Murano models are offered in both front- and all-wheel-drive trim. All use Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6 in 245 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of trim, with that power transmitted to the wheels through the Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Our test vehicle was the top-of-the-line SE, which comes with sporty and upscale standard features, including all-wheel drive, a sport-tuned suspension, fancy trim, and a useful backup video camera.
The 2006 Nissan Murano SE's $31,550 base price is very reasonable. But add options--which on this one were the $4,650 SE Touring package with Sirius Satellite Radio, along with a 225-watt Bose audio system with MP3 CD capability and a subwoofer; the $1,720 Nissan Mobile DVD entertainment package; $90 carpeted floor mats; a useful $80 rubber cargo-area protector; the $750 Dynamic Control Package with VDC stability control, traction control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system; the $1,800 DVD navigation system; $1,200 chrome wheels; and a $605 destination charge--and it's $42,445. At that price point, it has to compete with the lower end of the luxury SUV segment, which it does quite well.The optional intelligent key makes entering the 2006 Nissan Murano easy. Hit the Unlock button on the fob, or with key in pocket, just walk up to either front door and press the small, black rubberized button on the door handle. Locking is the reverse--you press the button after exiting. The Murano starts with a twist of a rotary switch on the dash next to the steering column.
Inside, the 2006 Nissan Murano fits the contemporary Nissan mold perfectly. Much like its exterior, its interior is busily styled but cohesive, with many interesting shapes and a variety of materials and textures, including real aluminum-veneer trim. On the highway, the Murano is quiet but not overly so, more comparable to an upper-middle-class sedan such as a Nissan Maxima than a luxury car.
The 2006 Nissan Murano's front seats provide good support, and in our test car, they were both power adjustable. Along with the front seats, the manually tilt-adjustable steering column, and the power-adjustable pedals, the perfect driving position is easily available and can be stored in memory, as is the outside mirror position. Rear passengers get good headroom and shoulder room, as well as a flat floor. The rear seat is split 60/40, with each seat back adjustable for angle. The seat backs also fold flat to make a usefully large and easily accessible cargo area.
The 2006 Nissan Murano's interior works well from an ergonomic standpoint. The main instrument pod looks to be out of a video game console, but the orange-backlit gauges are easy on the eyes and readily visible in all lighting. The steering wheel has a comfortably thick leather-covered rim, as well as cruise and auxiliary-audio controls. The center of the dash and the hanging stack below it are home to the LCD and its associated controls. The screen remains the same as last year's; it could have had higher resolution and better definition.
The 2006 Nissan Murano's GPS navigation system has some major software upgrades that make it among the best for speed, accuracy, and route finding. Many navigation systems insistently nag the driver to turn around at every opportunity if the driver decides to follow a different route than prescribed. Not this one--it merely recalculates a new route, quickly and quietly. GPS-position acquisition is noticeably quicker than last year's Nissan system too. Route choices can be for shortest time, shortest distance, or no freeways.
With the exception of an overly sensitive joystick toggle switch that functions as the cursor control and data-entry device, the 2006 Nissan Murano's system controls are very good. And they are about as intuitive as is possible for this type of system, with recourse to the manual only a last resort, not required reading before driving. You can control system functions by marked hard buttons below the screen, as well as vehicle electronics through the Settings button. The climate-control system is handled directly by regular rotary controls at the bottom of the stack, not nested deep in the menu structure.
Typical of Nissan's navigation-system implementations, the map may be viewed in plan or bird's-eye view--or in a split screen with both. The apparent height of the bird's-eye view is also adjustable. Destinations may be chosen by one character at a time via the joystick--with software guessing how to fill in names (tedious and not necessarily convenient), a previous destination list, and a database of points of interest--or by cursor movement on the map. The joystick must be pressed in carefully; it's all too easy to move the cursor when trying to mark a location on the map or choose a letter in alphanumeric-entry mode. Unusually, a new destination may be chosen while the Murano is underway but only at low speeds and from the address book or list of previous destinations. The voice guidance includes text to speech, letting the system read out the names of streets.
The 2006 Nissan Murano's LCD shows the view from the rearview monitor (standard in SL and SE models) in reverse. Since the wide-angle view is different from a human eye's perspective, colored lines indicating projected path and distance are overlaid on the display. This turns a novelty into a useful tool, although a wiper for the camera lens could improve the view in wet weather. The system is just plain wonderful at night.