A better engine? Please. Freshened styling? Meh. Look ahead to the 2019 Nissan Murano

2019 Nissan Murano

2019 Nissan Murano

What changes will make the 2019 Nissan Murano different?

Perhaps the engine upgrade speculated about but undelivered as part of the model-year-2018 freshening. Nissan didn’t tweak Murano’s styling, either, and now it appears this eye-catching midsize crossover could remain visually unchanged until its next full redesign, likely for model-year 2021 or ’22. Laudably, the automaker did enhance Murano’s safety story, making vital driver assists – including autonomous emergency braking – standard on every trim level.

With the safety essentials covered, a more technically up-to-date engine would be a welcome model-year 2019 change, as would tightened handling. We’d wager Murano will get a minor facelift before its next redesign, even if strengthening sales suggest buyers are pleased with the avant garde look it adopted when last redesigned, for model-year 2015. Nissan calls this the halo vehicle for its roster of crossovers and SUVs and again slots Murano it above the compact Rogue and as a racier companion to the slightly larger, seven-passenger midsize Pathfinder.

Why should I wait for the 2019?

In the hope Nissan will correct Murano’s biggest deficit – an outdated engine – and at least address one of its lesser faults, laborious handling. Installing the more modern V-6 from the Pathfinder would bring additional power and a needed measure of mechanical smoothness. Recalibrating the transmission, steering, and suspension would further improve drivability and road manners. And if Nissan can keep Murano’s fuel-economy ratings near the top of the competitive set, it will have made the 2019 model dynamically worthy of its striking exterior design and contemporary cabin décor.

Regardless of potential changes, the ’19 Murano almost certainly will cost more than the ’18; the base price of the top trim level spiked 7 percent for 2018. So you’ll likely pay more for fundamentally the same vehicle. You’re also apt to select from the same four-model lineup: base S, better-equipped SV, luxury-oriented SL, and flagship Platinum. All would return with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Should I buy a 2018 model instead?

Yes, if you like its extroverted styling and find the dated engine refined enough. Visually, the ’18 Murano is unchanged from its 2015 redesign, when it shed its drab teardrop shape for a mix of tensioned curves and taut angles. That sets it apart from direct rivals such as the Ford Edge and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The look isn’t for everyone; Murano sales rank in the bottom half of the crowded midsize-crossover segment. But it was outselling the Pathfinder through the first four months of 2018, and was one of the few crossovers to register an increase in demand (up 6 percent) in a segment where sales decreased slightly.

If you shop a 2018, you’ll benefit from Nissan’s praiseworthy decision to equip every Murano with imbedded navigation as standard and, more important, to make key safety features standard, too. Chief among the latter is forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, designed to automatically stop the vehicle to mitigate a frontal collision. The system had been an option exclusive to the SL and Platinum as part of a $2,260 package that also included adaptive cruise control. Designed to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, adaptive cruise control was made standard for ’18 on SL and Platinum models and became available on the SV as part of its optional Premium Package. Non-adaptive cruise control is otherwise standard.

Also for ’18, the SV joined the SL and Platinum with standard blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection; for ’18, Nissan could make it available for the first time on the S grade. We’d urge the automaker to also introduce for 2019 lane-departure alert and its autonomous cousin, lane-maintaining automatic steering. Most rivals offer it.

Will the styling be different?

Given this third-generation Murano’s product cycle, we were among those anticipating minor exterior changes for model-year 2018. Nissan instead used the midcycle freshening to update and expand safety and convenience features. It did give buyers the opportunity to alter the crossover’s look with the Midnight Edition Package option for SL models. Like other Midnight Edition Nissans, it blacks out most exterior trim and fits fashionable black alloy wheels.

Wheels in fact, should remain among the few points of visual distinction among Murano’s trim levels. Expect 18-inch alloys to again be standard on all but the Platinum, which should return with polished 20s while the SL’s Midnight Edition returns with its black 20s. Silver instead of black roof rails on the SL and Platinum and fog lights on all but the S should again round out the differences.

Overall, don’t count on appearance changes beyond perhaps a new color choice or two. Nissan evidently finds Murano’s model-year-’15 makeover radical enough to obviate tweaks that are a normal part of a design generation’s evolution. It has a point. The 2015 Murano was among the first Nissans to adopt the brand’s “V-Motion” grille design and it helped stoke an industry trend with black-sectioned “floating” rear-roof pillars. (And did its back-fender kick-ups influence the latest GMC Acadia?)

Certain to remain unaltered until its next redesign are the main body shape and dimensions that make this the largest two-row crossover in the class. Most of that size is dedicated to generous passenger space; there’s even width enough for an adult on the center of the rear bench. Seats with a nice blend of suppleness and support are a highlight, too. The tradeoff is cargo volume: at 32 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 67 with it folded, it’s stingiest in the competitive set.

