By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT - I was breaking bread with several auto industry wags a few weeks ago and the conversation turned towards Nissan. And one guy said that Nissan doesn't have a product problem, it has a communication problem. Communication meaning marketing; he may have a point.
Nissan, pound for pound, model for model compares nicely with any full-line manufacturer. But the automaker really doesn't get a lot of credit in that regard. In some quarters, Nissan is not mentioned in the same breath as other Japanese manufacturers - and it should be.
I recently test drove Nissan's Murano and was pleasantly surprised about several aspects of the vehicle.
My test vehicle had a 3.5 liter V6 that generated 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and my Nissan Murano LE had an all-wheel-drive system.
I continue to be impressed with Nissan's CVT program. Mated to the Murano's 260 horsepower engine, the CVT was quiet and transferred power effectively to the pavement. Failing these two points is why several other manufacturers have walked away from CVTs.
But Nissan is committed and continues to equip many of its vehicles with CVTs. The expertise from generation to generation is evident. My test vehicle's acceleration was silky smooth, authoritative and relatively quiet.
One of the banes of CVTs is that they can be so loud under harder hard acceleration that a driver can feel like the car should be going faster than it is because of the rev of the engine which is actually the whine of the CVT. Nissan has solved that idiosyncrasy.
My test car was smooth under hard acceleration. The road speed of the crossover matched the speed of the engine and I had to turn the radio volume way down to hear the CVT. That's a major improvement over CVTs that I test drove a few years ago.
The build quality of my Murano was excellent. You when you're in a vehicle and its going over ruddy roads and its shake and wheel articulation give you a sense of security. That's how I felt in the Murano because I could feel the sturdiness of the vehicle build in how it took the bumps, ruts and the ruddy pavement laid bare as winter receded here.
I had the Platinum Edition Package. My test vehicle was equipped with a navigation system with voice controls, a touch scream and streaming audio via Blue tooth. Of course, there was Bluetooth for my cell phone connection, a rearview camera, and satellite radio and 20-inch aluminum wheels. My test vehicle was also equipped with DVD screens in the back of the front seat headrests.
The entire interior was nicely done. It was balanced with premium materials and a clean layout. I especially liked the moon roof over the front seats and the skylight over the second row. The Murano was equipped with Nissan tiered center stack and it worked well in the vehicle.
My front seats as well as the steering were heated. The all-wheel-drive system could be locked. Nissan designers wanted to passengers to feel safe and secure when they get in the Murano. I think they pulled it off. The inside of test vehicle felt cozy and first rate.
The Murano's exterior styling was understated by slick. The crossover had a wide front fascia and a wide grille. Dual exhausts were prominent in the rear fascia. Upswept creases that flowed from the front fender to the rear spoiler gave my five seat crossover the feel of movement even when it was parked out front. I liked the side glass between the C and D pillars. It helped to open the passenger cabin. And the two soft Vs in the rear glass increased the downward view.