2011 Nissan Murano Review and Prices
Past and Future Reviews
The 2011 Nissan Murano is the best SUV for you if you recognize the new 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet convertible as an amusing sideshow to the main event.
The 2011 Nissan Murano makes history with the 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet, the world’s first convertible crossover SUV. The two-door, four-passenger CrossCabriolet arrives in Spring 2011 to steal the spotlight from the four-door, five-seat Murano wagon, but it will account for a fraction of Murano sales. Nissan’s midsize crossover SUV continues best represented by the wagon, which comes by its sporty road manners and roomy cabin the old-fashioned way – with sound engineering and a dash of innovation.
Should you buy a 2011 Nissan Murano or wait for the 2012 Murano? Don’t wait if you itch to be first on your block in a convertible crossover SUV. For the rest of us, there likely won’t be much gained by holding out for the 2012 Murano wagon. The 2011 version gains freshening styling and an intriguing new SV trim level – changes that’ll sustain it for the next several model years.
2011 Nissan Murano Changes back to top
Styling: The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet has the front end of a four-door Murano wagon but from the windshield rearward it goes its own way with a pillarless two-door body. Nissan calls the Murano CrossCabriolet “the world’s first all-wheel drive crossover convertible” and pitches it “not just for cruising South Beach or Malibu” but suitable for everyday errands and ski trips. With seating for four and a trunk capacity typical of a compact car’s, how you’ll use this high-riding ragtop is anyone’s guess.
Compared to the Murano wagon, the CrossCab does give you a body reinforced to compensate for the absence of a solid roof. To facility rear-sent entry and exit, its doors are a full 7.9 inches longer than the wagon’s front doors. And instead of a maximum 64 cubic feet of SUV cargo room, the convertible has 12.3 cubic feet of luggage space with the top up and just 7.6 with the fabric roof occupying part of the cargo area. Dual roll bars in the rear headrests pop up if sensors detect an impending tip. And the soft top’s glass backlight is augmented by a glass “skylight” over the rear seats; it’s intended to fight back-seat claustrophobia by brightening the cabin.
People certainly will stare. But seeing the 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet’s odd body riding 7.2 inches above the pavement, perhaps in Caribbean turquoise with an interior of quilted Cashmere leather, the impression is not so much sexy convertible as full-size Barbie car.
Both the 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet and the 2011 Murano wagon introduce the minor styling changes that constitute a midcycle facelift for a basic design that dates to model-year 2009. Murano’s grille, front bumper, and taillight lenses are slightly revised, and the base 18-inch alloy wheels have a new look. Inside, the instrument panel dumps gimmicky orange backlighting for more sophisticated and easier-to-read white illumination.
Overall, the 2011 Murano wagon remains an artsy compilation of curves and plains. Highlights include a randy kink in the rear roof pillar and buffed-biceps body sides. Nissan equips the Murano wagon with unusually large 18- and 20-inch-diameter wheels that emphasize its ready-to-run nature.
Convertible or wagon, Murano is a crossover because its high-riding SUV body and car-type chassis are a single unit. Old-school SUVs, such as the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder and Jeep Wrangler, bolt their body to a separate truck frame. A crossover’s “unibody” construction saves weight by comparison, but lacks the brawn for heavy-duty hauling and towing (that’s why pickup trucks shun it).
Combining “crossover” and “cabriolet” (a term for convertible), Nissan names the 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet to highlight an important distinction about its place in automotive history. The crossover reference is important because there have been other open-air SUVs, but they’ve been body-on-frame types. These include today’s Wrangler as well as the Ford Bronco and International Scout of the 1960s and the Land Rover Defender 90 of the mid-1990s. Interestingly, Audi showed a concept version of a two-door crossover convertible in 2007, but never put it into production. The name? The Audi Cross Cabriolet.
The 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet is 1.6 inches longer overall than the wagon, but both are dimensionally midpack for the midsize-SUV class. However, the 111.2-inch wheelbase they share is among the longest of any crossover. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and helps determine a vehicle’s passenger space.
In the Murano wagon, the relatively long wheelbase and modest body length help it cut a taut-looking figure, with minimal sheetmetal “overhang” front and rear. For drivers this means confident handling, for passengers, spacious accommodations -- with an especially generous 36.3 inches of rear-seat leg room. The downside is slightly less cargo volume than key competitors, though the Murano wagon still has a useful 31.6 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 64 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.
The 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet’s body modifications trim that cargo volume considerably, and cost it dearly in rear leg room; with just 32.7 inches, back-seaters have less knee clearance than they would in the subcompact Nissan Cube.
Addition of a new trim level expands the 2011 Nissan Murano wagon lineup to four models. The 2011 Murano S wagon is back as the base trim level. Slotting in one rung up is the new model, the 2011 Nissan Murano SV, which comes standard with a carefully chosen list of popular features. Its presence in effect pushes the returning 2011 Murano SL wagon up a notch, a move justified by its newly expanded list of upscale standard features. Repeating atop the wagon line is the luxury-oriented 2011 Murano LE. The LE is visually distinguished from other Murano wagons by its silver-accented roof rails and titanium-finish 20-inch alloy wheels; other 2011 Muranos have dark-tint rails and 18-inch alloys.
The 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet comes in a single trim level roughly equivalent to that of the LE wagon.
Mechanical: The 2011 Nissan Murano repeats the powertrain formula this crossover has used since its inception. That means a V-6 engine linked to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Every 2011 Murano wagon model will again be available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). The 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet comes only with AWD.
Murano’s V-6 is Nissan’s capable 3.5-liter dual-overhead-cam VQ-series engine with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. These ratings slip slightly from the 2010 model’s 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet in the wake of Nissan reconsidering Murano’s recommended octane fuel. Nissan had been recommending that Murano owners use premium-octane fuel, usually 91 octane or above. For model-year 2011, it recommended the less-expensive regular-octane, typically with an 87-octane rating.
Nissan remains a leader in use of CVTs and mating its Xtronic CVT to this strong V-6 creates an impressive combination. A CVT performs the duties of an automatic transmission, but instead of five or six preset gear ratios it uses a belt-and-pulley system to furnish near-infinite ratios. The power delivery is rheostat-like and the advantage is a more precise matching of engine speed with the demand for acceleration. A CVT also is usually lighter than a comparable automatic transmission. The downside is that under full throttle, a CVT tends to let the engine rev to a high rpm and “hang” there until vehicle speed catches up with engine output. The consequence is an audible mismatch between how fast you’re accelerating and how fast the engine is revving.
Murano’s V-6 is smooth enough so this condition isn’t unpleasant and has enough torque that it seldom needs extremely high rpm to satisfy the CVT. The result is robust acceleration furnished quickly, though it’s occasionally accompanied by torque steer. This untoward steering wander is usually suffered only by powerful front-wheel-drive vehicles; Muranos with front- and all-wheel drive exhibit symptoms, though it’s certainly not severe enough to be a deal-breaker.
Murano’s AWD is a typical crossover system that feeds power to the front wheels under normal conditions and automatically reapportions it rearward to maintain traction when a tire slips. The Murano CrossCabriolet won’t be intended for off-roading, and neither is the Murano wagon. Ground clearance is a relatively modest 7.4 inches for the Murano wagon and 7.2 inches for the CrossCabriolet. And their AWD system doesn’t include low-range gearing. Nissan logically tunes Murano for on-pavement performance, and there it’s a confidence-inspiring crossover. The CrossCabriolet wasn’t available for road testing in time for this review but the Murano wagon’s steering is slop-free, it’s surefooted in turns, and the ride is cushioned and composed.
All 2011 Muranos come standard with traction and antiskid systems to improve grip on take offs and in changes of direction. Also standard are four-wheel disc brakes augmented by an antilock braking system (ABS) for better control in emergency stops. Towing capacity for the wagon is a crossover-average 3,500 pounds. Towing capacity for the CrossCabriolet wasn’t available in time for this review, but it isn’t likely to match that of the wagon.
Features: The 2011 Nissan Murano wagon bolsters an already competitive array of features by adding the thoughtfully equipped SV model and beefing up the SL version’s standard-equipment list.
The 2011 Murano SV essentially combines the best of last year’s SL standard and optional equipment to create a tempting new model. Among its standard features are a cabin-brightening dual-panel glass roof with opening pane over the front seats. The 2011 Murano SV also comes with power front seats and a 7-inch dashboard screen with rearview monitor.
