New Car Review: 2012 Nissan Murano

The 2012 Nissan Murano.

There is a drawback to getting it right the first time. You change at your own risk. It's often better to sit still. But then you sort of fade from consciousness.

Case in point: The 2012 Nissan Murano, which looks an awful lot like the 2002 Nissan Murano...because, well...because they got it right ten years ago. In fact, the Murano really showed the way for the entire crossover segment. To tamper with it would be to mess with success, so Nissan has simply refined the Murano constantly along the way.

The 2012 Nissan Murano.

As someone who's driven every year of the Murano except the 2010 and 2011, I can say they've brought this vehicle a long way. It's a much more solid, powerful, enjoyable machine than it was 10 years ago.

Still powered by Nissan's now-venerable 3.5 liter V6, it now makes 260 horsepower with 240 pounds per foot of torque, and that's mated to their excellent Continuously Variable Transmission (Nissan and Subaru are the only makers whose CVTs have consistently impressed us). Our tester was the front wheel drive SL model, with 18-inch aluminum wheels, a full complement of airbags and anti-lock brakes, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, and tire pressure monitoring.

Interior of the 2012 Nissan Murano.

The SL's base price of $36,400 also gets you an 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, a 4-way power front passenger seat (both heated), fold-flat rear seats with power return, leather, a Bose audio system including XM, USB and Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a dual-panel moonroof, ambient lighting, fog lights, and a power liftgate.

The test car had two options...cargo and floor mats ($195) and the navigation package ($1,850). With $810 in destination charges, the total was $39,255. As near-luxury crossovers go, that's a reasonable price. And the Murano is so smooth, quiet and nicely turned out that a lot of near-luxury and luxury shoppers might find they don't need a supposedly upscale brand.

Gas mileage? About average for the segment, with an EPA estimate of 18 city/24 highway. We saw 22 in a 740-mile test made up of 60% city streets and 40% urban freeways in morning and afternoon stop-and-go traffic.

Hundreds of thousands of them are on the streets, in traffic all around you...and you probably don't notice them anymore. If you're in the market for a crossover, consider this your wake-up call. It's well worth a test drive.