Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Nissan Murano ST and Ti
All I want for Christmas...
November 2005

ALL I want for Christmas is a new Nissan Murano. Not so much because it`s absolutely the best thing going around, but more because I like it enough to want it, but don`t want to pay for it.

You see, the Murano is a top-class piece of kit, but it also comes with a price tag that would make Santa backhand an elf for choosing it.

It is a five-seater which slots into the medium SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) market at $51,990. There are more expensive, it`s true, but they usually carry a premium badge as well.

To some extent Nissan is hoping to steal some marketshare from the high-end players, but whether it can be done without a rebrand remains to be seen.

In case you`ve been hiding at the North Pole the past few years, sales in this class of vehicle have 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 car is very comfortable tackling all conditions - day and night, wet and dry, road and dirt, which I think is primarily why it appeals so much to this scribe.

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.

In summary, I think the car is worth the money, but that`s a lot of Corona with wedges of lime on Christmas Day.



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 thought 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 not great for off-roading

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