The 2011 Murano SL includes all the SV kit and drifts closer to LE territory by making previously optional amenities part of its standard equipment list. These include leather upholstery, heated front seats and outside mirrors, a power liftgate, and a power feature that returns the folded 60/40 split rear seatbacks to their upright position. It also debuts Murano’s first heated steering wheel, a perk shared with the 2011 LE -- though the Murano LE also comes with heated rear seats.
Standard on all 2011 Murano wagons except the base S model is a USB iPod interface and Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity with steering wheel phone and audio controls. Standard on SL and LE is a Bose audio system with auxiliary audio/video input jacks, nine speakers, and dual subwoofers. The 2011 Murano S comes with a six-disc in-dash CD changer and an auxiliary jack.
A navigation system is optional on all 2011 Murano wagons except the S model. This system is a hard-drive unit that uses the 7-inch dashboard screen and includes 9.3 gigabytes of music storage and real-time XM traffic capability. Among other available Murano features, depending on model, are a rear DVD entertainment system with a choice of dual integrated headrest screens or a 9-inch ceiling monitor.
Mirroring the wagon’s LE trim level, the 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet comes standard with 20-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery and heated power memory front seats, the heated steering wheel, keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, and the navigation system.
And like all 2011 Muranos, the CrossCabriolet includes as standard automatic dual-zone climate control, power windows, locks, and mirrors, plus ambient cabin lighting that brightens to welcome you aboard. A tilt/telescoping steering column also is standard and on the LE wagon, it’s power adjustable.
2011 Nissan Murano Prices back to top
Prices for the 2011 Nissan Murano wagon increase only slightly over 2010 models while the 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet debuts as the most expensive Murano ever. Base price range for the 2011 Nissan Murano is $29,300-$47,190. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2011 Murano is $800.)
Base prices for front-wheel-drive versions of the 2011 Murano wagon are: Murano S $29,300, Murano SV $32,710, Murano SL $36,250, Murano LE $38,250.
Base prices for all-wheel-drive versions of the 2011 Murano are: Murano S $30,900, Murano SV $34,310, Murano SL $37,850, Murano LE $39,940.
The 2011 Murano CrossCabriolet comes in a single level of trim with a base price of $47,190. It’s lavishly equipped and offers just a handful of options, including upgraded quilted leather upholstery at $500.
On the 2011 Nissan Murano SL and LE wagons, the optional Navigation Package costs $1,850, while dual-monitor DVD entertainment system is priced at $1,510. A retractable cargo cover is $230 and splash guards cost $125 on all versions.
2011 Nissan Murano Fuel Economy back to top
The 2011 Nissan Murano wagon’s fuel-economy ratings are roughly on par with rival five-passenger midsize crossover SUVs with automatic transmission and V-6 engines. However, Nissan recommends premium-octane fuel for Murano, something most in the competitive set do not.
The 2011 Nissan Murano wagon is rated 18/23 mpg city/highway with both front-wheel drive and AWD.
The 2011 CrossCabriolet’s fuel-economy ratings were not released in time for this review, but convertibles usually are less fuel efficient than their fixed-roof counterparts. Blame the extra weight of their folding-top mechanism and of the structural reinforcements necessary to compensate for the absence of a sold roof. How much weight difference their might be between the Murano wagon and its convertible cousin wasn’t available, either, but 2011 CrossCabriolet fuel-economy ratings shouldn’t differ significantly from those of the Murano wagon.
Nissan did take the opportunity to reduce owners’ fuel costs by lifting its recommendation that they use premium-octane gas for the 2011 Murano. Murano had been among the few non-turbocharged models in its competitive set for which the manufacturer recommended the more expensive higher-octane gas.
2011 Nissan Murano Release Date back to top
The 2011 Nissan Murano wagon is now on sale. The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet goes on sale in early 2011.
What's next for the 2011 Nissan Murano back to top
The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is certain to make headlines and maybe attract a few additional buyers to an SUV whose recent sales have been flat at best. But adding a convertible isn’t as critical to Murano’s success as prettying up the front end and keeping prices in check.
