2015 Nissan Murano Platinum FWD Specs

Platinum is the new gold standard for the buyer who wants it all, and, apparently, there are plenty of them. Nearly all brands offer this over-the-top level, which is sweetened with value pricing. The allure is for buyers to allow indulgence without broadcasting extravagance.

Nissan applied this level of near-luxury to the redesign of its third generation Murano crossover. Always a likable and accommodating “car” since its debut in 2003, this redo is a more thorough blending of car and utility vehicle. And the new Platinum has near-luxury finesse without the formality.

Murano is sold in four trim levels with front- or all-wheel drive and all models have the 240-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Starting prices range from $30,445 for the front-wheel-drive S to $41,485 for the Platinum AWD.

Today’s tester is a front-drive Platinum, which starts at $39,885 and was $42,355 with two options. Platinum upgrades include 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED headlights, climate controlled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel with power tilt, telescoping and memory, and power-folding second-row seats.

This is a “car” for the style-conscious. The cabin is “social lounge” space, Nissan says, and the exterior … takes some getting accustomed to. It is an intriguing collective of arcs, planes, zigs and boomerangs, but it adds up to a low 0.31 drag coefficient, which helps fuel economy. Aerodynamic enhancements also include low rolling resistance tires, an active grille shutter, underbody covers (to smooth air flow) and improvements to the Xtronic transmission.

The new Murano is slightly larger but weighs about 145 pounds less than before. It is less than 3 inches longer and a little over an inch wider. An inch was taken from the height (for aerodynamics) without compromise to interior headroom.

Fuel economy is a respectable 21 mpg city, 28 highway and 24 mpg combined on regular unleaded fuel, which beats competitors such as the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge or Hyundai Santa Fe. I was consistently averaging 24.6 mpg or a little better.

The V-6 and CVT are a strong package with good drivability. And I’d never thought I say this, but I prefer Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (or just about any good CVT in a family-class vehicle) to any of the nine-speed automatics I’ve tested this year (Fiat 500X, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Acura MDX). The Xtronic has “stepped” gear shifts on hard acceleration and they are quick. Hit the gas and there is near-immediate power, but with the nine-speeds there was about a three-count hesitation for the transmission to decide how to respond — whether dropping two, three or four gears — before hooking up. And at that point, the driver’s foot is to the floor and then takeoff is way overpowered.

The front-seat space is roomy and contemporary with quality materials throughout. There is robust construction and precise assembly. Rather than boring fake wood trim, there is a silver metallic appearance to what appears to be wood trim. There are flowing lines, brushed metallic accents and tasteful amounts of piano black.

But for Murano’s entry-luxury price, there is no electric parking brake (the foot-pumper seems dated) and the front passenger seat has no height adjustment.

The back seat is so much more spacious than a comparable-class sedan, with long legroom (38.7 inches) and generous footroom. Even the center seat is reasonably comfortable, aided by a low transmission tunnel for more footroom. There also is a well-padded fold-down center armrest, bottle storage in the doors, center vents, a USB port and, in the Platinum, heated seats.

Despite the sculpted exterior, the cargo area is fully functional with a fairly rectangle space. With the seats folded there is six feet of flat space, 44 inches tall and 29 inches tall at the tailgate. The 60/40 seats fold flat with an easy pull of the levers in the cargo area and have a power return. It’s so convenient to do all the seat flipping from the tailgate.

Ride quality is quiet and comfortable with secure drivability from its (carlike) four-wheel independent suspension, a workable 38.7-foot turning circle and with secure braking from 12.6-inch vented discs front, 12.1-inch vented discs rear

The Murano reflects what Nissan does well — create a vehicle with “class-above” appeal.

Mark Maynard is online at mark.maynard@utsandiego.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage