Murano nails the fashion part, what’s next? Look ahead to 2017 and beyond

2015 Nissan Murano

2017 Nissan Murano

What changes will make the 2017 Nissan Murano different?

Nothing of note, just two seasons after an all-new design was introduced for model-year 2015. That was the first redesign of this midsize crossover since 2009. It brought wild new styling inside and out, but kept the same, aging powertrain. New colors and perhaps a shuffling of some features among trim levels could be in the cards for ’17. Don’t expect a quickie facelift, as was done just two years into the previous generation’s run. It corrected some initial styling shortfalls, bringing a new grille and taillamps far earlier in the SUV’s lifecycle than conventional practice would dictate. After that, the second-generation Murano went visually unchanged until the ’15 redesign.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

You shouldn’t, if you like the ‘16. The ’17 won’t look different, won’t have new features worth waiting for, and isn’t likely to get a powertrain upgrade. It will, however, cost a bit more than the ’16; thank inevitable model-year price inflation. It’s styling will also have a slightly shorter shelf life. If the automaker hews to a conventional timeline, this third-generation Murano would get some styling updates for model-year 2019. If Nissan jumps on the trend toward accelerated midcycle freshenings, that could even happen for 2018. Either case, watch for the next all-new Murano around model-year 2021. And look for the ’17 to return a lineup consisting of the base S, midline SV, upscale SL, and top-line Platinum. All will again be available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (awd) and will share a 3.5-liter V-6 linked to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Yes, if you want a fashion-plate five-seater that’s comfortable, available with most of the latest convenience and safety features, and top of the competitive set for fuel economy. This is the extroverted sibling of Nissan’s larger and more staid Pathfinder, which accommodates seven on three rows of seats. Murano’s roomy cabin features seats with a nice blend of suppleness and support; there’s even width enough for an adult on the center of the rear bench. Cargo volume is tighter than in leading five-passenger rivals but is adequate enough. A nice range of features should repeat as standard on every trim, including keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, a rearview camera, Bluetooth linking, and LED daytime running lights. Same for the automaker’s clever Easy Fill Tire Alert, which beeps the horn when you’ve reached proper inflation. All but the S should return with fog lamps and power-adjustable front seats. And unlike some competitors that reserve an integrated navigation system for their upper grades, every Murano should be available with Nissan’s fine GPS system; it’ll again be optional on the S and standard on the others.

Will the styling be different?

Other than the possibility of an enhanced color palette, expect a repeat of the striking exterior design and contemporary cabin décor introduced for 2015. Again distinguishing Murano in a crowded field of crossovers is a mix of curves and angles highlighted by rear-fender kick-ups reminiscent of tailfins. Its blacked-out rear-roof pillars are distinctive if not pretty. The dashboard is less severe but no less modern. Controls are logically arrayed and clearly labeled. Every model will again have a 7-inch display between the speedometer and tachometer; it’s packed with easily accessed audio, phone, trip, and vehicle-systems data. Navigation-equipped Muranos will again have an 8-inch central-dashboard screen serving a system with intuitive icons and better-than-average voice recognition.

Any mechanical changes?

Very unlikely, though a worthwhile upgrade would be firmer steering to alleviate the numbness that’s been its defining trait. Same for suspension modifications to reduce the ponderous reactions in quick, fast changes of direction. As for the powertrain, Nissan seems committed to this V-6/CVT combo. It’s used here and in the Pathfinder; in the company’s Altima and Maxima sedans; and in the QX60, the upscale version of the Pathfinder from the automaker’s premium Infiniti division. Rated at 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, V-6s and even turbocharged four-cylinders standard or optional in many Murano rivals surpass it for power – and for refinement. Still, acceleration is perfectly adequate, and the CVT mimics a conventional automatic more credibly than most of its kind. No pretending this is an off-roader: the awd system doesn’t even have a locking mode for extra traction at low speed. But if you drive in snow you’ll appreciate its ability to automatically shuffle power between the front and rear axles to quell tire slip. Road manners favor ride comfort over sporty handling, though the Platinum’s 20-inch wheels don’t absorb impacts as well as the other models’ 18-inchers.

Will fuel economy improve?

Absent mechanical changes, 2016 EPA ratings should repeat. That would maintain Murano near the top of its competitive set. That’s a credit to the automaker’s engineering expertise. Expect 2017 ratings of 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 21/28/24 mpg with awd.

2016 Nissan Murano

Will it have new features?

Probably not. Nissan could liberalize standard equipment, making, for example, the leather-wrapped steering wheel that’s included on SV, SL, and Platinum models standard on the S, as well. At the other end of the grade ladder, it could make such amenities as the power tilt/telescope heated steering wheel with memory at least optional on the SL; it’s been an exclusive standard feature for the Platinum. More important, we would urge the automaker to loosen availability of some important safety items. It ought to make blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic detection at least optional on S and SV models; they’ve been exclusive standards on SL and Platinum. And extending the option of adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning with automatic braking beyond the SL and Platinum would be a laudable move. Expect no change in availability of some features: a power front passenger seat should remain standard on all but the S model, for instance, while options like the panoramic moonroof will continue as an option on all but the S. A power liftgate will probably remain an exclusive standard feature for SL and Platinum. The Platinum is also likely to retain exclusive rights to such features as front-seat cooling and rear-seat heating, power-return folding rear seatbacks, and LED low- and high-beam headlamps.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They’ll increase, though modestly. Still, Murano’s base prices should remain slightly higher than those of many five-seat rivals aimed more at family-transportation buyers and less at a style-statement audience. (Estimated base prices in this review include Nissan’s destination fee, which was $900 for the 2016 Murano.) Look for the S to start around $30,700, the SV around $35,500, the SL around $38,200, and the Platinum around $40,300. To those base prices expect to add $1,600 for awd. Navigation should remain an $860 S option and again include a USB interface for iPod and other compatible devices. If Nissan doesn’t alter availability of adaptive cruise control and front-collision warning with automatic braking, those features would again be part of the SL and Platinum Technology Package, a $2,260 option that also includes the panoramic moonroof.

When will it come out?

Expect a fall 2016 release.

Best competitors

Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Subaru Outback, Toyota 4Runner, Volkswagen Touareg

What change would make it better?

To reiterate: tighter steering and more responsive handling, along with wider availability of key safety features.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]