Introduced as a brand-new model in 2003, the Nissan Murano slips into 2005 with minimal changes: all models get a rollover sensor, and the top-line SE receives Nissan’s “Intelligent Key” system as standard equipment. It uses a proximity sensor to unlock the doors and start the car without inserting the key, providing it is with the operator.

Also for 2005, a new Technology Package replaces the previous Navigation Package, adding a rear-view monitor to the GPS-based DVD Navigation System.

The Murano comes in three lines, all with a 3.5-litre V6 derived from the Nissan Z, and a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that has a six-stage manual shift mode in all-wheel-drive vehicles. The Murano comes in front-wheel or all-wheel-drive.

The base Murano SL comes in FWD, and includes dual-zone climate control, power windows, power heated mirrors, cruise control, heated cloth seats, leather-wrapped wheel, Bose six-CD system with seven speakers and wheel-mounted controls, heated seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, power-adjustable pedals, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, automatic headlamps, auto-dimming rearview mirror, variable intermittent wipers and rear intermittent washer/wiper. The SL AWD offers the same features but with the all-wheel system.

The top-line SE is AWD, and adds power sunroof, leather interior, power passenger seat, adjustable pedals, driver’s position memory, Smart Key, and projector-beam bi-xenon headlamps.

Based on the company’s FF-L platform, which also underpins the Nissan Altima and Infiniti FX, the Murano isn’t really a car, isn’t really an SUV, and definitely isn’t a truck. If the “crossover” name ever accurately applied, this is the vehicle. Handling is car-like, and with the Murano’s low ground clearance, the all-wheel-drive’s off-road capability is pretty much limited to missing your driveway and running over the flowerbed.

Still, the cargo area is spacious, the ride is sweet, it’s really fast, the handling is in the sports-sedan category and the busy dash and console have the Infiniti look, if not always its quality of materials. The CVT is unusual in this segment and adds to the smoothness. And if it’s to your liking, the styling is unbeatable.

The Murano is built in Kyushu, Japan.

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