The 2011 facelift is a step in the right direction, though it’s evident many buyers in this segment favor a more squared-off look versus Murano’s slippery bar-of-soap profile. Indeed the top sellers in this class – including the No. 1 Chevrolet Equinox and No. 2 Ford Edge -- are far boxier than this Nissan. Trouble is Nissan already has an SUV with a hard-edged look: the body-on-frame 2011 Nissan Pathfinder, which sells in lower volume than Murano. And even if Nissan does believe Murano needs to be reshaped, it couldn’t do it before the next-generation arrives as a 2015 model. Adding to the puzzle, the carmaker’s compact-class crossover, the 2011 Nissan Rogue, looks basically like a four-fifths-scale Murano and it’s been a strong seller.
As for prices, 2011’s equipment shuffling certainly improves the Murano wagon’s value proposition. Every trim level except the base S version gains significant standard features and the new SV arrives thoughtfully equipped with a host of popular items.
In the short term, expect Murano to essentially stand-pat with this model-year 2011 freshening, with more equipment juggling among trim levels and maybe a new color or two the only likely changes until the redesigned Muranro arrives. Our sources say Murano’s next full redesign will occur for model-year 2015.
2011 Nissan Murano Competition back to top
2011 Chevrolet Equinox: This four-door, five-passenger crossover is a Murano wagon alternative. Introduced for model-year 2010 as a replacement for the body-on-frame Chevy TrailBlazer, Equinox has rocketed to the top of the midsize-SUV sales charts. Confident styling, competitive pricing, and a quiet, comfortable cabin are among its assets. So is a remarkable 22/32-mpg rating with its 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive (20/29 with AWD).The available 264-horsepower V-6 rates 17/24, or 16/22 with AWD. Murano is sportier overall and has higher-grade interior decor, but Equinox is less expensive to start, with a base price range of $23,490-$30,815 with the four-cylinder and $26,155-$32,315 with the V-6.
2011 Ford Edge: We’re defining the Murano wagon’s competitive set as five-seat midsize crossovers, and while some Murano shoppers will likely glance at the Lexus RX, the RX really is a luxury–class crossover with prices that start above $38,000. The Ford Edge, by contrast, is a driver-involving five-seater that, like Murano, celebrates its own strapping sense of style. A major model-year 2011 makeover spiffed it up inside and out and added two new models: a unique turbocharged four-cylinder variant with a Ford EcoBoost engine , and the Sport, which packs Mustang’s 305-horsepower V-6. The base choice is a 285-horsepower V-6. The V-6 rivals rate between 17/23 mpg and 19/27, depending on configuration. Edge aims to be the class infotainment leader by virtue of its available MyFord Touch hands-free navigation, audio, and Bluetooth technology. Base-price range is roughly $28,000-$43,000
2011 Subaru Outback: Outback bridges the gap between high-riding SUV and ballooned-up station wagon. That’s a good thing. Outback’s surprisingly effective model-year 2010 redesign created a sensible Murano wagon alternative that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s about as long as the Nissan, but its overall height is some 4 inches lower. Nonetheless, Outback has as much usable passenger room as the Murano four-door, more cargo volume, and an inch of additional ground clearance. That modest height pays off in a lower center of gravity that enhances handling. And a sophisticated AWD system is standard. Outback performs well with the available 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine (22/29 mpg with a CVT) and outstandingly with its 256-horsepower six (18/25 mpg). Base-price range is $23,920-$29,220 with the four-cylinder, $28,920-$32,220 with the six.
2011 Jeep Wrangler: In the mood for a convertible SUV? Your only alternative to the Murano CrossCabriolet is this rugged body-on-frame icon. Wrangler’s designed for serious off-roading, so it won’t match the CrossCabriolet for on-road refinement. And its drivetrain choices are rear-wheel drive or take-me-through-the-river four-wheel drive. But Wrangler does one-up the Murano CrossCab by offering both a two-door and a four-door convertible body style, though neither has a power-folding top. The 2011 Wrangler gets a stylish new dashboard and revised cabin trim and top-line models are now available with color-coordinated hard tops. The 2011 Wrangler has an anemic 202-horsepower V-6; the 2012 is slated to get the better-performing and more fuel-efficient V-6 from parent-company Chrysler’s Pentastar engine family. Base-prices range about $22,000-$29,500 for the two-door body style and roughly $24,200-$33,000 for the four-door Unlimited models.