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Bizarro Utility Vehicle
2006 Nissan Murano SE-AWD
Four Stars out of Five

In Short: A uniquely stylish SUV that's actually fun to drive.

In the Superman comics, Bizarro World was a place where everything exhibited the exact opposite characteristics of the real world. Evil equaled good, kill equaled save, etc. You might have seen the “Seinfeld” episode where Elaine befriends the Bizarro “good” versions of Jerry, George and Kramer. In the realm of sport utility vehicles, consider the Nissan Murano the Bizarro version of every blocky, shoddy-handling SUV that is about as much fun as sitting through “Superman IV.”

Looking like nothing else on the road, the Murano sports sexy, fluid contours and a shape that is interesting from all angles. Notice the raised hood lines that travel from the grille all the way into the cabin, or the headlights that flow gracefully along the car’s side toward the taillights. Meanwhile, the Murano’s wheels-at-the-corners stance declares its sporting intensions and eliminates any notion of ever taking it through some rock-filled gulley or any other adventurous place 98.4 percent of SUV drivers never go.

Based on the front-wheel-drive Altima platform and featuring its own 245-horsepower version of Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6 engine (found in everything from the 350Z to the Quest) the Murano really does feel like a car despite sitting up high. Steering is responsive and there’s a scant amount of body roll, which is usually the Kryptonite of taller vehicles. Going around corners can actually be fun in this SUV, something that can only be said for a few, more expensive rigs. The continuously variable transmission does a super job of maximizing the engine’s power band (it still takes some getting used to a car that never shifts gears, though) and the Murano accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in a very respectable 7.5 seconds. Even with the traditionally fuel-saving CVT, though, gas mileage is typical for a V6 crossover SUV (read: not very good).

The interior is classy and modern without going over the top like the outgoing Quest, and features quality materials throughout. The view out is massive with a sloping windshield that hovers over an expansive dash top lending an airy feel to the cabin. Controls are readily at hand with redundant radio controls on the chunky steering wheel and a multi-purpose display screen shows all radio, climate control and trip information (the latter can be replaced with our test car’s mediocre navigation system). The seats are comfy and supportive whether in our test car’s leather or the suede-like standard cloth, while the reclining back seat with B-pillar mounted A/C vents is a Fortress of Solitude. Problems do arise further back, however, as the stylish rear end causes some nasty blind spots—particularly when parking. An optional rear view camera would be a wise idea to prevent backing over the lawnmower or worse.

The Nissan Murano shows how far sport utilities have come from the blocky, off-roader days of the original Jeep Cherokee. They can be uniquely stylish and fun to drive, while still offering the space and height people have come to love. If this is what Bizarro SUVs are like, perhaps the land of opposites isn’t so bad after all.

Read a review of the 2009 Nissan Murano

Warranty/Service: 36-month/36,000-mile limited coverage, 5-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain coverage.

Base Price: $27,600 / As tested: $42,445

Technical Specifications

Performance Data

Vehicle type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door SUV

Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower: 245 bhp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 245 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: Continuously Variable

Curb weight: 3,996 lbs
Wheelbase: 111.2 in
Length/Width/Height: 187.6/74/66.5 in
Turning circle: 37.4 ft

Brakes: four-wheel disc with ABS and electronic brake assist
independent front and rear
optional traction control, optional vehicle stability control

Safety: front air bags, front side air bags, side curtain air bags, optional tire pressure monitor

0-60 mph: 7.5 seconds

Top Speed: 116 mph (governed)

EPA City: 19 mpg
EPA Highway: 24 mpg

Likes: Innovative looks inside and out; competent handling; power; spacious and comfortable interior

Dislikes: Huge parking blind spots and no rearview camera option; gas mileage could be better; navigation system needs voice commands

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Photography: AlphaMedia

(Updated 02/20/08 SCV)

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