Inside, all 2019 Muranos ought to retain a dashboard layout less radical but no less modern than the exterior design. Controls should again be logically arrayed and clearly labeled. Every model will retain a 7-inch display between the speedometer and tachometer; it features easily accessed audio, phone, trip, and vehicle-systems data. All grades will also return with an 8-inch central-dashboard screen supporting a navigation system with intuitive icons and better-than-average voice recognition. (Prior to ’18, navigation was optional on the S model.)

Any mechanical changes?

We hope so. This generation Murano’s sole engine has been a 3.5-liter V-6 of a more-than-decade-old design, lacking such up-to-date tech as direct fuel injection. With 260 horsepower and just 240 pound-feet of torque, it’s been the least powerful six-cylinder in the segment and has provided merely adequate acceleration. Along with updated styling, we were among those anticipating the ’18 Murano would get the 3.5-liter V-6 transplant given the 2017 Pathfinder. Of more contemporary spec, including direct fuel injection, that engine has 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque and runs with far less mechanical coarseness than Murano’s V-6.

Regardless of engine, the ’19 Murano will again use a continuously variable transmission. A CVT performs the duties of a conventional automatic transmission, but without stepped gear ratios. Nissan CVTs mimic traditional automatics better than most, but an engine transplant would likely be accompanied by a recalibration for keener throttle response.

We’ll also hold out hope for quicker-reacting steering and better control of body lean and pitch on curving and wavy roads. But we anticipate that road manners will continue to favor ride comfort over sporty handling and that the 20-inch wheels won’t absorb impacts as well as the 18s. With a modest 6.9 inches of ground clearance, Murano’s not intended as an off-roader. The AWD system, which normally operates in front-wheel drive and shuffles power fore and aft to quell tire slip, is designed primarily as a traction enhancer in snow or on gravely surfaces.

Will fuel economy improve?

Probably not – but it isn’t likely to drop, either, even if Murano gets the needed engine upgrade. That’s laudable, given the potential increase in horsepower and torque. That assessment is based on unchanged EPA ratings following the similar engine transplant for the 2017 Pathfinder. EPA ratings identical or little-changed for the 2019 Murano would keep it near the top of its competitive set, one apparent testament to the efficiency of the CVT. The 2019 ratings were 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 21/28/24 mpg with AWD.

Will it have new features?

An influx of new features isn’t likely following Nissan’s carefully considered model-year-2018 updates. Beyond expanding safety equipment and adding standard navigation, Nissan enhanced the power liftgate standard on SL and Platinum with foot-motion activation. Making a power liftgate of any sort available on at least the SV model would be a nice 2019 upgrade.

Otherwise, expect standard and optional features to mirror the 2018 Murano’s, with every grade again including keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, a rearview camera, Bluetooth linking, and LED daytime running lights. Also back will be 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.

In addition to the driver assists noted earlier, look for the SV to again include roof rails, remote engine start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and an automatic-dimming rearview mirror with universal transceiver. To that, the ’19 SL would again add leather upholstery, upgrade Bose audio with two subwoofers, a 360-degree surround-view camera, heated front seats and steering wheel, heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down, driver’s-seat memory, and ambient cabin lighting.

The flagship Platinum should return for ’19 with a dual-panel moonroof, LED headlights, ventilated front seats, and a power instead of manual tilt/telescope steering wheel (with memory). It should also remain the only Murano with power-return for the folding rear seatbacks, although we’d ask the automaker to extend to other models the Platinum’s NissanConnect Services telematics. This includes automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle locator, and geo-fencing that notifies the owner if someone to whom they’ve lent the vehicle exceeds a preset drive zone, curfew, or speed limit.

How will 2019 prices be different?

They’ll almost certainly increase and given steady demand and the possibility of an engine upgrade, they could climb more than the 2-percent to 7-percent rise of the 2018 Murano’s base prices. Indeed, Murano’s starting prices should remain slightly higher than those of many five-seat rivals, especially those aimed more at family-transportation buyers and less at a fashion-statement audience. (Estimated base prices in this review include Nissan’s destination fee, which was $975 for the 2018 Murano.)

With front-wheel drive, look for the 2019 Murano S to start around $32,000, the SV around $35,200, the SL around $39,800, and the Platinum around $43,400. Most Murano buyers are expected to again specify AWD, which will again add $1,600 or so to the base price.

Among key options, expect to pay around $1,395 to dress an SL with Midnight Edition Package and around $1,420 to equip one with the panoramic moonroof. Look for the SV Premium Package to return at around $2,790 featuring the panoramic moon roof, the Bose audio system, heated front seats and mirrors, the 360-degree monitor, adaptive cruise control, and gunmetal-gray 18-inch alloys.

When will it come out?

Expect a release date for the 2019 Murano in the third quarter of 2018.

Best competitors

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

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com 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 HowStuffWorks.com, 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]