For more than 15 years, the Nissan Murano has given midsize SUV buyers an alternative to the status quo. Unusual design with an upscale appeal is this model’s calling card, placed on a proven platform with a reliable powertrain.
That recipe doesn’t change for 2019. Still its quirky self, the 2019 Murano gets a light freshening that improves its styling, refines its cabin, and updates its technology. The fundamentals remain the same as they’ve always been, which is great if you’re a Murano fan.
They exist. My wife and I owned a first-generation Murano, and we loved it for 12 years. Then we decided we wanted something safer in which to ferry our family. By then, the current Murano was on sale, and I just couldn’t get over the weird headlights, so we bought an Acura after they’d fixed the grille.
Redesigned headlights are just one of several styling changes to the 2019 Murano. They look better, but still bleed into the hood, which is what bugged me before. New taillights are also on the 2019 Murano menu, along with a revised grille and new wheel designs for most versions of the SUV. Three new colors also debut, including the Nissan GT-R-inspired Deep Blue Pearl seen here.
Nissan invited me to drive the latest Murano near the Northern California coast. Sold in S, SV, SL, and Platinum trim levels, my Murano test vehicle was the top-of-the-line version – which also happens to be the one getting the most changes this year. I didn’t spend much time behind the wheel, but here’s a summary of what I learned:
- The 2019 Murano looks better.
- The Platinum’s interior does a decent job of mimicking a luxury SUV.
- This surface refresh doesn’t go far enough toward making a Murano a more compelling vehicle.
Nissan adds new safety tech for 2019, but leaves the best off the menu
So here’s the deal. If you’re a DINK couple, regardless of age, and you want a luxury SUV without actually paying for one, and you don’t care about the prestige associated with a luxury nameplate, the Murano is for you.
That’s a pretty narrow band of buyers, and having brought two babies home from the hospital in a first-gen Murano, I can attest to this vehicle’s family-friendly size. All it lacks is a third-row seat, and based on personal experience I can tell you that my own SUV’s third-row remains in its folded position nearly all the time.
Don’t limit yourself. If you like the way the Murano looks, and you like the way it drives, then you’ll probably be quite happy with it over time.
The interior is much the same as it was last year. Minor changes to trim and color aim to elevate the cabin to entry-luxury status, but the Murano’s packaging can’t support the positioning.
Don’t get me wrong. The diamond-quilted semi-aniline leather in the Platinum trim is decidedly decadent, and the interior materials are indeed impressive, but when you need to pay top-dollar to get the most sophisticated driver assistance and collision avoidance systems, there is a problem.
Plus, Nissan doesn’t offer its most sophisticated driver-aid technology for the Murano. You can get the ProPilot Assist lane centering and distance control system on a Nissan Rogue, but not on this larger SUV aspiring to be a luxury model.
Comfort is easy to come by, and the Murano Platinum’s front seats are heated and cooled. Rear seat comfort impresses, and cargo space measures 37 cubic feet behind the rear seat. Fold it down to access 74.4 cubes.
The interior is fairly serene, and because Nissan is apparently a proponent of clearly labeled buttons, knobs, and switches, you don’t get confused when trying to perform simple tasks. The NissanConnect infotainment system gains new features for 2019 including over-the-air software updates and a door-to-door navigation function that continues giving you directions to a specific address if you parked blocks away.
Additional upgrades include a standard driver attention monitoring system, a quick-charging USB-C port, and Rear Door Alert. That latter feature is designed to help remind parents and pet owners that a child or fluffy buddy might still be in the back seat, so don’t lock up and leave.
Murano faces new competition in the 5-passenger midsize SUV segment
Two things bothered me about driving the 2019 Murano.
First, the shifter feels like a thrift-store trinket when you select a gear, and since you’re going to select a gear every single time you drive this SUV, you’re going to get the impression that it is cheap.
Second, when you stopped and turning the steering wheel, or moving at a slow rate of speed, it’s too heavy. That was always true of our own first-gen Murano, and that trait remains. It is not a good one.
Otherwise, I have no qualms about the Murano’s driving dynamics. The 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is a proven and satisfying engine, and Nissan has mastered the art of the continuously variable transmission. This combination produced 26.5 miles per gallon at an average of 40 miles per hour, which aligns with EPA expectations. The ride is taut but not stiff, and the handling is good but not great. It’s easy to finesse the brakes, too.
Nissan put me on the two-lane roads north of San Francisco, running from Petaluma to the coast. This is idyllic countryside, reflective of how Nissan envisions the Murano’s DINK and empty-nest owners wiling away their weekends away from the grind of the workweek. And in this environment, the 2019 Nissan Murano shines brightest.
This 5-passenger, midsize SUV is about to face an onslaught of new competition. From the redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe, which is already on sale and offers far better value than the Nissan, to the revived Chevy Blazer, the refreshed Ford Edge, and the resurrected Honda Passport, the Murano’s stake in the segment is poised to shrink.
Unfortunately, this 2019 model year update doesn’t go far enough for the Murano to definitively defend its turf. But as I said, if you like the way the Murano looks, and you like the way it drives, then you’ll probably be quite happy with it over time.