2015 Nissan Murano: CVT and Seats Shine On Long-Haul Road Trip
May 4, 2015
Last week I took our long-term 2015 Nissan Murano on a 2,200-mile road trip from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore., and back. It was almost exclusively a freeway blast, because that's how you connect those two endpoints.
The objective this time was to reach the destination and not linger on the road too long, so I took Interstate 5. This is a long, straight, boring freeway until you reach Shasta in northern California, where it bends and climbs, and comes with pretty views.
Here's what I learned about this big wagon on this trip, which was also my first time driving it.
First, the powertrain. CVTs sometimes get a bum rap. That's because CVTs are often paired to weedy little engines that need their necks wrung to produce any meaningful results, making for tiresome motoring.
The Murano's 3.5-liter V6, however, has torque at low revs with no waiting. It turns out that ample low-end torque is a key enabler allowing CVTs to shine. In the Murano, there's always plenty of thrust on tap, no matter where the tach needle points, so the CVT doesn't need to zing the revs to redline just to move off the line. Nice.
Plus - and this is the clincher - the CVT is always smooth. When left to its own devices, there's zero shift-shock. None. There's just an endless, seamless hydraulic shove as you accelerate from zero to whatever mph. No traditional transmission can touch the CVT in this respect. Freeway passing is a breeze.
Two hundred-and-sixty horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque may not sound like a whole lot when it comes to punting around a near-4,000-pound wagon, but the Murano makes it work way better than you'd think.
Long-haul motoring is a tough test for seats. I never got squirmy, even after a nine-hour driving stint (the trip was broken into two days each way). The Murano's seats are well-shaped and plush, though I'd like an extendable thigh bolster. Unlike Dan Edmunds, I dig the Murano's knob-based seat heater/cooler controls. I want the cooler on at full tilt all of the time and don't want to be bothered turning it on every single time I get back in.
The suspension has a solid amount of control, which delivers a nicely firm, never harsh ride quite agreeable for freeway cruising. Around town, the Murano's heavy wheels (and 3,918-pound mass) make for a somewhat leaden, ponderous feel. Here the Murano follows the road texture rather than absorbs it. It's not totally off-putting, but it's there.
Here's something for the "annoying" file: tilting the Murano's gigantic, silly sunroof (which, by itself, is dumb) requires the shade be retracted. This is really dumb. Read this in case the dumbness is not obvious.
No long road trip of this sort would be complete without an assessment of the cruise control system, which I'll share in a separate post. Oh, and fuel economy. That, too.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 5,263 miles.