of design, however, has left the automotive community bewildered on behalf of the 2012 Murano CrossCabriolet, an eccentric convertible version that appears to answer a question the market has yet to ask. While competitors such as the Ford Edge, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-7 and Toyota Highlander can all match the 2012 Murano for features and interior space, the Murano’s driver-oriented suspension, slick styling and high-end luxury interior keep it one step ahead of the SUV still trying to keep up.