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2003 Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Nissan Murano
Nissan Murano

One of the numerous new crossover vehicles offered to today's SUV shopper is the all-new, funky Nissan Murano. Named after the famous glassware (and strangely not the Italian island after which the glassware itself is named) the Murano has an undeniable sculptural quality - one that seems to have grown on those of us here at RTM (some of whom weren't too sure about it when it was first introduced). And being a crossover also bestows it with car-like driving characteristics, in contrast to the truck-based Pathfinder that Nissan sells to the more traditional SUV set.

The Murano's interior is no more conventional than the exterior. A long, minivan-like dash top calls attention to just how steep the windshield is. That said, outward visibility is excellent out front and to the side (rear visibility is limited by that thick rear window pillar. As for the instrument panel itself, it's so futuristic that it almost looks fake - which is is actually kind of cool, because to operate the buttons almost feels like you're playing inside a space ship at NASA, and the instruments look like stickers on a piece of cardboard. It's an animated and lively environment that the cartoon set will find very stimulating (and yes, that includes us).

Fortunately, the mechanicals are sound and strong. The standard 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 (mated to a continuously variable transmission) provides effortless power, whether it is equipped with front- or four-wheel drive. Skid control and traction control are the save-your-ass technologies that Nissan makes available on Murano as options, while it provides six air bags standard.