Dramatically redesigned last year, the Nissan Murano remains basically unchanged for 2016: except for the price. The base 2016 Murano S front-wheel drive model is still $29,998, but the SV FWD ($34,998), SV AWD ($36,898), and SL AWD ($40,298) trim levels have gone up by $900 respectively while the top Platinum AWD model ($43,998) has risen by $500.

However, at the time of this writing, Nissan Canada is offering financial incentives that can make the 2016 Murano cheaper than last year’s model: these include lease or finance terms of 0 percent for 24 months plus a choice of up to $1,500 cash back or two free monthly payments or a no-charge extended warranty.

Hm. Perhaps Nissan shouldn’t have raised the price in the first place.

The Murano is named after the famous island near Venice where craftsmen have been making fine glass-wear for the past 700 years. That’s a long way from Canton, Mississippi where the Murano is built, but what the heck, it adds a certain Italian flair.

With its spectacularly curvy bodywork, jagged headlight and tail light designs, and a “floating” roof design, the 2016 Murano begs to be noticed. People seem to really love its innovative design or get really disturbed by its flamboyance. Personally, I’m disturbed yet strangely fascinated at the way it gives the middle finger to convention. To paraphrase an over-used paraphrase – this is not your father’s SUV.

The Murano is built on the mid-size unit-body D platform that also underpins the Nissan Pathfinder, Maxima, and Altima. As the so-called ‘halo’ vehicle of Nissan’s crossover lineup, which also includes the family-oriented seven-passenger Pathfinder and the budget-oriented five or seven-passenger Rogue, the Murano is the premium member of the crossover group. Longer, lower and wider than the second-generation Murano, the new Murano offers a 16 percent improvement in aerodynamics with the help of active grille shutters, integrated rear spoiler and a roofline that tapers towards the rear. Its CD of 0.31 is better than some sports cars.

But while unique styling is one part of the Murano’s appeal, it doesn’t come at the expense of its comfort and practicality (with one notable exception). The Murano is a very roomy and comfortable five-passenger crossover with decent cargo room and many available luxury features, depending on how much you want to pay.

The base front-wheel drive model is, arguably, the best buy. 2016 Murano S models ($29,998) include such niceties as eight-inch touchscreen with navigation and voice recognition, CD player and Sirius/XM satellite radio, Bluetooth wireless phone and audio streaming, rearview camera, seven-inch driver info display between the gauges, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, so-called “NASA-inspired Zero Gravity” front and outboard rear seats, front seat heaters and height adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, and 18-inch tires and alloy wheels. However, the Murano S is not available with all-wheel drive.

The SV trim ($34,998) adds an eight-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, panoramic moonroof, power liftgate, remote engine start and front fog lights. Add $1,900 for optional all-wheel drive.

Precious metal: 2015 Ford Edge Titanium vs Nissan Murano Platinum

The Murano SL ($40,298), which comes with standard all-wheel drive, adds leather seats, power front passenger seat, Bose premium audio system with eleven speakers including two subwoofers, 360-degree Around-View monitor, driver’s seat memory, and extra safety features such as Blind Spot Warning and rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

Top-of-the-line Murano Platinum ($43,998), like this week’s test vehicle, adds 20-inch tires and alloys, LED headlights, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, power-return folding rear seatbacks, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and active safety features such as Predictive Forward Collision Warning and Predictive Forward Emergency Braking.

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