2012 Nissan Murano LE FWD Platinum Edition Road Test

The 2012 Nissan Murano LE FWD Platinum Edition wins the crown for best-dressed in the segment

What It Is/Who It's For
The 2012 Nissan Murano is the perfect get-away vehicle to transport a family of four to the ski-resort.
Best Thing
The interior is surprisingly luxurious and the seats are very plush and comfortable. Road noise is eliminated with the windows up too.
Worst Thing
The accelerator pedal is a little too sensitive and requires some extra attention during take-off.
Snap Judgment
For the price of a base Infiniti JX you can buy a fully loaded Nissan Murano. Need we say more?


The family hauling crossover class of vehicles has been one of the fastest growing market segments for more than a decade now, even as fuel prices continue to be volatile. For many automakers, its crossover entrant is one of the most popular models offered. The Nissan Murano has been considered at the front of the class since its late 2002 introduction as a 2003 model. It features a robust look that grabs your attention, and ten years and two facelifts later, that's still the case.

The 2012 Nissan Murano is more than some aesthetically pleasing sheet metal. A 3.5-liter V-6 engine lays down 260 horsepower, and is linked to one of the best continuously variable automatic transmissions available. It rides on a sport-tuned suspension, and on the inside, the Murano excels with its plush interior that's capable of holding five adults. Of course, there are disadvantages, such as poor rear visibility, small cargo space, and a few other niggles that can add up to major annoyances given enough time.

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The 2012 Nissan Murano is one of the older crossovers on the market, and will continue to hang on until the 2014 model year at least before it's replaced with an all-new model. To hold it over, Nissan added a new, luxurious Platinum model to the lineup. It adds bigger wheels, special paint, sntandard navigation, and a few other luxury touches to dress up the Murano. Does the new layer of frosting make this a more delicious recipe? Or is the cake underneath just getting stale? We drove a 2012 Nissan Murano Platinum for a week to find out.

What We Drove

The 2012 Nissan Murano starts off at $29,960 for the S model but the Platinum model we tested checks in with a base price of $38,960 including a destination fee of $810. We spent the week with a 2012 Murano LE front-wheel drive Platinum edition as made evident by the massive "PLATINUM" nameplate on the Murano's tailgate. Standard features on the Murano include heated front and rear seats, which along with the shifter and steering wheel are wrapped in leather. Other standard features include cruise control with illuminated steering wheel controls; a power tilt and telescoping steering column; 60/40 split folding rear seat with a power return; a rear-view monitor; Bose audio system with auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth, and XM satellite radio; rain-sensing windshield wiper blades; push-button starter; and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Xenon headlights with auto on/off fog lights, heated outside mirrors, a power liftgate, dual chrome exhaust tips, rear privacy glass, and roof rails are also standard on the Platinum Edition.

Options included on our Murano test included dual DVD monitors mounted on the back of the front-seat head restraints, which cost an extra $1,515. The Platinum Edition package added a navigation system and a seven-inch monitor; XM real-time traffic and weather; 20-inch seven-spoke aluminum alloy wheels; the Platinum Edition badges; and a stainless steel rear bumper protector for a grand total of $2,020. Floor mats and a carpeted cargo mat were also added for another $195. Add it all up, and you have $42,840 including the destination fee. For a little perspective, that's the same price for a base-model version of a 2013 Infiniti JX from Nissan's luxury division.

As for the Murano's safety features, driver and front passenger side impact and curtain airbags are standard. Other standard safety features include LATCH points in the rear bench, four-wheel ABS, stability and traction control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, a tire pressure monitoring system, a Vehicle Security System, and Nissan's Vehicle Immobilizer System.

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The Commute

If you're not accustomed to it, a continuously variable transmission can feel like you're writing with the wrong hand. For this application though, the CVT performed very well, perhaps the best out of all vehicles with this kind of transmission. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine's 260 horsepower brings the Murano's 4,136 pound body up to freeway speeds easily. However, accelerating smoothly from a stop wasn't easy. The Murano's gas pedal is sensitive, and no matter how much you feather it, you're guaranteed to give it too much gas. After the Murano is in motion though, the ride is smooth and quiet at highway speeds.

Thanks to the comfortable interior, commuting to work was done with ease. A Bose nine-speaker system with AM/FM/XM and a CD player made waiting in traffic more bearable, but the sound quality from the system left something to be imagined. While Bose is known for its high-quality sound systems, the Murano's insides made bass sound muffled and a little unpleasant. However, thanks to Bluetooth audio streaming you can play whatever comes to mind from your smartphone and other compatible devices.

As is the norm in Southern California, the Murano was faced with its fair-share of stop-and-go traffic which is handled with ease. The CVT shined when it was called upon to jump around from accelerating to decelerating while on a flat surface. Going downhill proved to be a little much for the CVT though, as it downshifted a little slower than a normal automatic transmission. As a consequence, the Murano's hefty frame feels like it wants to continue at a higher speeds; be ready with that brake pedal.

Handling the Murano through crowded streets and canyon roads required a keen eye as rearward visibility is at a minimum. Bringing the Murano to a complete stop no matter what the speed could be done so quickly and in a controlled fashion by simply stepping on the brake pedal too.

The Grocery Run

If you're in constant need of a ton of groceries and other cargo, the 2012 Nissan Murano LE FWD Platinum Edition is the mutt of the CUV segment. Even at its best, the Murano's cargo space pales in comparison to the competition. But numbers don't tell the whole tale, and there's still a lot of real-world space behind the rear seats in the Murano's cargo area. When we took the Murano on a normal grocery run, several bags stuffed with a week's worth of goods fit with ease in the cargo area. If the cargo area isn't enough, the rear bench folds down in a 60/40 split giving way to 64 cubic feet of real estate while only 31.6 cubic feet of cargo space is present when the rear bench is up. While we didn't test the Murano's towing capabilities, Nissan's popular CUV is able to pull up to 3,500 pounds.

While the Murano's cargo space won't impress everyone, it's very easy to park in a crowded shopping center parking lot or on a busy city street. A rear-view back-up camera helps guide you backward while parallel parking into a spot on the street and helps you see an on-coming car whose impatient driver can't wait to let you back out. The rear-view camera is a necessity as rearward visibility is kept to a minimum with a center headrest and a smaller rear window impeding your view.

The optional power liftgate proves to be quite helpful when you have your arms full of grocery bags but be sure fingers and other extremities are out of the way when closing it. The gate is reluctant to stop for any smaller objects wedged between the door and the Murano's frame, and you could end up with a nasty bruise.

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The Weekend Fun

With two dogs, four people, and a few backpacks stuffed with the necessary hiking equipment for a three mile endeavor, the Murano is plenty sufficient. With the windows up, the Murano's interior is luxury car quiet, and the ample cushioning on the seats bring back fond memories of old boat-sized Buicks. Almost everyone who drove the Murano noted in the logbook that the seats were some of the most comfortable that we've ever had the chance to sit on. Making the 50 mile round trip trek to our desired hiking spot in mixed driving conditions was a breeze, although there was just enough cargo space for everything.

It starts getting interesting though when the roads begin bending this way and that, especially when the Murano is loaded with cargo and passengers. To get to our desired hiking spot, the Murano needed to crawl through some winding canyon roads, some of which proved to be all the crossover could handle. Taking canyon road turns at any speed over 35 mph required some extra guidance on the steering wheel and a right foot ready to hop on the brake pedal at a moment's notice. Even when rolling through a turn with a head of steam though, the Murano came to a complete and controlled stop time after time.

The center stack is relatively easy to interact with while in motion, and gives the driver and front passenger the option of using a dial wheel or buttons further down. Steering wheel buttons make it easy for the driver to interact with the entertainment system while driving, and between the knob, buttons and steering-wheel controls, you have multiple ways of doing simple tasks, like choosing your radio station.

Summary

Upon returning the 2012 Nissan Murano LE FWD Platinum Edition after its week-long stay with us, we were left thinking we really liked the crossover, yet we still were left wanting a little more. The Murano is very appealing on the outside and offers an array of plush and luxury features, but with the exceptionally quiet ride, it doesn't stand out in any particular way.

That being said, the Murano is still worth taking a look at if you're in the market for a larger two-row crossover. However, we still recommend taking a look at vehicles like the Ford Edge, Toyota Venza, and even slightly smaller models like the GMC Terrain. Each of the aforementioned vehicles are on-par with the Murano performance-wise, but we just have trouble justifying the extra $6,000 Nissan's crossover commands. Interior quality is above what the competition is offering, but for the price, you can get a base model Infiniti JX. The Murano is also the only crossover in its class available with a CVT, which is either a bonus or a penalty, depending on your perspective. So when you're shopping around for a suitable crossover that can handle a family or four or five, we recommend you take a look at the 2012 Nissan Murano LE FWD Platinum Edition, but be sure to compare.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $42,840
Fuel Economy: 19.2 mpg
EPA City: 18 mpg
EPA Highway: 24 mpg
EPA Combined: 20 mpg
Estimated Combined Range: 434 miles
Cost of Ownership: Average

Notebook Quotes

"The engine has plenty of power, and the CVT works very well in this application. Maybe a little too well; the throttle is jumpy, and I found myself giving it too much gas from a launch regardless of how I feathered the throttle." -Keith Buglewicz, News Director
"The Murano is a mixed bag; it's surprisingly fast, easy to maneuver, and features incredibly comfortable seats and a cushy interior. But the center stack and dash are made of a mish-mosh of materials, and the overall aesthetic isn't cohesive." - Matt Askari, Associate Editor
"The Murano did everything I needed, and it had everything I would want in a near-luxury crossover. But for all its merits and features, I just didn't like it as much as I felt I should." - Jason Davis, Associate Editor, Photographer

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