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Murano proves real glass act.

Byline: By Alistair Coull

His view:

Despite the best efforts of London mayor Ken Livingstone and other like-minded people, the popularity of so-called toff-roaders shows no sign of abating.

Most manufacturers have at least one 4x4 in their range, whether it is a soft-roader like the Kia Sportage or a full-blown off-roader like the Land Rover Discovery.

Nissan don't do things by half: by the end of 2006 they will have seven 4x4s in their showrooms. Nissan's target for 2005 is 24,500 4x4s, a figure that includes 1,000 Muranos.

The Murano is named after a type of sculpted glass that comes from an island near Venice. It is known for its cutting edge design, hence the name of Nissan's latest SUV.

Nothing else on the road looks like a Murano. With its chrome sculpted grille, upswept side window line, huge 18-inch wheels, chrome door handles, rounded rear end and contoured lamps, it could be the invention of a sci-fi film director, so avant-garde are its looks.

The Murano is what is known as a crossover model: aimed at those customers who want the prestige that goes with owning a distinctive vehicle but who don't want to sacrifice passenger-car like styling, comfort and performance, yet who appreciate the security of all-wheel-drive capability.

The Murano is certainly distinctive, and for the moment at least, the coolest crossover around.

Powered by the same 3.5-litre V6 engine as the Nissan 350Z, its effortless performance is complemented by a revolutionary six-speed X-Tronic continuously variable transmission.

With drive fed through the latest version of Nissan's easy-to-use All Mode electronic four-wheel-drive system, and with electronic stability control, ESP+ fitted as standard, Murano offers good levels of stability when the going gets tough.

No-one is likely to take a Murano into the really treacly stuff, but it is more than capable of pulling caravans, boats or horse boxes on and off muddy fields or river banks.

Under normal conditions, Murano operates in front-wheel drive to save fuel. But as soon as any wheel slippage is detected it instantaneously splits drive between front and rear axles. Off road, the system can be locked into permanent 4wd.

The Murano's fully independent multi-link suspension and precise rack and pinion steering gives it car-like performance and levels of comfort. Combined with its four-wheel-drive ability, the Murano has a great fun-to-drive feeling.

Behind the wheel, the Murano is a supremely relaxed affair. It has a comfortable driving position and offers a great view of the road ahead and to the sides. If you have a problem with reversing, the Murano is fitted with a rear view camera and fascia-mounted screen. The CVT gearbox is seamlessly smooth when left to its own device, although there is a sequential style manual shift lever if you want to get involved.

The engine develops 234bhp with maximum torque of 235lb/ft. Top speed is claimed to be 124mph with the 0-62mph sprint accomplished in 8.9 seconds - highly respectable for such a bulky car.

Where the Murano falls down is on fuel consumption. There is no diesel option yet and with a combined figure of only 23mpg, it can knock a hefty hole in anybody's wallet.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Sep 9, 2005
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