Originally published February 11, 2015

If ever a vehicle was a form over function choice, the Nissan Murano is it. For virtually the same price, you can walk across the showroom and buy a vehicle built on the same platform with the same powertrain, with an extra row of seats and significantly more cargo room and, hence, utility. A strange approach for a utility vehicle, perhaps, but with this restyling, Nissan has demonstrated that they can deliver a standout design in the crossover segment, and for an affordable price, too. It’s not perfect, but there are numerous angles and details that one can pore over and appreciate, and will captivate many of Nissan’s intended audience.

Going back to its origins, the Murano made quite a splash when it first debuted in 2002, practicality taking a back seat to cutting edge design and car-like ride over rugged off-road ability. It was all rounded curves and angular features, and shot to instant success. As other brands entered this niche, Nissan remained conservative for its second generation, and sales flagged, the nameplate losing some of its lustre.

Nissan aimed to recapture that spark of innovative and eye-catching design in this third generation 2015 model, with sharply creased body panels, aggressively raked profile, grille, headlights and flanks that accentuate the dynamic statement. The effect is highly modern, yet elegant, and also contributes to a claimed best-in-class aerodynamic efficiency with a Cd of 0.31.

The coolest design element in my eyes is the continuity from the heavily tinted side windows into the rear windscreen, utilizing a black plastic panel on the rear pillar, creating the effect of a floating roof, something rarely seen outside of concept cars. Brighter coloured cars benefit from the contrasting chrome trim that defines the window line and other character lines like the “V-Motion grille”, though I find that is one of the few awkward spots around the snout, especially when seen from head on.

Headlights are surrounded by Nissan’s ‘boomerang’ LED signature, and feature standard halogen projectors or full LED headlights with the Platinum trim. It’s not all design flair, though – navigation, voice command and Bluetooth are standard, as are the conveniences of back-up camera, heated front seats and dual-zone auto climate. Even one trim up, the SV adds proximity keyless entry and start, eight-way power driver’s seat and heated steering wheel. The base S model ($29,998) is available as front-wheel drive only, while the SV comes with FWD standard ($32,998) or optional all-wheel drive ($34,998).  The SL ($38,398) and Platinum ($43,498) models come with standard AWD.

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