The Nissan Murano crossover sports utility is as comfortable as a living room couch and about as wide.
That width (some 74 inches) contributes to a spacious cabin and stability down the road. The Murano is wide for its length, a configuration the late American Motors Co. used a lot. Pontiac has been "wide tracking" its cars for years. There's even Wide Track Drive in Pontiac, Mich.
The platform is shared with the Nissan Maxima sedan and Quest minivan. It pushes the four wheels out to the corners. That allows a longer wheelbase and width. Indeed, the Murano is a substantial 112.2 inches between front and back wheels with an overall length of only 187.6. A long wheelbase can iron out bumps and produce that comfortable ride.
Nissan bills Murano as "the world's first smooth-uv." That's accurate -- the vehicle rides smoothly going straight ahead. The payback comes on hard curves when the Murano leans sharply. It doesn't feel tippy because of that width, though.
•Engines: 3L V-6
•Dimensions: 112.2" wheelbase; 187.6" length
•Base price: $27,750; As tested $29,290
•Fuel economy: 20/25 mpg
The driver's seat is wide and deep with a 10-way adjustment -- and a power lumbar. With the optional power adjustable pedals, there's almost room to dance along the front floorboards. Backseat occupants fare nearly as well, especially if the five-seat Murano is used for four.
The smooth ride is abetted by the smooth continuously variable transmission. The CVT doesn't change gears like a regular transmission so acceleration is seamless.
With the 3.5L V-6's 240 horsepower, the Murano attains 60 mph in 9.2 seconds. That's comparatively slow but it is smooth. There's a little wheel spin from the front wheels. Yes, it's front-wheel drive, betraying its car heritage. All-wheel drive is available.
Also optional is vehicle dynamic control. It should be standard on the taller sports utility vehicles and it's a good idea on all others because it helps to keep the shiny side upright. Standard anti-lock disc brakes are admirable, as is four wheel independent suspension.
The good driving position is enhanced for elbow resting with the windowsill, door armrest, and center console pad that fall easily to joint.
Steering is quick thanks to rack-and-pinion gearing. The steering wheel is where audio and cruise controls reside. The three-spoke racing style steering wheel is also as close to racy as the Murano gets.
The recessed instrument panel gauges are illuminated during the day in bright orange with large numerals. So even in bright, direct sunlight, the gauges can be read. That's a great thing and more vehicles should do it.
The Murano's exterior styling -- rocket ship meets station wagon -- looked extreme when it was introduced in 2002. Since then, many automakers have followed suit, producing vehicles with straight roofs and curvy lines. The trademark upswept D (back) pillars and a tiny rear quarter window have stood the test of time.
Like a favorite couch.