My most harrowing test drives are always in the five boroughs. I put the Nissan Murano to the test one rainy night on the Cross Bronx Expressway. This just happens to be the thruway that scares me more than any winding mountain course I have ever encountered.
The Murano, introduced just one year ago, with its all-wheel-drive and 245-horsepower motor had the kind of drive I needed to feel safe in heavy traffic at high speeds.
Largely unchanged from 2003, Murano is Nissan's first jaunt into the crossover sport utility market. Nissan has been pumping up their inventory in the last year with introductions that include the mighty Titan truck, the Armada full-sized SUV and the Quest mini-van.
At a competitive starting price of $29,800, Murano-named after the colorful Venetian glass- has a funky, futuristic design. This is one look you can't miss.
The mid-sized vehicle seats five. The rear seat splits, folds down and reclines, the cargo area is a hefty 32.6 cubic feet. Dual-zone climate controls and rear air conditioning vents are standard, as are LATCH child seat tethers.
Matte metal surfaces accent the cabin. The center console has flat rectangular buttons and symmetric knobs, along with a 12-volt power socket, cell phone holder, cup holders and a 6.4 inches screen for optional DVD navigation and entertainment system. The instrument cluster has round, white-backed gauges; steering wheel is trimmed in metal.
A 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 makes 245 horses and 246 lb.-ft. of torque. Stability and traction control are standard along with four-wheel vented disc brakes.
Two trim levels are available, SE and SL. Both levels include 18-inch wheels; cloth upholstery; power adjustable mirrors and driver's seat; AM/FM/CD stereo; front, side and curtain airbags; and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. High-intensity discharge xenon headlamps and silver-colored lower bumpers are added features on higher-end SE models. Leather upholstery, sunroof, satellite radio, premium BOSE stereo system, DVD navigation and various packages are available as options on all models.