Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Nissan Murano ST and Ti
Back from the dead
August 2005

HOW the fallen have become mighty. From virtual extinction a decade ago, Nissan has climbed back to success in the mighty Aussie car market.

It could be argued that much of this success comes from having a strong background in off-road vehicles in a market that seems infatuated with four-wheel-drives.

Nissan Australia is now the 10th biggest-selling country globally for Nissan.

The latest release, Murano, comes to market hot on the heels of the new Pathfinder about a month ago and ahead of the all-new Navara due in November.

It is a five-seater which slots into the medium SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) market.

In case you`ve been hiding under a rock for the past few years, sales in this class of vehicle has skyrocketed, quadrupling over the last decade.

And within this class, 47% of them are "crossover" vehicles; crossover being loosely defined as a four-wheel-drive system but no low-range, while retaining sedan-like handling capabilities.

Nissan is obviously aiming to sell this car to a more upmarket clientele, and hoping to convert quite a few prestige sedan drivers into the bargain.

Under the bonnet is the same 3.5-litre V6 as in the Maxima and super-cool Z.

It comes with Xtronic CVT (Constantly Variable Transmission) with six-speed manual "sports shift".

The car is essentially front-wheel-drive, with the four-wheel-drive system transferring up to 50 percent of traction to the rear wheels if necessary.

The driver can also manually engage 50/50 four-wheel-drive below 10km/h, which automatically disengages over 30km/h.

The national press launch for the car was held over a few of hundred kilometres, day and night, wet and dry, road and dirt, which was enough to show its versatility.

The name for the Japanese-made Murano comes from an island off the coast of Venice, renowned for its glass art. So too, the designers at Nissan wanted fluidity and flowing lines.

The design also means the four wheels are right in the corners of the vehicle, which offers rock-solid stability.

Quite a bit of thought has been put into the Murano as well. Things such as the pull handles in back of the cargo area that release the rear seats.

Standard features on the $51,990 base-model ST include Bose six-stacker CD, climate control, leather steering wheel and gearstick, headlight washers, dual exhaust, 18-inch alloys, airbags, roof-mounted curtain airbags, side impact airbags, ABS, cruise control and more.

The up-spec Ti also gets leather upholstery, heated front seats, tilt/slide sunroof, roof rails and reverse parking sensors for $56,990.

Metallic paint is $300 extra on the ST.

One notable drawback for anyone semi-serious about heading off-road is that the Murano comes with a spacesaver tyre. PULP is also an extra burden considering the price of fuel these days.

And one foible noticed with the ST was that the rear seat fabs seem to be convex and when a passenger puts weight on it, it "pops" to concave.

On bumpy roads it sounds a little like Rolf Harris is your passenger. The Ti didn`t seem to suffer from it though.

The towing capacity of the car is 1500kg with trailer brakes. Nissan expects to sell 300 Muranos per month and describes the available supply as "limited".



ENGINE: 3.5-litre V6 petrol

POWER: 172kW at 6000rpm

TORQUE: 318Nm from 3600rpm

TRANSMISSION: Xtronic CVT (Constantly Variable Transmission) with six-speed manual "sports shift"; up to 50:50 front/rear drive if needed

0-100km/h: n/a

FUEL ECONOMY: 12.3/100km officially and as tested; PULP

PROS: Good looks; great stability; well though out; wide rear seat

CONS: Being a crossover, it does a lot of things well, rather than one particular type of driving brilliantly; spacesaver spare nor great for off-roading; Rolf Harris rear seat noises

BOTTOM LINE: $51,990 and $56,990; Metallic paint is $300 extra on the ST.